As program officers at the Ford Foundation who helped commission CEP’s two-part study, Foundations Respond to Crisis, we’re heartened to see that many funders plan to maintain the more flexible practices they adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and racial justice uprisings. It’s also encouraging to see more commitments to racial equity and racial justice, and more support for BIPOC-led and -focused organizations. It’s unfortunate that it took these twin crises for funders to shift practices in a measurable way, but it has demonstrably happened.

Thus far, these investments have rightly focused on addressing anti-Black racism and the chronic underinvestment in Black-led organizations, as documented by Echoing Green & Bridgespan as well as ABFE over the years. We hope that, as foundations’ commitment to racial equity continues and deepens, we can also adopt a more inclusive and nuanced view of what racial equity actually means in a society as diverse as the United States.

A striking finding in the CEP study is that within racial equity, it is primarily to Black- and Latino-led organizations that funders have increased their support. Very few have increased the percentage of grant dollars going to organizations that serve Asian Americans (only 10 percent give 25 percent of grant dollars or more), Middle Eastern and North African (only 6 percent give 25 percent of grant dollars or more), Native American (only 11 percent give 25 percent of grant dollars or more), and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander communities (only 4 percent give 25 percent of grant dollars or more). This trend has been highlighted and tracked by philanthropic support organizations from AAPI and Native communities for many years and some key findings have been summarized in Katarina Malmgren’s blog post, here.

What does it take to cultivate a deeper understanding of the many communities impacted by racial inequity? Based on our experiences as program officers, we’d like to see foundations commit to: 

  • Deepening Training Experiences
  • Practicing Cross-Racial Solidarity
  • Commissioning Full-Spectrum Research
  • Collecting Nuanced Demographic Data
  • Addressing Board Diversity
  • Building New Relationships
  • Preserving Curiosity and Hunger

Read about foundations and racial equity by Shireen Zaman and Chris Cardona at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.