In philanthropy, research shows that race is a factor in determining which organizations get funded and at what levels. For example, a 2020 report from Echoing Green and The Bridgespan Group found that unconscious bias, the limited networks of largely white decision-makers, and measurements that funders commonly seek result in less funding for Black and Latino-led organizations than white-led organizations. Consequently, foundations often perpetuate the very issues that they seek to address, and the people most impacted by structural racism are denied access to the resources they require to effect change.

Philanthropy must reflect on and reimagine its purpose and processes. As a foundation that has disproportionately funded white-led institutions because of our own unconscious biases and an underemphasis on seeking out community-based partners led by people of color, we’ve played a role in maintaining these disparities. We have missed opportunities to collaborate with organizations led by people of color to make our grantmaking more inclusive and impactful.

Over the last two years, we have sought to change that pattern by deepening our understanding of how racial bias impacts the systems and communities where we work. Most significantly, we now prioritize funding community-based solutions led by people of color who center those who are most impacted by the issues we are trying to solve. In addition, while our grantmaking has traditionally employed an invitation-only approach, we recently introduced open invitations in our postsecondary success, food security, and serious illness care portfolios. This shift is helping us discover and fund organizations that are informed and led by the communities they serve. We recognize the power we have to be part of the solution to systemic racism, both in our own grantmaking and as a vocal advocate for change in the sector.

Encouraged by our participation in several collaboratives, including ReWork the Bay, a leadership collaborative working to advance racial equity and economic justice in the San Francisco Bay Area, we decided to ask a selection of Black and Latino leaders of organizations we fund about their experiences with systemic racism in philanthropy. Through those conversations, we learned about how foundations like ours can shift funding to historically underfunded organizations and address disparities in grantmaking. Below are some of the key lessons we learned from those discussions.

  • Say My Race: Be Specific in the Language and Data You Use
  • Tell Me Why: Have Transparent Evaluation Criteria
  • Identify Characteristics of Systemically Underfunded Nonprofits

Read the full article about racial bias in grantmaking by Malila Becton Consuegra, Chase Behringer, & Jennifer Nguyen at the Center for Effective Philanthropy.