The philanthropic sector is stuck in old paradigms, and several common, critical issues are preventing philanthropy from making real and sustainable progress. Philanthropy is uniquely positioned to lift up disenfranchised populations, people of color, and underserved communities, and to help transform our nation into a stronger, more just, and more equitable society. Yet it must undergo serious self-examination and advance substantive change for this goal to be achieved.

The number of people of color working at grantmaking foundations in professional and management roles remains very small. This is disturbing because so many foundations have focused their work in communities of color. The voices of people in those communities — their wisdom, their contextual knowledge, and their relationships — are yet to be fully lifted up, and consequently do not contribute to making the work of these foundations more impactful. Furthermore, the constraints placed on most nonprofits — such as project support funding, lack of support for overhead costs, mismatched evaluation requirements, and low levels of support for social justice efforts — too often undermine meaningful change.

The inequitable power structure and underlying systems in philanthropy are, in fact, part of the same systems that were designed at our nation’s founding to enshrine power, control, and prosperity in white America. These underlying systems have undone many hard-fought efforts to create a more just and equitable society.

There are four important areas where I recommend the sector change how it conducts business: general operating support, evaluating impact, recruiting and retaining people of color, and social justice funding. Meaningful changes in these areas will help foundations and nonprofits perform at their highest levels, and also support the broader case I have made about social justice and DEI.

Organized philanthropy is uniquely positioned to play both benefactor and an important voice of the nation’s social conscience. I hope that America’s foundations will act, as a field, to ascend the moral high ground and take advantage of this unique role.

Read the full article about social justice by Miles Wilson at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.