Giving Compass’ Take:
• Robin Templeton shares insights from family foundations into the best practices for supporting diversity.
• What first steps can your organization take toward supporting diversity? Who could lead a diversity charge effectively?
• Learn more about ways to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy.
- A majority of the grantmakers surveyed spoke of diversity not only as an end in and of itself, but also as a means of achieving maximum impact and effectiveness.
- Structural racism and institutionalized inequality were consistently named as useful conceptual frameworks for shaping strategies in this area of social investment.
- Interviewees concurred that, as it applies to their work and practice, the definition of diversity is not static or formulaic but, rather, must be adjusted in its application to the breadth of children, youth and families issues, and the changing demography of the field.
- Numbers matter to the leaders we interviewed, but they are not all that matters. Diverse representation must be matched with diverse strategies.
- Children, youth and family funders are increasingly taking a pragmatic approach, weighing diversity considerations in terms of board leadership, staff recruitment and advancement, program investments, vendor relations, and intra-sector collaboration—all of which they relate to enhanced institutional performance.
- The experts we consulted reported that, when introducing more inclusive practices in their work, both formal and informal approaches are important.
- In addition, interviewees observed that embracing and practicing expanded organizational inclusivity requires authorization from the top and momentum from below. Diversity is best advanced when the voices and input of board executives, staff officers, and community leadership engage one another.
Board and Staff Leadership
- Diversity requires constant leadership and commitment from foundation boards of directors, presidents and CEOs.
- Community members can play an important advisory function to foundation boards and can be brought forward through conscientious decisions such as holding meetings periodically in grassroots venues and instituting formal community advisory boards.
- Mentoring is critical for diverse program staff to advance in the field and for foundations to benefit fully from these professionals’ skills and insights.
- Many suggested that the field could do more to develop policies and practices that promote institutional diversity as a core operating imperative at all staffing levels, including creating more opportunities for promotion and advancement and taking steps to create more family-friendly work environments.
Vendors and Investments
- A growing number of children, youth and family funders agree that a diversity lens should take into account the allocation of foundation dollars to contracts with vendors, suppliers, and consultants.
- An area with strong potential for additional consideration by field leaders concerns foundation capital investment policies as they pertain to diverse businesses and communities.
Collaboration and Field-Building
- According to most of our interviewees, diversity best practice invites internal education within the field and engenders robust information exchange among grantmakers who share priorities.
- Participation in leading affinity groups, field collaborations, and exemplary partnerships are essential for foundation impact in this area.
- Framing problems and naming solutions in strategic and nontraditional ways can help move the field’s interests forward in ways that encourage support, rather than resistance, both within and outside of foundation walls.
In light of these profound and shifting demographics—unprecedented in the history of the United States—the diversity work of grantmakers invested in the well-being of children, youth and families merits particular consideration and early intervention. Gaps in student achievement attributable to race and income begin showing up as early as kindergarten and profoundly shape the life chances of disadvantaged children and youth.