Grants management professionals are strategically positioned to influence a funder’s racial equity and racial justice funding. But in three decades of working in and with foundations, I have consistently seen a pattern where people serving in these roles are excluded from these conversations as a matter of institutional habit. As a result, there is a lack of understanding across the field about how the work of grants management directly relates to advancing racial equity and justice. Even when they are included, the scope of their influence can oftentimes be limited to paperwork, reporting, and only the most technical aspects of the grantmaking process. And yet, they also have the ability to shift what is and isn’t funded, understand what funder pushback might arise, and how grants are understood and reported.

But before I get into how grants managers can impact racial equity and racial justice grantmaking, it’s important to first define these frequently conflated terms and then examine the current racial equity and racial justice landscape.

Long-standing tensions driven by unequal power dynamics have shaped debates over how racial equity and racial justice are defined and who does the defining, and there has often been little shared understanding of these terms across the philanthropic field. In our work with foundations and movement leaders, we at the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE) have seen these tension points manifested within hundreds of foundations. But through our work, we also have the benefit of lessons from movement leaders and change agents, and these have inspired some recommendations that we think will help grants management professionals strengthen their own roles in advancing racial justice work.

Over the past three years, organizers for racial justice and racial equity have called for more precise definitions of those terms, in part reacting to the conflation of equity with diversity and inclusion work. That conflation has muddied the distinction between aiming for change within existing systems and aiming to transform those systems as a whole.

Read the full article about racial equity and justice funding by Lori Villarosa at PEAK Grantmaking.