Increasingly, organizations collect demographic data from the people they serve. This kind of data collection can inform an organization about the fundamentals of who they are funding or serving. A 2022 racial equity audit by the Skillman Foundation uncovered some hard truths. Skillman set out to assess where every dollar went, disaggregated by race and vendor, and as they report, “We were…shocked that our numbers didn’t reflect greater investment in people of color and how far off we were.”

Meaningful racial equity audits require an “inside-out” approach. Significant racial equity advancement will remain elusive until organizations are willing to examine their own purpose, leadership, strategy, and culture before collaboratively exploring the demographics of their partnerships.

In our experience, five domains of critical practice need to be examined and addressed as part of a racial equity audit:


The first domain requires developing a shared understanding of the purpose for a racial equity audit.

  • Can leadership and staff articulate a shared definition for racial equity and related concepts?
  • Why is conducting a racial equity audit important to the organization?
  • How will leadership and staff be engaged in the process?


Without leadership participation and support, a racial equity audit becomes a dusty set of demographic data, informing no real change. 

  • Has leadership articulated a specific vision for the role of racial equity in the organization’s mission? 
  • Does racial equity appear in the organization’s mission, vision, and values?
  • What is the organization’s own demographic makeup, including leadership, staff, and board members? 


Culture involves both an internal and external evaluation of the foundation’s racial equity stance and practices.

  • How do staff understand and experience internal policies and practices that center equity and inclusivity?
  • How does the organization seek to understand the racial equity stance and culture in its current and prospective partners?
  • What tangible changes in operations and strategy must be incorporated for the organization to achieve its racial equity goals?

Grantmaking Strategy

For foundations, racial equity and related concepts should be embedded in grantmaking strategy. Questions to ask include:

  • How do foundation strategies embed racial equity?
  • How does the foundation center racial equity in the selection of grantees?
  • How does racial equity apply to grant size and current measurements of risk and partnership?
  • Is the organization holding itself accountable to its own principles?

Grantee Partnerships

[F]oundations should dedicate time and effort to understand the racial equity patterns of current and prospective grantees, measure resource allocation to BIPOC-led organizations—and be able to articulate how it supports grantees in their work to achieve a more racially just world.

  • How is racial equity incorporated in grantee strategies?
  • What are grantees’ approaches to identifying and addressing systemic racial inequities?
  • What is the demographic makeup of their boards and staff? 
  • What is the demographic makeup of the communities they serve?

Read the full article about racial equity and nonprofit leadership by Keecha Harris, Ali Webband and Sierra Fernandez at Nonprofit Quarterly.