Giving Compass' Take:

• To dismantle color-blind philanthropy and address structural racism in grantmaking, funders need to support leaders of color and pursue race-conscious solutions.

• How are you bolstering leaders of color through philanthropy? 

• Learn more on the importance of directly funding leaders of color. 

For too long, philanthropists have taken a “color-blind” approach to grantmaking. Even when grounded in a well-meaning attempt at equity, ignoring the implications of race on the work they fund has only served to disadvantage people of color.

The Racial Equity Institute (REI) has come up with the helpful groundwater metaphor for structural racism that illustrates why race is intricately linked to our biggest social problems. Imagine if you find a lake with one dead fish — most of us would analyze the fish. But if you come to the same lake and half the fish are dead, then it makes more sense to analyze the lake. What if there are five lakes and in every lake half the fish are dead? Now it is time to consider analyzing the groundwater to find out how the water in all the lakes ended up with the same contamination. Color-blind philanthropy misses the structural racism in the groundwater.

That’s why our organizations — Echoing Green and The Bridgespan Group — wanted to take a deeper look at the impact of racial inequities in philanthropic funding. Our report, Racial Equity and Philanthropy: Disparities in Funding for Leaders of Color Leave Impact on the Table, shows that philanthropic efforts that don’t consider race run the risk of exacerbating existing racial disparities or even creating new ones.

Based on what we’ve learned through our work and this research, we’re calling for two big changes in the world of philanthropy: Funders need to financially support more leaders of color, and funders need to pay more attention to race-conscious solutions.

In interviews with more than 50 sector leaders, including nonprofit executives of color and philanthropic staff, our study found that leaders of color face multiple barriers, especially when funders don’t see race:

  • Getting connected to potential funders
  • Building rapport with potential funders
  • Securing support for their organization
  • Sustaining relationships with current funders

Read the full article about dismantling color-blind philanthropy by Cheryl Dorsey, Jeff Bradach, and Peter Kim at Harvard Business Review.