It’s easy to forget, in a sector where Gateses, Fords, Lillys and Hewletts dominate the discourse, that most institutional philanthropies are small, leanly staffed, little-known foundations.

In any given year, roughly a quarter of all U.S. grantmaking comes from the 90%+ of foundations whose annual giving is less than $10 million.

Recent research from Exponent Philanthropy suggests those small foundations believe racial equity is relevant to their work.

At the same time, the data also show that they are overwhelmingly staffed and led by white people.

Exponent’s 2019 Foundation Operations and Management Report survey, which is available to Exponent members and was generously shared with NCRP, found that:

  • 75% of respondent foundations have white-only boards of directors.
  • 78% have white-only staffs.
  • 89% have white CEOs.

These findings are striking in light of the fact that the U.S. as whole is about 40% people of color. The Census Bureau estimates that this year more than half of U.S. children will be non-white.

As the country and the philanthropic sector moves into a new decade, here are 3 first steps small foundations can take to turn racial equity rhetoric and resolutions into reality:

  1. Create an equity baseline using the Power Moves assessment to evaluate your foundation through an equity lens.
  2. Adopt the “Rooney Rule” to hire with racial equity in mind.
  3. Use the opportunity this year to make an advocacy test grant.

Small funders have an opportunity to impact their local communities in ways that large national funders simply can’t.

With an increased focus on turning racial equity intent into impact, America’s small foundations can create change from the ground up by making a New Year’s resolution to turn their rhetoric into reality.

Read the full article about small funders and racial equity by Ryan Schlegel at the National Committee For Responsive Philanthropy.