Critical Issues Forum

The Critical Issues Forum is a series of occasional reports addressing progessive racial justice issues in philanthropy.

Moving Forward on Racial Justice Philanthropy is the fifth volume of the Critical Issues Forum series, which aims to deepen the discourse around important progressive racial justice issues within philanthropy. In this journal we share essays and interviews with activists and funders, tackling a range of current issues, challenges and opportunities as they reflect on the trajectory of racial justice and philanthropy over the past two decades.

As PRE celebrated our 10th anniversary last year and engaged allies within the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors to mark the occasion with us, we heard "Have you seen any progress?" repeatedly and knew it was important to take stock of what many of us have been collectively aiming to move for decades.

The past year, through focus groups, webinars and direct interviews, our team has sought to get a strong sense of both funders' and activists' perspectives on progress particularly over the past two decades. We have heard real frustration, especially as the needs are so critical and the level of urgency among activists and communities is so high. However, in spite of these very real concerns, we have also seen clear commitment and depth of understanding in other quarters. We are pleased that through funder case studies and activist essays about structural racism analysis, intersectionality and media justice, we're able to share real progress, even as each piece recognizes there is still much more to be done.

Download the full report or articles may be downloaded individually below.

If you would like to comment on the publication as a whole, please do so here. Please join the discussion. We encourage comments on the individual articles, as well as any overall comments related to the trajectory or next stages of philanthropy and racial justice work. Comments will be posted after brief review.

Preface: Has There Been Progress on Racial Justice in Philanthropy?

Lori Villarosa is the executive director and founder of the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE).

"Have you seen any progress?" This is a question most of us are asked in our work toward social change. It is asked of ourselves, asked by our funders or boards or others. And when we focus that question on racial justice, a source of ongoing discourse where one's answer can signify our level of awareness and be taken as a testament of our own righteousness, it's an even more weighted question.

If we say there is no progress, are we denying huge strides? Are we invalidating reasons to keep trying? On the other hand, if we say there has been great progress, do we risk a self-congratulatory invitation to complacency? FULL TEXT

Timeline of Race, Racism, Resistance and Philanthropy 1992-2014

By Larry Raphael Salomon, Julie Quiroz, Maggie Potapchuk and Lori Villarosa.

This historical timeline attempts to capture, in one place, many significant moments, events, controversies and victories that have defined the racial landscape since the turbulent days following the LAPD/Rodney King beating verdict over two decades ago. When communities in Los Angeles rebelled, "race riots" exploded the commonly held myth that our nation had progressed from the explicitly unjust conditions that had defined earlier generations. And in the decades since, the history chronicled in this timeline belies the notion that the U.S. is a "post-racial" society.

For funders seeking to understand and provide resources in support of racial justice work, this timeline also includes some of the key events in philanthropy that were shaped by the incidents, policies and cultural manifestations of race and racism during these years. FULL TEXT

The Structural Racism Concept and Its Impact on Philanthropy

Daniel Martinez HoSang is an associate professor of Ethnic Studies and Political Science at the University of Oregon.

In the mid-1990s, public policies to promote racial justice faced a new round of attacks. In California, the bluest of blue states, voters approved ballot measures eliminating public affirmative action and bilingual education programs - ending public education and health care for many immigrants, and expanding the state's already massive and deeply racialized prison system. Affirmative action programs soon fell in six other states, and the rise of "colorblind" rhetoric among liberals and conservatives alike seemed to signal a decisive transformation in public attitudes about civil rights and racial justice. FULL TEXT

Reflections from the Inside: Philanthropic Leaders on Racial Justice and Grantmaking

Rick Cohen is the national correspondent of the Nonprofit Quarterly magazine, (NPQ).

Editors' Note: This retrospective look at the past two decades of philanthropy's approaches to race was primarily based on interviews with 21 racial justice and equity leaders in the field. This article shares their stories, experiences and reflections on how the sector has changed and evolved in addressing race over the past 20 years and into the present. In some cases, they found themselves responding to factors outside of their institutions - incidents and dynamics in which nuances of race beyond the easily observable manifestations of racial animus propelled them to sharpen or deepen their understandings. In others, the impetus came internally, from the intersection of the quality and composition of foundation leadership with the foundations' social justice missions. This led to grantmaking that wasn't simply "designated" for specific racial or ethnic groups, but aimed at addressing and rectifying racial disparities that result from complex dynamics.

We offer this mix of reflections recognizing that there was progress made in earlier stages of the field that can easily be forgotten and yet still holds lessons - in spite of being too soon lost in the collective discourse, or buried in reports on foundation shelves. We know it is not comprehensive, and many key moments and actors are still missing, but we believe it helps share a slice of the path of this work.

Sidebar: Data Snapshot on Racial Justice Grantmaking

Rick Cohen

PRE Note: As we noted earlier in this publication, PRE recognizes there is no simple category for grantmaking with a structural racialization lens. Grants that could be included in a portfolio using a structural racialization approach might include research, media, organizing, advocacy or other categories. They might include grants focused on housing, education, health, economic, environment or other sectors. They may or may not be people of color-led and serving. What would make them part of a structural strategy would not necessarily be evident or measurable at the individual grant level - just as one cannot fully understand a system by looking at a single part. FULL TEXT

Walking Forward: Racial Justice Funding Lessons from the Field

Julie Quiroz is a senior fellow at the Movement Strategy Center.

Fifty years after the major victories of the civil rights movement, racial justice activists share a sense of bitter dismay at what Judith Browne Dianis, director of Advancement Project, calls a "new normal" of racial injustice that is actually painfully old. "Like the civil rights placard 'I am a man,"" says Taj James, pointing to the campaign by San Francisco group POWER following George Zimmerman's acquittal, "we needed to declare again that Black lives matter." According to James, who began his racial justice work as a Black youth organizer two decades ago and now heads the Movement Strategy Center, "It can feel like we walked back in time to a moment we never left." FULL TEXT

Paths Along the Way to Racial Justice: Four Foundation Case Studies

Interviews and case studies of the foundations were done by Lisa McGill, the principal of LM Strategies Consulting and Maggie Potapchuk, the principal of MP Associates.

As structural racism analysis and concepts have evolved over the past 20 years, forward-thinking foundations have increasingly taken intentional steps to address the root causes of racism and disparities through grantmaking.

This retrospective publication provides PRE with an opportunity to highlight some of the principles, lessons and challenges of this work as experienced by different types of foundations. To select the subjects of the four case studies in this volume, PRE sought out institutions that have engaged in intentional practices to strengthen racial justice grantmaking. We deliberately selected a diverse group of private foundations that are at different stages of integrating structural racism analysis in their work, so that both small and large funders could relate and learn from their experience.

We are extremely grateful that Woods Fund Chicago, The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, The California Endowment and the Akonadi Foundation all generously agreed to invest significant time in interviews and share internal material with us. FULL TEXT

Woods Fund Chicago

Woods Fund Chicago recently named racial equity as the core principle guiding its work. In the case study, the Woods Fund shares some lessons about moving from principle to practice. One of its first steps was to ask questions about organization's racial analysis in the application process, which proved to be necessary to change the dynamic in a community organizing culture that treated race issues as implicit, rather than an intentional focus. While managing board and staff transitions, Woods Fund Chicago examined grantmaking data to inform their approach to racial equity, and will continue to experiment and deepen its strategic approach. FULL TEXT

Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation

The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation has a long history of tackling the impacts of racism in the South. It recently began shifting from an embedded, implicit value of racial equity to an explicit goal with which the foundation is increasingly and publicly identified. Amidst North Carolina's civil rights history and current racial justice efforts, the foundation has been working to put some teeth in its equity goals while maneuvering political challenges, building capacity of grantees and creating a dialogue on race and social justice throughout the state. FULL TEXT

The California Endowment

The 16th largest foundation in the country, The California Endowment is in the fourth year of a 10-year commitment, the Building Healthy Communities (BHC) initiative. A place-based grantmaking initiative in 14 California communities, BHC has been described as a different type of grantmaking for TCE - an integration of activities, a greater coordination with community sites on policy advocacy, and a process of applying a structural racialization framework. PRE's case study on BHC provides an opportunity to share this foundation's story about its learning at an early implementation stage. FULL TEXT

Akonadi Foundation

Akonadi Foundation is one of the very few foundations in the U.S. that has explicitly integrated a racial justice framework into its grantmaking from the start. It has a 14-year history that holds many lessons for funders looking to make the greatest impact on deeply rooted issues of racism. The foundation's ecosystem approach to grantmaking, investment in movement building and prioritization of shifting cultural norms demonstrates the "how" of applying a structural racism framework to local grantmaking in Oakland, California. At the center of Akonadi's work is a relationship-based approach to strategic partnerships with community groups. FULL TEXT

The Leadership We Need:How People of Color Are Leadingthe #CultureSHIFT for Racial Equity

Malkia Amala Cyril is the founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice.

This essay examines the centrality of strategies for media rights, access and representation as part of a comprehensive strategy for racial equity; and the role of philanthropy in ensuring the racial justice leadership to transform structural racism in the media. The successes of media justice movement-building are highlighted as a targeted approach to resourcing racial equity leadership within and beyond fights for progressive policy reform. FULL TEXT

Funding at the Intersection of Race and Gender

Lani Shaw, Executive Director of the General Service Foundation, passed away unexpectedly on June 1, 2014. Her commitment to issues of gender justice, her leadership in the field of reproductive justice, and her work to support organizing for structural change made her a leader in the field of philanthropy. A colleague and friend, I enjoyed reconnecting with her for this article in the PRE 10th Anniversary retrospective. She shared her wisdom & candor in hope of stimulating more discourse & greater change, and we are so saddened by this sudden loss. She will be greatly missed.
-Kalpana Krishnamurthy

Kalpana Krishnamurthy is the policy director at Forward Together.

Intersectionality is a term that comes up a lot in social justice work. It comes up when community groups are trying to describe how policies affect multiple people's identities. It comes up when organizers are trying to push back on messaging that tries to simplify a policy fight to one aspect. It comes up when advocates are describing their political analysis. And it comes up in questions: What exactly is intersectionality? And why is it important for funders to understand it?

For feminists and LGBTQ people of color, having a theoretical framework like intersectionality to analyze how oppression is simultaneous and compounding has been key. This essay discusses the evolution of social change approaches that simultaneously address gender and race, or sexuality and race, and incorporates analysis of funding trends with insights from people of color who work on these issues in philanthropy. It also provides examples of how intersectional efforts can lead to stronger base-building and to policy victories over time, and recommendations to funders. FULL TEXT


Critical Issues Forum Vol 4.

Mobilizing Community Power to Address Structural Racism is the fourth volume of the Critical Issues Forum series, which aims to deepen the discourse around important progressive racial justice issues within philanthropy. In this journal we share essays from a number of community activists, as well as interviews with activists and funders, tackling a range of current issues, challenges and opportunities as they strive to strengthen approaches to engage communities in a movement toward a truly multiracial democracy.

In December of 2011 PRE embarked on a project to explore the intersections of work on structural racism, community organizing and civic participation, raising key opportunities, challenges and questions for peers and funders to consider further. The effort began with, a daylong discussion with some leading community organizers and activists working on these issues at national and local levels, and was followed by discussions of funders, as well as among additional activists and organizers.

This publication shares the views of several of these thought leaders, as they synthesize the ways that supports are needed to strengthen the integration of these approaches with a structural racism analysis to improve outcomes for all through community organizing.

Download the full report or articles may be downloaded individually below.


Nat Chioke Williams is the executive director of the Hill-Snowdon Foundation, a national family foundation.

Over the past decade, the number of program officers, foundations and resources focused on social justice philanthropy has grown. As the social justice philanthropic field has expanded, it has tried to figure out how to effectively help secure a society that is just and fair. Some of us focus on building the social justice infrastructure, others on particular issues or constituencies, and still others on strategies like organizing or civic engagement. However, there is an overarching belief that we need to dramatically increase the scope and scale of social justice policy campaigns and victories if we are to achieve that just and fair society. The aftermath of some imperfect, but nonetheless big, progressive wins in recent years, and the ensuing backlash, has caused some of us to ask more fundamental questions. Are we really getting to the root causes of social injustice by focusing primarily on policy and/or electoral change? How do we better engage the hearts and minds of the public in the quest for real and lasting change? FULL TEXT

Mobilizing for Racial Justice: A Current Snapshot

Lori Villarosa is the executive director and founder of the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE).

Projections of demographic shifts in the United States are clear: it is a matter of years before the majority of the population is composed of people of color. Yet cautionary comments remind us that "demographics are not destiny." We have only to look around the world today to see that deep structural and racial inequalities can co-exist with varied population demographics. It will take intentionality, creativity, strategic thinking and resources to build a deep, sustainable and informed movement adequate to achieving a more egalitarian, multiracial democracy. FULL TEXT

Five Lessons From the Past and Present of Racial Justice Organizing

Julie Quiroz is a senior fellow at the Movement Strategy Center.

Years of fighting racism have taught us many lessons, perhaps the greatest of which is the recognition that we have to be clear about the type of racism we intend to confront. If we take a narrow view of racism as a set of stereotypes or personal beliefs, then educational efforts aimed at individuals have some impact. But taking on structural racism requires entirely different approaches. As scholar Eduardo Bonilla-Silva asserts, "Social systems and their supports must be 'shaken' if fundamental transformations are to take place." In order to shake such systems and structures, we would do well to keep in mind some important lessons - past and present - from the work of racial justice organizing: FULL TEXT

Building Community Leadership and Power to Advance Racial Justice

Terry Keleher directs the Racial Justice Leadership Action Network at the Applied Research Center

In a society highly organized around racial inequality, we need to strengthen and support social change models that hold the most promise for transformative results. Grassroots models - community organizing, civic engagement and social justice movement building - are well suited for advancing racial justice because they emphasize empowering the disadvantaged, uniting different communities, challenging prevailing patterns of power, and striving for systemic change. To rise to their potential, these approaches must adopt new equity frameworks and practices that more directly, systematically and strategically challenge structural racism. FULL TEXT

Strengthening Black Organizing Across the United States

DeAngelo Bester is the founder and executive director of the Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ) in Chicago, IL.

Valery Jean is the executive director of Families United for Racial & Economic Equality (FUREE), in Brooklyn, NY.

The majority of people born this year in the United States were children of color. Some progressives believe that this ongoing demographic transformation will disrupt the structural racism that persists in our nation. Evidence suggests that this view is mistaken. We need only look to the minority-majority state of California to see that racialized structures persist and democratic processes remain unreformed. Others in the progressive movement suggest that setting aside the issue of race and focusing on distributive justice can lead to racial and economic equity. This view is also mistaken. Consider how durable racialized structures, such as school and housing segregation, limit the ability of people of color to graduate, enter the workforce, and remain outside a disparately impactful penal system.FULL TEXT

Will Immigrants of Color Be Racial Justice Voters in November and Beyond?

Mari Ryono is the director of of development and evaluation of Mobilize the Immigrant Vote.

Angelica Salas is the executive director of The Coalition of Humane Rights of Los Angeles.

Aparna Shah is the executive director of Mobilize the Immigrant Vote.

In November 2010, the power of the emerging immigrant electorate became evident. Latinos in particular were credited with "saving the West" for Democrats by helping defeat anti-immigrant candidates and delivering victories to California Democrats such as Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris. In 2011, immigrant rights activists and voters helped defeat Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, the architect of the notorious anti-immigrant SB 1070. "The Latino vote is now seen as a game changer in this country," said Arturo Carmona, executive director of "Yet there is much work ahead to realize the promise. Collaborating with other communities of color to achieve power equity, justice and a more equitable economy is not only our responsibility as Latinos but required for our collective progress.

The 2010 U.S. Census underscores the growth of Latino, Asian and other immigrant populations in the United States. Currently, Asians represent nearly 6 percent of the total U.S. population, while Latinos remain the nation's largest "minority" group at nearly 17 percent. According to Census Bureau projections, by the year 2050, the population of Asians in the U.S. is expected to triple to over 33 million. Latinos are expected to increase their numbers to over 100 million or, roughly speaking, 1 out of every 4 Americans. There are more than eight million immigrants with permanent legal residence who are eligible to become citizens in the United States." FULL TEXT

Building Bridges to Empower a True Majority: The South by Southwest Experiment

Leroy Johnson is executive director and co-founder of Southern Echo, in Jackson, MS.

Genaro Lopez-Rendon is director of the Southwest Workers Union, in San Antonio, TX.

Monica Cordova is a co-director at South West Organizing Project (SWOP), in Albequerque, NM.

Louis Head is facilitator of the South by Southwest Experiment .

The far right is putting up a tsunami of resistance in its attempt to reverse gains made by people of color over the past 50 years. We must fortify and anchor now so that we may move forward after the tide has washed over us. We are presenting this case study as an example of one way that grassroots organizations are maintaining and advancing a position reflective of those gains, while making an important contribution to movement building in the face of the challenge.

Racial justice is a fundamental part of any path to social justice in the United States, and it will only be attained to the degree that structural racism and accompanying social inequality are addressed. People of color will become a collective new majority of the U.S. population by 2040. This demographic shift provides a basis to transform the country, provided that we can become capable of the kind of struggle that is necessary for transformation. In order to overcome historic structures of domination and control, organized communities of color and low-wealth communities must become architects of policy and build a true majority capable of building and exercising power to bring about real change. This will require not only a clear and strategic analysis of structural racism, but also new forms of collaboration that can build accountable leadership and organizations. FULL TEXT

The South by Southwest Experiment (SxSWE) is strengthened by its youth leadership, which includes Lizdebeth Carrasco (SWOP), Monica Ramos (SWU) and Kameisha Smith (Southern Echo). Both Liz and Monica have been organizing since their sophomore year in high school. Kameisha began organizing way back in the fifth grade. The three young women talked recently with Lori Villarosa about their experience with SxSWE.: S x SWE Youth Organizers Speak Out

Strengthening the Movement: Voices from the Field

PRE Executive Director Lori Villarosa conducted a series of joint interviews pairing leading research and policy analysts/advocates with community organizers in May 2012 to discuss what they each see as the key issues within the realm of structural racism and community organizing. Following are excerpts of the interviews held with Deepak Bhargava of Center for Community Change and Dr. john a. powell of the Haas Diversity Research Center at the University of California; Maya Wiley of Center for Social Inclusion and Ai-Jen Poo of National Domestic Workers Alliance; and Marqueece Harris-Dawson of Community Coalition and Manuel Pastor of the Programfor Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) of the University of Southern California. These conversations provided an opportunity to discuss where approaches aligned, and possibly surfaced some nuances reflecting their unique vantage points within the movement ecosystem.

Talking About Structural Racialization and Community Organizing
with Deepak Bhargava and john powell

PRE: Let's start by talking about how a structural understanding of racism leads to a new vision of community organizing.

DB: There is a history in community organizing that tries to assert that it is free of values and ideology. But there is no such thing. Organizing does, in fact, manifest values about how the world should be. The infusion of a structural racism analysis into the field of community organizing is still a work in progress. What I see changing is more careful attention to who is in the leadership of organizations, who is doing the actual organizing, and what issues organizations pursue and how they pursue them. A good example, and where john's work has been instrumental, is the Ohio Organizing Collaborative. They have a big jobs campaign that has both a set of revenue and job creation demands for state policy, but also very specific and targeted goals to address collateral sanctions on people who were in the criminal justice system and aren't able to find employment. FULL TEXT

Maya Wiley and Ai-jen Poo on Strategy and Caring,
Criteria For Working Toward Racial Justice

PRE: How would you describe your organization and its role in racial and social justice movements?

MW: At the Center for Social Inclusion, we support policy strategies that will transform barriers to opportunity for real and meaningful inclusion of communities of color. We have to transform the structural arrangements that have been formed to exclude communities of color historically and continue to be reproduced today. We research, test, train and convene through partnerships to identify and catalyze transformative ideas.

AP: We organize domestic workers around the country. Domestic workers are mostly immigrant women of color and many are undocumented. We work to build the power of the workforce and raise the level of respect for the work itself, as we work to help build a broader movement for social change. We really see ourselves as playing a connecting role across movements for justice.

Multiracial Coalitions and Transformation
with Manuel Pastor and Marqueece Harris-Dawson

PRE: Manuel, in your recent publication (L.A. Rising: The 1992 Civil Unrest, the Arc of Social Justice Organizing, and the Lessons for Today's Movement Building) you share important assessments of the "movement ecosystem" that has developed over the past 20 years. Where do you each see your organization's role in the movement at this stage? What is the particular niche you play?

MP: At PERE (USC's Program for Environmental and Regional Equity), we're very clear that we work with and for community- based organizations, trying to produce very rigorous research and unearth the arguments that our opponents make. We see ourselves as being a very data-intensive shop. What we do is provide research ammunition to people who actually make policy, and that is these community-based organizations that are really organizing to garner the power to change things. Interestingly, that devotion to data accuracy has helped the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration become kind of a neutral space to bring more mainstream organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and business groups to the immigrant rights cause. FULL TEXT

Communications and Community Organizing: Better Together

Makani Themba is the executive director of The Praxis Project, based in Washington, DC.

History teaches us that change is often made when an organized segment of those most affected, leading in solidarity with allies, disrupts the ability of those in power to conduct business as usual. From civil disobedience and sit-ins of the last century to #Occupy today, "fringe: strategies (approaches that are led by a disruptive minority) force changes in the status quo - even against the will of the mainstream.
Of course, having mainstream support is a good thing. The idea that we could get millions of people to surrender their privilege and fear in exchange for a world that worked for many more of us without any resistance would be beautiful. However, it's not the usual way change occurs. FULL TEXT

Transformative Organizing: Putting Culture at the Center

Denise Perry works for the Black Organizing for Leadership & Dignity (BOLD)project. She has been organzing for nearly 30 years.

When I was the director of an organization that worked with Black and Latino youth in Miami, I noticed that music helped create a form of communication that fostered both a strong cultural and organizational identity. The youth members used it to entertain and to raise money with talent shows, but they were moved to a deeper interest in their organizing work when the hip-hop duo Rebel Diaz came to talk with them about the power and meaning inherent in their music.,
Our organization always used live music to help connect us with the community and to project our values through a culture-rich identity. One staff member described what we were doing as "edutainment," the opportunity to deliver a message in music that feeds both the mind and soul. FULL TEXT

Funders Discuss Approaches to Organizing Against Structural Racism

Ronald White is the founder and principle consultant to Building Utopia Consulting LLC. He is currently the interim executive director of Southern Partners fund.

Because structural racism is mostly hidden, philanthropic support for community organizing efforts that explicitly names and fights the problem has been rare. There are some important exceptions, however, as revealed by the following conversation with several key funders. Among the voices in this article are leaders of foundations operating within a spectrum of work contributing to racial justice and community engagement. Here, they discuss challenges they continue to face, offer lessons recently learned, and share wisdom taught by some of their grantees.FULL TEXT

Intersection of Community Organizing and Racial Justice Funding: Limited Data and Limited Dollars

Rick Cohen is the national correspondent of the Nonprofit Quarterly magazine, (NPQ).

Among the thousands of possible subjects in the Foundation Center's online database of some 2.4 million grants from over 100,000 private foundation, corporate and public charity grantmakers, the terms "community organizing" and "civic engagement" do not appear as subjects or topics around which grants are organized and counted. In light of the litany of foundation-supported and published reports attesting to the importance of community organizing in social change strategies, the absence of "community organizing" and "civic engagement" as official categories used by the Foundation Center is striking. FULL TEXT


Critical Issues Forum Vol 3.

Marking Progress: Movement Toward Racial Justice, is the third volume of the Critical Issues Forum series, which aims to deepen the discourse around important progressive racial justice issues within philanthropy. In this journal nine authors tackle the problems and prospects of evaluating racial justice work, raising some of the key issues they feel the field and its funders need to consider and explore further in order to understand the true impact of our work.

In August of 2009 PRE embarked on a year-long project to spark discussion that could build on best practices within evaluation and how those should be applied to efforts aimed at reducing structural racism. The effort began with discussion and debate with some key advocates, activists and evaluators working on these issues at national and local levels, and was followed by similar discussions of funders, and then among additional local activists.

This publication shares the views of several of these thought leaders, as they synthesize the ways evaluation can be most effective when measuring the progress being made towards achieving racial justice.

Download the full report or articles may be downloaded individually below.


Quinn Delaney is founder and President of Akonadi Foundation, an Oakland, California based foundation working to support and nurture a racial justice movement to put an end to the structural racism that lies at the heart of social inequity in the United States.

Working in the area of racial justice requires us to ask big questions: How do we transform our society and our institutions? How do we address interlocking systems of racial inequities? How do we simultaneously address institutional racism and interpersonal/internal racism? How does transformational change occur? FULL TEXT


Lori Villarosa is the executive director and founder of the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE), a multiyear project intended to increase the amount and effectiveness of resources aimed at combating institutional and structural racism. Lori has worked in philanthropy for more than 18 years; prior to launching PRE in 2003, she was a program officer with the C. S. Mott Foundation, where she developed and managed its portfolio on race relations and institutional racism within the U.S.

So much has been presented in foundation circles on project evaluation, it is difficult to imagine what more needs to be said. Evaluation approaches aimed at measuring social impacts have evolved in many progressive ways in the past decade or more, with significant work on participatory evaluation, cultural competency, efforts to measure advocacy and related social justice work or communications strategies. But it seems that of the hundreds of tools and reports on evaluation approaches - even those directly aimed at many of the components of their work such as advocacy or communications - many have not resonated with or even reached racial justice practitioners and advocates. FULL TEXT

Getting on the Right Road: Up-Front Assessment is Key

Maya Wiley is the Executive Director of the Center for Social Inclusion, a policy and advocacy organization which works to transform structural inequity and exclusion into structural inclusion. A civil rights attorney and policy advocate since 1989, Ms. Wiley has worked for the ACLU, NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Open Society Institute. She has contributed to Growing Smarter: Achieving Livable Communities, Environmental Justice and Regional Equity, R. Bullard, ed. The MIT Press (2007).

What does it mean to measure the transformation of race? Funders and grantees are increasingly asked to predetermine measurable impacts and quantify them. We are asked to develop strategies, relationships, and outcomes in a linear equation. We assume, we do and we report. But the structural racism lens, a form of racialized "systems thinking," draws us to multidimensional, complex institutional and social relationships, policies, and practices. It's more of a constellation than an equation. It's the stars, not algebra. FULL TEXT

Systems Thinking, Evaluation and Racial Justice

Professor john powell is the executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at the Ohio State University and Williams Chair in Civil Rights & Civil Liberties at the Moritz College of Law. An internationally recognized authority in the areas of civil rights, civil liberties and issues relating to race, ethnicity, poverty, and the law, he was previously national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, founder and director of the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota, and a cofounder of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council. He is a member of the PRE Advisory Board.

As racial justice advocates and theorists, we need an evaluation approach that acknowledges what we know from a history of inadequate or failed policy interventions. We know that what works on a micro level may not be able to be scaled up; what appears promising in the short term may have no impact in the long term, what helps in the short term may in fact harm in the long term, and even policies that are far removed from the traditional concerns of racial justice advocates can either ameliorate or exacerbate racial disparities. FULL TEXT

Where are we going with that? Use Transformational Goals to Measure Racial Equity Work

Rinku Sen, President and Executive Director of the Applied Research Center (ARC) and Publisher of ColorLines Magazine is a leading figure in the racial justice movement. Rinku has written extensively about immigration, community organizing and women's lives for a wide variety of publications including The Huffington Post, Jack and Jill Politics, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Her latest book, The Accidental American: Immigration and Citizenship in the Age of Globalization (Berrett-Koehler) won the Nautilus Book Award Silver Medal.

Racial equity requires the transformation of all aspects of our society, from popular thinking to legislation. Yet realpolitik involves transactions - interim steps - that take us only partly there. One way to assess whether these steps are taking us in the right direction is to constantly measure them against transformational goals. By examining the impact of such transactional advances on public discourse, constituency building and the implementation of policies, advocates can have a better sense of whether their work is moving communities toward meaningful racial justice. FULL TEXT

Evaluating the Racial Justice Movement: Voices from the Frontlines

PRE Executive Director Lori Villarosa conducted a series of interviews with community activists engaged in racial justice efforts to hear their perspectives on the prospects and challenges of evaluating their organizations' progress. In early 2010, she spoke with Dan Petegorsky and Kalpana Krishnamurthy of Western States Center, based in Portland, Oregon; Cathi Tactaquin, executive director of the Oakland, California-based National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and Gihan Perera and Badili Jones of the Miami Workers Center. Following are excerpts from each of these conversations.

Identifying Markers of Change at Multiple Levels
Interview with Western States Center

PRE: What do you think are meaningful indicators for measuring progress in addressing structural racism?

KK: I think there are some new tools that cities, governments and organizations are pushing to help us get there - racial equity impact statements, racial equity report cards. There are ways of evaluating the end impact of policy through the racial disparity lens and ensuring that you have race-neutral outcomes at the forefront of policy rather than 20 years down the line. Some of those tools have gained traction in ways that are significant. FULL TEXT

We Need Tools, Capacity and Partnership
Interview with National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

PRE: How do you incorporate a structural racism analysis into your work?

We try to connect our work to a deeper and broader analysis of structural racism, and in the education work and training that we do, we try to utilize a racial lens throughout that work. What we hope will be an outcome of that investment is an awareness of structural racism for our main constituency of immigrant organizations and that people will begin to apply that in their organizing, analysis work and their own educational work. We recognize that addressing structural racism includes concerns of immigrant communities; they're not two separate issues. FULL TEXT

Rigorous Self-Assessment Helps Keep Us on Track
Interview with Miami Workers Center

PRE: How are you able to measure and assess whether your work is having an impact, especially in view of the many barriers our communities face?

BJ: First of all, I think these are long-range strategies. What's needed in the long term includes questions such as: Has there been a change in the public discourse and debate? Is the issue of targeted resourcing being discussed more in the media? Are people taking up those issues? Are policy demands being brought forth on a local level that impact the community in a positive way? FULL TEXT

Foundations Share Approaches to Evaluating Racial Justice Work

Soya Jung is a consultant for non profits and public interest projects, providing project management and organizational development services to local and national organizations. From 2001 to 2006 she was the Grants and Program Director for the Social Justice Fund NW, and played a key role in institutionalizing the foundation's commitment to racial equity. Her field experience is in immigrant rights and grassroots journalism.

Conversations with several foundation program officers whose institutions are designing racial justice evaluation methods show significant challenges in developing these methods, but also reveal commitment and potential for moving forward. Through these discussions, three critical components in evaluating racial justice efforts surfaced: shared racial justice language and definitions, a clear theory of change based on movementbuilding principles and a way to capture and disseminate the stories of racial justice. FULL TEXT

Measuring Progress, Reducing Structural Racism: How Do We Know it When We See It?

Sally Leiderman is President of the non-profit Center for Assessment and Policy Development. She is an experienced evaluator of efforts aimed at reducing institutional racism, supporting racial equity or building more inclusive communities, including Project Change; the Bridging Initiative of the National Capitol Region; Communities Creating Racial Equity; Communities for All Ages; the Americans for Indian Opportunity Ambassadors Program and others. Ms. Leiderman co-created and

People engaged in racial justice work face considerable pressure to provide evidence that their organization's particular approach makes a tangible difference in people's lives. The pressure comes from their own sense of urgency, from their constituents and from funders. Many people who fund this work are under similar pressure, sharing that sense of urgency, having to account for their decisions, and, like practitioners, wanting to structure future decisions based on evidence that the work is creating improvements. Evaluation sits right at the nexus of these similar and sometimes competing pressures. FULL TEXT

Structural Racism and Critical Participatory Evaluation

Michelle Fine, Distinguished Professor of Social Psychology, Women's Studies and Urban Education at the Graduate Center, CUNY has taught at CUNY since 1992 and is a founding member of the Participatory Action Research Collective. Michelle's research has been organized through participatory action research and focuses how youth think about and contest injustice in schools, communities and prisons.

Structural racism projects are bold, ambitious initiatives dedicated to documenting and transforming a thick overgrowth of policies, practices, traditions and ideologies that have justified and naturalized racialized injustices. Whether implemented in government, schools, prisons, worksites or communities, such interventions are typically resisted or contained; domesticated to "fit" into existing arrangements. In the language of Rinku Sen, executive director of the Applied Research Center, most of these projects set out to be transformational and end up transactional (see page X). Vibrant political visions too often shrink to technical solutions. This short essay advances critical participatory evaluation as an essential tool to hold institutions accountable for racial justice and research validity. FULL TEXT

Communities of Practice: A Process for Evaluating Racial Justice Work?

Maggie Potapchuk is the founder of MP Associates, dedicated to building the capacity of organizations and communities to effectively address racism and privilege issues for building a just and inclusive society. She cocreated and Her research includes Community Change Processes and Progress in Addressing Racial Inequities, Flipping The Script: White Privilege and Community Building, and Cultivating Interdependence: A Guide for Race Relations and Racial Justice Organizations.

We know that efforts to eradicate structural racism are consistently met with resistance, so that advances in one area (such as education) may result in backward movement in another (such as housing). In order to more effectively respond to the "repositioning of the color line rather than its erasure," collective action that crosses issue areas and communities may be far more effective than works of disparate organizations. As a practitioner, advocate and long-time consumer of evaluation, I've come to believe not only in the value of communities of practice (CoP) - groups of people dedicated to shared learning and practice - for action against structural racism, but also in their potential for fostering meaningful evaluation of racial justice efforts. FULL TEXT

Critical Issues Forum Vol. 3 Resource Listing

The link above lists a few of the many publications, journal articles and websites that address the core issues built upon in this volume, including structural racism and systems thinking, culturally competent and participatory evaluation, and/or evaluations that address issues of advocacy, social justice, diversity or equity. As noted in this volume, there are few, if any, current resources that specifically address how to evaluate racial justice efforts from a structural perspective, but many existing tools could be built upon or adapted.


Critical Issues Forum Vol. 2 Whose Capacity Needs Building? (Online only)

Kien Lee: What About Capacity Building for the Capacity Builders? (Foundations & Intermediaries)

Rick Cohen: Putting the AB 624 Agreement into Practice and Policy

Maya Wiley: Supporting the Right People to do the Right Things

Critical Issues Forum Vol 1.

The first volume in the series, entitled Measuring What We Value, examined the debate about California Assembly Bill 624, which would have required foundations with assets over $250 million to report on a variety of demographics among their boards, staff and grantees. PRE invited several leaders in racial and social justice to share their perspectives regarding what may or may not lead to long-term change and greater equity . We asked them to consider the questions grantmakers and nonprofits should be addressing long after the fate of this one bill.

We have also launched a Blog space and encourage funders and nonprofits to join in the discourse. We look forward to hearing from you with online commentary, or directly via email at info (at)


Gara LaMarche, a long-time human and civil rights advocate, is president and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies. Before joining Atlantic, LaMarche served as vice president and director of U.S. Programs for the Open Society Institute.

The debate inside and outside California about AB 624, the state bill that would mandate the collection and posting by foundations of data about their grantmaking to communities of color, presents a clash between well intentioned but misdirected intervention by government and defensive reactions from the philanthropic sector. The net result, whatever happens to the legislation - which seems unlikely to pass in its current form, anyway - is that mistrust between the two sectors could widen. There is danger that the debate will distract attention from the most profound issues of race and power that the bill is trying to address...FULL TEXT

Beyond AB 624: Reframing for the Long View

Lori Villarosa is the executive director of Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity. Prior to launching this initiative in 2003, she spent 11 years at the Mott Foundation, where shedeveloped its U.S. Race Relations portfolio. She serves on the board of the Winthrop Rockefeller and Paul J. Aicher Foundations.

Like many of our colleagues who have long advocated for philanthropy to increase giving around a range of racial and social justice issues, we at the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE) have been unclear as to whether a legislative battle over data collection is a fight we really want. Nonetheless, the debate is here and centered around California Assembly Bill 624 (AB 624), which calls for large California foundations to report on racial/ethnic composition of their staffing, governance and grantmaking. But regardless of the direct impact of legislation, there is now both an opportunity, and increasingly, a need, to surface critical issues about what is and isn't valued by philanthropy - and how that is defined, determined and measured... FULL TEXT

Understanding AB 624

Rick Cohen is the national correspondent of Nonprofit Quarterly magazine. Prior to joining NPQ, he was the executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a national nonprofit philanthropic watchdog organization. He is a former member of the PRE advisory board.

If one California state legislator has his way, his state may soon compel some foundations to let the public know the extent to which their work touches people of color, gender minorities and low-income communities.

State Assemblyman Joe Coto has proposed a bill, known by its legislative number AB624, which has energized foundations to come out swinging against the notion of compulsory reporting by foundations on the diversity of their own makeup and of their grantmaking. The lessons learned from this still unfolding legislative battle might be useful in a future dialogue on the question of promoting more racial/ethnic equity in organized philanthropy.

The legislation challenges foundations to their core. Whom do foundations serve? How will philanthropy address racial and social inequities? Whether or not it passes into law, AB624, warts and all, raises important issues that foundations have often addressed through largely unproductive expressions of caring commitment to diversity...FULL TEXT

With Foundations as Partners, Communities of Color Can Share Creative Visions

David Cournoyer is co-chair of the board of directors of Native Americans in Philanthropy, a Council on Foundations affinity group that seeks to build bridges between foundations and Native communities. He has worked at two national private foundations as well as the American Indian College Fund, and he previously worked for a decade as a television journalist. Cournoyer is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota.

It's no secret that the United States is growing more racially and ethnically diverse. Don't you remember the breathtaking pictures of literally tens of thousands of people taking to the streets about immigration reform? Did you miss the news about the growing number of states with "majority-minority" populations?

More recently, the headlines have focused on Senator Barack Obama's courageous appeal to Americans to recognize both the progress we have made and the significant racial disparities that still exist. It was an historic call to acknowledge that we are not yet "a more perfect union" fully capitalizing on America's rich diversity, which brings a broad array of knowledge, cultural values and perspectives.

What is philanthropy doing about this? Where's the Obama-like, bold leadership? If the nimble nonprofit sector can't provide aggressive support and commitment to help the U.S. capitalize on its diversity and fully promote the voice of underserved communities, where will it come from? Unfortunately, many of us in the sector who represent communities of color are not setting our expectations very high...FULL TEXT

Our Dis-Ease with Race

Eva Paterson is the president and a founder of the Equal Justice Society, a national organization dedicated to changing the law through progressive legal theory, public policy and practice. Previously, she worked at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights for 26 years. As a cofounder and chair of the California Coalition for Civil Rights, Paterson was a leading spokesperson in statewide rights campaigns. She is a member of the PRE advisory board.

We are currently involved in a controversy about whether or not foundations should be required to collect data on the race or ethnicity of its grantees. This topic brings to mind Black Power advocate Eldridge Cleaver's famous admonition that you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Philanthropy has played both roles.

When one looks at this more closely, the controversy is yet another manifestation of the dis-ease we have with dealing forthrightly with race. It would be safer to duck this issue and to lie low until it blows over, but we at the Equal Justice Society (EJS) after much anguished discussion decided we must speak.

Foundations have provided critical support in the advancement of racial justice. In 1922, Charles Garland, a 21-year old Harvard undergrad, established the Garland Fund. One of Garland's goals was to improve the schools that Black children attended. I recently read a moving essay by Alice Walker who describes walking past White schools on her way to under-funded and dilapidated Black schools in Georgia. The brilliance of Black teachers in these segregated schools is legendary in spite of being hobbled by outdated books and few resources. Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, Jack Greenberg, Constance Baker Motley and other attorneys looked for a strategy that would result in a better education for Black kids. The Garland Fund supported the development of the three-decade strategy that culminated in Brown v Board of Education. James Weldon Johnson, Roger Baldwin and Norman Thomas administered the board...FULL TEXT

Fund Racial Justice Strategies, Not Just Diversity

Rinku Sen is the president and executive director of the Applied Research Center and publisher of ColorLines. Her latest book, The Accidental American: Immigration and Citizenship in the Age of Globalization (Berrett-Koehler, was released in September, 2008. She is a member of the PRE advisory board.

The Applied Research Center (ARC) has studied philanthropy in relation to communities of color through our report, Short-Changed: Foundation Giving and Communities of Color, and through a racial equity assessment tool that we have tested with two foundations. In each case, our findings revealed that although the total philanthropic dollars going to communities of color is dismal in itself, we have to go beyond counting diversity data to ensure that such philanthropy is generating racial justice.

It is difficult to count the distribution of philanthropic dollars by race - not all foundations keep such data, and there is no public mandate requiring it. Even with having to qualify some of the data, however, Short-Changed found that although people of color make up nearly one-third of the general U.S. population, grants explicitly targeted to benefit them constituted only 7 percent of foundation giving in 2001. Grants to African American organizations in 2000 and 2001 constituted only 1.4 percent of total foundation grants, dropping from a high of 3.8 percent in 1999. The average size of grants to organizations that supported African Americans shrank by nearly 20 percent in that time. Grants to other communities of color showed similar patterns....FULL TEXT

Can Counting Really Make the Difference?

Makani Themba-Nixon is executive director of The Praxis Project, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization supporting community-based policy and media advocacy nationwide. She is a member of the PRE advisory board.

Every organized interest has a love-hate relationship with government regulation. We want clear public monitoring and benchmarks for the other guy. For ourselves, well, we urge more measured approaches like support for self-governance, expansion of voluntary guidelines and the perennial favorite - autonomy - because after all, us good people with good intentions don't need sticks. We are carrot folk who can be good for, er, goodness sake.

The unfortunate truth is that those interests with the most power tend to live more of a carrot life in the world of government intervention and regulation. And those with much less power live firmly under the stick. In fact, it was partially these policy inequities that catalyzed a study and then legislation that sought to connect the dots between the lack of diversity in philanthropy and the limited capacity of traditional marginalized communities (communities of color, sexual minorities and women) to affect change in their interests...FULL TEXT

Data Collection is an Important Tool for Building a More Vibrant Nonprofit Sector

Arturo Vargas is the executive director of the NALEO Educational Fund, the leading nonprofit organization that facilitates full Latino participation in the American political process, from citizenship to public service. He is also the board chair of ZeroDivide (formerly the Community Technology Foundation) and chairs the Council on Foundations' Committee on Inclusiveness. He is a member of the PRE advisory board.

Funders have widely agreed that the philanthropy field and its grantmaking are not sufficiently diverse and that more resources can and should be directed to diverse communities, including communities of color. In fact, many foundation leaders point to voluntary actions as the correct alternative to legislative mandates for diversity-related data collection.

We should support the laudable actions and initiatives organized philanthropy is taking to increase its diversity. However, one of the key challenges for such voluntary efforts is how to measure progress. Absent data collection, it will be impossible to demonstrate that the field has become more diverse over time; that grantmaking is reaching more diverse communities than before, and, most important, that such increase in diversity actually is contributing to greater effectiveness...FULL TEXT

LGBTQ Funding and Racial Equity Funding: Can We Talk?

Karen Zelermyer is the executive director of Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues.. She has also served as the deputy director of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice.

Every year, Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues (FLGI) tracks how many U.S. foundations offer grants to lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) issues, measuring total foundations, total giving and total grants to LGBTQ organizations and projects. We gather this data by asking foundations to report who they are funding, the kind of support they are providing and for what issues and populations. We have learned that hundreds of foundations - large and small, public, community, corporate and private - collect data on their grantees as a part of their ongoing work. And while inconsistent taxonomies present numerous problems, the task does not appear to be so onerous as to prevent foundations from doing it.

FLGI is one of several identity-based affinity groups established over the past three decades to address an inequitable distribution of resources that undermines the very heart and soul of what it means to be a democratic society. These groups also challenge the underwhelming representation of people of color, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities and women in leadership positions within foundations and nonprofit organizations...FULL TEXT

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Foundation Discussion Starters

We hope that many foundations committed to strengthening their work in communities of color and LGBT communities will continue, or perhaps, start this discussion within their own institutions - away from the heated debates over legislation.

While some foundations have formal policies asking grantees to share a range of racial, ethnic and sexual orientation data, obviously many do not. Many that don't gather such data have not made an active decision not to, but have simply never even discussed it at the board or policy level.

During a recent assessment with a foundation with an explicit commitment to addressing racial disparities, PRE found that one of the board's strongest champions for diversity and racial equity recognized that there was no place in program staff write ups that directly addressed the racial composition of prospective grantees' staff or board. While it often came up in discussions - because this particular foundation strongly believes in the value of stakeholders having a voice and leadership - she had not realized the data was not consistently gathered.

We offer these simple questions as a potential starting point within individual foundations:

1. Does our foundation gather specific racial, ethnic, LGBT data about the staff, boards and constituencies of our grantees? Do we ever use language such as "economically disadvantaged" or "underserved" instead of naming specific racial/ethnic groups? If our communities are "majority minority" do we simply use "general population" with no ability to disaggregate?

2. Has our foundation discussed our data gathering on racial/ethnic and or LGBT status to ensure it is consistently applied across all staff? Even if it is a formal question in the grant process, have we been clear about how it is collected and recorded?

3. When we ask for data from grantees, do we focus more on which constituencies they serve rather than their leadership? If we do ask both, do we also cross-reference that data?

4. Has our current data gathering process been directly tied to policy discussions at the board level?

5. Do we seek out disaggregated data to better understand issues in our community and possible trends in our grantmaking?

6. If we already collect data on the racial/ethnic and LGBT composition of grantee staff and board, are we also recording and cross-referencing different types of funding (i.e., advocacy or service, project or general operating, single year or multiyear, etc.)

7. How is the data collected, analyzed and used? How often do we share such assessments with our board?

8. As a foundation, how do we hold ourselves accountable and examine our impact with the full range of communities that we aim to serve?

Click here to download the Foundation Discussion Starters.

There are numerous reports available to provide in-depth data about various demographics, as well as additional rationale and ways to collect and use racial/ethnic data in relationship to foundation leadership and grantmaking. While not an exhaustive list, here are a few recent resources that may further inform your discussions:

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Minority-led nonprofits by Rick Cohen

What do we really know, in terms of hard research, about the greater efficacy or effectiveness of minority-led organizations serving their communities? This is the implicit question of AB624, and not answered by the generic response that "diverse" organizations are more effective or innovative entities, a contention asserted in the mathematical modeling of University of Michigan professor Scott Page1. Even if the equation of diversity yields innovation and effectiveness is correct for generic nonprofits, do the aspirations of racial/ethnic minorities-and other disenfranchised or marginalized populations-get well represented by white or "diverse" organizations, or is there something important from a perspective of empowerment and racial/ethnic equity from having people of color speak for themselves?

While the research studies may not address this question of empowerment very clearly or empirically, we do know one thing: The nonprofit sector is hardly as diverse, at least in racial/ethnic terms, as the population of the U.S., whose workforce is nearing majority-minority status and whose entire population could reach that point as soon as 2050.

In 2005, the Urban Institute conducted a stratified random sample of nonprofits that had filed Form 990s with the IRS (meaning that they had at least $25,000 in receipts) and garnered more than 5,100 responses for a 41 percent response rate. The findings on the racial/ethnic composition of nonprofit boards are not surprising, yet stunning in terms of the less than "diverse" composition of the people charged with governing tax exempt 501(c)(3) organizations, the highlights noted below:

  • The average nonprofit board is 86 percent white, the median nonprofit board 96 percent white.
  • On average, 7 percent of board members are African-American/black and 3.5 percent Latino (leaving approximately 3.5 percent for all other non-white population groups).
  • More than half of all boards are composed of entirely non-Latino whites.
  • Even in metropolitan areas, with logically more racially/ethnically diverse populations, 45 percent of nonprofit boards are all white (and 66 percent outside of metropolitan areas)
  • Among nonprofits whose service population or clientele is more than 50 percent African-American, 18 percent report no African-American/black board members; for service populations that are 25 to 49 percent African-American/black, 36 percent report no African-American/black board members.
  • For nonprofits with service populations that are more than 50 percent Latino, one-third have no Latino board members; for those serving populations that are 25 to 49 percent Latino, more than half have no Latino board members.

Despite the robust response to the Urban Institute survey, the data reflects only a small proportion of the total number of nonprofits in the U.S. On the other hand, given that these nonprofits had the motivation and wherewithal to respond to the survey, one can only imagine the even weaker picture of the racial/ethnic composition of the decision-makers for the U.S. tax exempt sector2.

1Claudia Dreifus, "In Professor's Model, Diversity = Productivity", New York Times (January 8, 2008),

2 Francie C. Ostrower, Nonprofit Governance in the United States: Findings on Performance and Accountability from the First National Representative Study (Washington: Urban Institute, 2007), pp. 17-18.

Foundation Governance By Rick Cohen

AB624 is hardly aimed at simply foundations' reporting on their grantees. Provisions call for covered foundations reporting on their own top staff and board members diversity, not only by race and ethnicity, but also by gender and sexual orientation.

Can and should public policy affect the composition of foundations' boards of trustees, for example, not to mention the executive staffing of private foundations and other philanthropic grantmakers?

The Council on Foundations' approach to diversity of board members would probably weigh against government intervention in who gets to join foundation boards, witness this comment from a speech by COF president and CEO Steve Gunderson to the COF Family Foundations conference in 2007: "(W)e have been an overwhelmingly white, Anglo-Saxon enterprise. Family foundations, by their nature, display their diversity in the form of generations with very different views of the world-and of philanthropy. I am not here today asking you to change the make-up of your board. But I join you in recognizing the diversity of the world we serve, through your service as well."1

Historically, others have advocated a broadening of foundation board membership to community people, reflecting a greater diversity of racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds, for example, as in the Donee Group's report to the Filer Commission (the Commission on Private Philanthropy & Public Needs2 ): "We therefore recommend that organized philanthropies with broad purposes be required by law to expand their governing boards to include significant representation from the general public and nonprofit agencies and, in particular, women and minorities. For those philanthropies which have a specialized purpose or geographic or program limitation, we recommend that the law require representation of those communities which are affected by or which have a special interest in those programs or areas."3

It is difficult to imagine the scenario of government intervening in the staffing and governance of private foundations, notwithstanding the fact that foundations operate with a governmentally provided tax exemption. But advocates of racial equity would be ill-advised if they ignored the admonitions of political scientists from Aristotle through William Domhoff and Floyd Hunter who all asked in their own ways, "who governs?" The very limited information on foundations suggests that even with some improvements in foundations' internal "diversity" over the years, the billions of dollars of wealth controlled by foundations are subject to the decisions of boards of trustees who do not reflect the increasing racial/ethnic diversity of this nation:

Who Governs U.S. Foundations: Regardless of the race/ethnicity of foundation staffing, the authority for decisions about foundation grants and foundation investments rests with foundation board members or trustees. Remarkably, the racial composition of foundation boards4 shows a higher proportion of white board members (87.7%) than the composition of Fortune 500 boards (86.6%). Only 6.7% of foundation board members are African-American compared to 9.1% of Fortune 500 board members and 10% of Fortune 100 boards.5 For other minority groups, the comparisons are similarly stark, though corporate boards do poorly as well: Latinos comprise 3.3% of foundation trustees and 3.2% of Fortune 500 board members; Asian/Pacific-Islanders comprise 1.5% of foundation board members while Asians6 comprise 1.1% of corporate board members; Native Americans constitute 0.5% of foundation board members and only 0.1% of Fortune 500 board members.7 The larger foundations (assets over $500 million) tend to do a little better in diversity, with African-Americans comprising 11% of board members, than smaller foundations.8 Observers report that there is evidence of a substantial amount of "recycling" or churning of minority members on corporate boards, that is, the same individuals are recruited to serve on multiple boards. It is not hard to imagine a similar recycling dynamic among foundation boards. Who Runs U.S. Foundations: There is some reluctance by foundations to provide very specific data on the racial/ethnic composition of their staff, but the statistics from annual Council on Foundations surveys show disproportionately few positions held by minorities, a trend that gets worse for higher level positions. For all full-time paid foundation staff, 76.8% were white in 2006, down slightly from 77.2% in 2005. Blacks comprised only 11.4% of paid foundation staff, barely up from 11.1% in 2005 (only 2% of full-time paid foundation staff were black males in 2005). Latinos accounted for 5.7% of staff in 2006, down from 5.9% in 2005, and for Asian/Pacific Islanders, the figure was 4.8% in both 2005 and 2006. 9

For foundation chief executive officers and chief giving officers 1% were black men and 1.8% were black women compared to 41.8% white men and 51.8% white women; the numbers and proportions of Hispanic, Asian/Pacific-Islander, and American Indians in CEO or CGO positions were de minimus. For full-time program paid program officers, racial and ethnic minorities were as follows: "black males" 4.2%; "black females" 12.8%; Hispanic males, 3.0%; Hispanic females 4.3%; and Asian/Pacific-Islander females 3.8 percent, again with Asian/Pacific-Islander males and American Indian men and women, the numbers obviously so small as to barely register.10 These statistics are drawn from surveys of members of the Council on Foundations, a small subset of the generally larger foundations. An obvious point to be drawn is that the diversity statistics for much smaller foundations and for non-reporting foundations would be even less impressive.

No statistics exist on the socio-economic demographics or more broadly, the socio-economic status (SES) of foundation board and staff members. When it comes to running institutions controlling huge concentrations of wealth, is race/ethnicity dispositive, gender and sexual orientation, or class? At least one study suggests that staff and board diversity follow a foundation's decision to focus grantmaking on communities or issues of "marginalized populations", not the other way around.11

There is no question that the concentration of philanthropic wealth under the control of non-minorities reflects the racial/ethnic divides operative in our society. The anomaly in AB624 is that it implicitly sets a higher value on foundation giving to minority-led organizations, notwithstanding that the giving institutions are probably less racially, ethnically, and gender/orientation diverse than the recipient nonprofits, no matter how low the foundation giving numbers. It is a policy conundrum for both the proponents of AB624, whose tendency would be toward governmental intervention and mandate, and the defenders of the foundation status quo, whose diversity approaches reflect Gunderson's framework of "valuing" diversity12 but not altering the power relationships within institutional philanthropy.

1 Steve Gunderson, "Sweeping with Dignity" (speech delivered at the Family Foundations conference of the Council on Foundations, February 25, 2007, Baltimore MD),

2 The five volume report of the Filer Commission was issued with the title, Giving in America:Toward a Stronger Voluntary Sector, in 1975.

3Private Philanthropy: Vital & Innovative? or Passive & Irrelevant?
The Donee Group Report & Recommendations (Section III, A, 2)

4 Foundation Management Series 12th Edition, pp. 35-38

5 2005 Catalyst Census of Woman Board Directors of the Fortune 500; and the Alliance for Board Diversity's Women and Minorities on Fortune 100 Boards (2005); Note that the Executive Leadership Council's study of Fortune 500 corporations puts the African-American board member proportion at 8.1%.

6The 2005 Catalyst survey data uses the term "Asian" rather than "Asian/Pacific Islander"

7The Alliance for Board Diversity, which includes Catalyst, the Executive Leadership Council, and the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR), says that Hispanics accounted for 3.9% of Fortune 100 corporate board seats and Asians only 1%.

8Both the Fortune and foundation figures are drawn from self-reported data by corporations and foundations. One can well assume that among the non-reporting corporations and foundations, the diversity figures look much less robust.

9These statistics come from the Council on Foundations' Grantmakers Salary and Benefits Report 2005 and the executive summary of the 2006 edition. The combination of CEOs and CGOs in the statistics masks somewhat the fact that among CEOs, the proportion of positions held by African-Americans is even lower than these small proportions.

10Grantmakers Salary and Benefits Report 2005, pp. 14-18. The combination of CEOs and CGOs in the statistics masks somewhat the fact that among CEOs, the proportion of positions held by African-Americans is even lower than these small proportions

11Teresa Odendahl and William A. Diaz, "Independent Foundations in Transition: From Family Vehicles to Major Institutions", in Lynn C. Burbridge, William A. Diaz, Teresa Odendahl, and Aileen Shaw, The Meaning and Impact of Board and Staff Diversity in the Philanthropic Field: Findings from a National Study (Joint Affinity Groups, 2002), pp. 89-90.

12 From Gunderson's February, 2007, speech: 'We will prove that diversity is more than a program, more even than an outcome: It is a value, deeply instilled in us and our work." Op. cit.

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