As the coronavirus started to spread, a group of grant makers led by the Ford Foundation circulated a pledge that read like a wish list for grantees focused on equity and social justice. The foundations declared they temporarily would provide general operating support, waive certain paperwork requirements, and throw support behind community organizations in areas that were hardest hit.
Within two weeks, more than 500 other foundations from every corner of philanthropy responded. Large established philanthropies like the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Omidyar Network, community foundations from Maine to Iowa to Oregon, and family foundations including the Lawrence Welk and the Sawyers family foundations signed up.
In the pledge, proponents of equity grant making see an opportunity but not a complete answer. For a response to truly incorporate an equity approach, proponents say, it must both prioritize changes in public policy and shift more control over foundation endowments to groups that work directly with those in need. A racial-equity focus must specifically address whether certain populations are harder hit by the coronavirus and seek a remedy to the disparity.