Late last month I had the honor to moderate a panel of local nonprofit executives on diversity and inclusion practices within the organizations they lead. The discussion titled, “Building a Culture of Board and Organizational Diversity,” centered on strategies and tactics for consciously engaging diverse talent from all levels of community-based organizations. It was clear the topic hit a cord as the venue was filled with executive and mid-level staff and several board members representing a wide variety of mission-driven organizations. While each panelist shared a unique set of strategies and engagement tactics that fit their organization, the core values – diversity, equity and inclusion – were fundamentally shared across each of the organizations represented.
Diversity in the Nonprofit Sector
In preparing for this moderated discussion, I researched nonprofit statistics and trends of diversity practices and commitments in the nonprofit sector. In a comprehensive examination of the diversity of the nonprofit sector conducted by Community Wealth Partners, I learned that while people of color represent 30% of the American workforce, only 18% of non-profit staff and 22% of foundation staff is comprised of people of color.
All the while, in the back of my mind, I wondered what the data reflected for grantmakers’ approach to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion within their own grantmaking structures. In the study cited above, Community Wealth Partners reported, “for foundations, this number significantly decreases when looking at leadership and board member positions.” The authors of this research stated, “This gap in diversity across staff and leadership in the sector reflects a lack of diversity in perspectives and backgrounds that could help organizations better understand the market and adapt and innovate strategies.”
The big ‘D’ in Philanthropy: Resources & Next Steps in the Journey
As a person of color (4th generation Mexican-American and full-bred Texan!), I know the reality of this data. Equally, as a decade-long, practicing grantmaking professional, I know there are advancements in engaging diversity in philanthropy as I have witnessed these actions in the clients I support and professional affiliations I am a part of.
The resources cited below are ones I have found helpful to my own practice and that of my clientele on how best to engage diverse, powerful change agents of community:
Career Pathways to Philanthropic Leadership: Conversation on Diversity and Inclusive Practices (Council on Foundations)
CHANGE Philanthropy (formerly Joint Affinity Groups)
At CivicAIM, we believe in the power of “civic” as it signifies community and “aim” to build connection to the strengths and assets of different communities as well as to their needs. Much like the brilliance and range of depth in a kaleidoscope, may your journey of inclusion interlink connectivity and a non-exhaustive perspective of compassion, understanding and abundance of ideas to advance your social mission.
In an era of stringent cutbacks in state and federal assistance, thoughtful engagement in public policy is a critical tool for advancing (and sustaining!) mission-driven initiatives. If you really think about it, advocacy is at the core of philanthropy by:
- investing and initiating innovative strategies to address societal needs;
- facilitating and strengthening community commitment;
- illuminating awareness and evidence about societal issues and encouraging collaborative-based solutions; and most importantly,
- embodying a spirit of courage and unwavering voice for inspiring positive change.
CivicAIM fully embraces advocacy as a strategy to advance philanthropic missions. We have witnessed first-hand the multiplier effect advocacy has on influencing policy debates and ultimately, creating long-lasting, broad-based change. Learn more on how CivicAIM has helped set a precedent on empowering philanthropic leaders to engage and shape public policy.
Is advocacy in your grantmaking playbook?
At minimum, policy needs the input of philanthropy and our partners. Equally, philanthropy has an obligation to raise the awareness of the issues and populations we serve. Philanthropy can be a resource to policymakers – and not the check writing kind — but an objective, thought leader with the ability to facilitate time, talent and expertise. Foundations play a central role in improving communities and similar to policymakers who make difficult budgetary decisions, funders have to make decisions about where to invest limited resources that will have the most impact. This experience is knowledge policymakers want to hear.
“We want to be a resource for legislators and we want them to understand the opportunities and the limits of philanthropy.”
Erica V. Ekwurzel, CivicAIM as quoted in Austin American-Statesman
So whether you have yet to embark on understanding how advocacy can bolster your philanthropic aims or you already leverage advocacy as an avenue to move the needle, we leave you with these insightful resources to help foster consideration for thoughtfully engaging in advocacy work:
Words to Give By: Leading Voices in Advocacy Funding (cosponsored by Council on Foundations and Alliance for Justice)
Philanthropy Advocacy Playbook: Leveraging your Dollars (Alliance for Justice)
Investing in Change: A Funder’s Guide to Supporting Advocacy (Alliance for Justice)
Our hope is you find these resources both inspiring and informative. CivicAIM welcomes engaged civic leaders who value the role philanthropy plays in laying the groundwork for a more interactive democracy. Call us today as we stand ready to help identify and customize an advocacy strategy to advance your work.
We all want data. It is a necessity for any grantmaking foundation, regardless of asset or staff size, to do its job effectively. Yet unfortunately, there is a lack of evaluation culture, data skills, and capacity. This results in an incomplete picture of the philanthropy’s sectors contributions, wins, and misses.
Next time you’re doing research to guide your decision making and you’re wondering why you can’t find data you need – from general information about an organization to a particular program’s impact or funding – ask yourself: Do you think the data exists? If not, think about how you might help create it.
Lauren Bradford, Director of Global Partnerships, Foundation Center
Creating a culture of data is a deliberate and active decision.
CivicAIM is fortunate to partner with grantmakers interested in changing this status quo. They stand bold to reverse the evaluation deficiencies and do their part in creating a culture of data and evaluation. These grantmakers are inspired by the power of data driving impact, decision-making, and positive change in the communities. Through my on-going work supporting evaluation initiatives, I’ve come across useful tools that enable foundations to better support their grantees in evaluation through data utilization. More on that soon!
What are current and credible resources for donors interested in evaluation and data to complement their philanthropic initiatives?
There are many resources that span across several areas of interest. A bookmarked website CivicAIM frequently turns to is Foundation Center’s TRASI. TRASI stands for Tools and Resources for Assessing Social Impact. You’ll find a plethora of tools and learn what leading nonprofits, foundations, and others in the social arena are using to measure impact. Tools can be queried by issue area, nonprofit/funder entity, geographic location, and more. I particularly like that these tools are a hybrid of high-level best practices and have the capability to drill down to the details with evaluation templates, methodology, and customizable frameworks.
Another credible resource is What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). WWC reviews existing research on an array of programs, products, practices and policies with the goal to provide information on evidence-based decisions. Although WWC leans mainly to the field of education, I have seen funders utilize this resource to evaluate their efforts in child welfare, public health and criminal/juvenile justice as it intersects closely with education.
Additional, as clearly stated in its mission, Urban Institute, is focused to “open minds, shape decisions, and offer solutions through economic and social policy research.” Urban Institute offers key statistic on economic and social issues, interactive graphs and maps based on issue area. It also features case studies and story collections that go beyond the data.
What advice can funders implement to create a culture of data and evaluation?
Start with your network of social change organizations. Have frank conversations with your grantee partners about their evaluation and data efforts. What breakthroughs and challenges do they encounter? Talk to fellow funders who prioritize evaluation and data and ask how they manage evaluations and build upon their knowledge base and their grantees.
Create learning partnerships on the topic of evaluation. As you learn more, get involved by helping elevate evaluation learning. You can do more (and learn more!) if you work with other funders who prioritize evaluation. Start small and informal – listen in on webinars together, bring in evaluation specialists to help guide discussions, and talk opening about roles philanthropy can play in supporting healthy evaluation culture in the social sector.
Integrating evaluation and data in your grantmaking can truly start at any level. My hope is the resources provided offer a solid step to guide your decision-making and learning in creating a culture of data and evaluation.
The title of this month’s blog is indicative of the umbrella theme of this year’s Council on Foundation Annual Conference: The Future of Community. The quote is more accurately credited to two slam poets of Split this Rock, and in my opinion, their words rekindled the core message of philanthropic funders and agents of social change from across the world who stand at the forefront of innovation, explore creative ways to advance the common good, and find solutions for complex issues in society.
Refueling our cup of Inspiration & Knowledge
It is professional gatherings like these that provide stretch and inspiration to the work of CivicAIM. To be among 400 grantmaking entities, scholars, researchers, and just plain wickedly, thoughtful practitioners from across the world was a philanthropy wonk’s dream come true. The conference and its networking provided opportune time for purposeful exchange of ideas, peer reporting and reflection on strategies dedicated toward achieving the greatest impact, and a bird’s eye view of social sector trends. The focus of the 72-hour gathering was to promote best practices so that one day these might become common practices of action and influence for social good.
Similar to what CivicAIM preaches to its clients to invest in continuous learning, we take this practice to heart so our practices and counsel strengthen and add value to both our clientele, and the field of grantmaking.
Intriguing conference take-aways to incorporate in your Grantmaking Practice
Captured below are a few highlights of knowledge gleaned and resources worth taking into consideration for your own journey of effective and intentional grantmaking:
Say it with me, “Don’t collect, what you cannot protect.” This is the mantra led by Lucy Bernholz, Senior Research Scholar, Stanford University Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. With data and its collection (and use) as a critical element to philanthropy, Bernholz unveiled the recent launch of Digital Civil Society Lab’s website, digitalIMPACT.io. Learn, engage, and build upon your organization’s practices on how can nonprofits and foundations govern and use digital data ethically, safely, and effectively.
Calling all advocacy grantmakers — newcomers and veterans alike — LearnFoundationLaw.org, is the first-of-its-kind, free resource for private foundations to learn the basic legal rules for private foundations. Maya, the online program officer, leads participants through interactive courses and takes the daunting nature of advocacy and lobbying into bite-size practical modules for funders and professional staff.
The call for greater collaboration has been a persistent drumbeat in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector, and in keeping with the band metaphor, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) doesn’t shy away from the role of drum major, helping guide funders toward being better collaborators. GEO’s recent publication of, Building Collaboration From the Inside Out, focuses on the internal conditions and environments that enable successful collaborations. This is a must-read for organizations serious about setting and supporting the tone for collaboration.
And finally, a professional group, The National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers (NNCG) of which I am proud to join their membership roll call. NNCG is a network of experienced professionals consultants serving grantmakers. NNCG is a capacity-builder in every facet as it helps consultants, much like CivicAIM, elevate our work, expand knowledge and inform the field of philanthropy. I had the fortunate opportunity to participate in NNCG’s Annual Meeting while in DC and stand impressed of the network’s unwavering commitment and thought leadership to advancing the social sector.
These are only but a few of the many gems of knowledge and networking taken from my participation at the Council on Foundation’s conference. I hope in some small way they may spur inspiration in your own practice, and more importantly, add breath to the world you’ve been preaching about. –Erica V. Ekwurzel