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.
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