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'Ten Ways' for Foundations to Strengthen Diversity and Inclusiveness

April 25, 2010

Diversity-haende-171x143-pi As the Council on Foundation's 2010 annual conference gets under way in Denver, the council has released a set of three reports designed to strengthen diversity and "inclusive practices" in the philanthropic sector. Customized for community, family, and independent foundations, the reports define the term diversity in the context of "the breadth and depth of human difference," including but not limited to "differences of ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation and identification, age, class, economic circumstance, religion, ability, geography, and philosophy, among other forms of human expression."

The reports pointedly note that "Achieving diversity does not merely consist of documenting representation via headcounts and checklists" -- a reference to the advocacy of the Greenlining Institute and the 2009 National Council for Responsive Philanthropy report Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best -- "but rather entails inclusion in decision making" as a path "to enhanced creativity, a broader range of options, and increased effectiveness." And each report underscores the point thusly:

Diversity and inclusive practices in philanthropy are being reconceived more broadly as a set of activities meant to contribute to a foundation's overall mission and effectiveness. This mind-set can be particularly relevant to [independent, communty, family] foundations with few or no staff members or with limited flexibility to change board structure and funding focus. Donor intent, mission, and strategy are equally important factors and often influence the way diversity and inclusive practices are considered by different foundations....

The ten recommendations in each report support this frame:

1. Consider how diversity and inclusion relate to your foundation’s mission, values, and original purpose.

2. Determine whether your board membership, volunteers, advisory committees, and governance offer opportunities to enhance the foundation’s diversity and inclusiveness.

3. Cultivate an internal culture, policies, and procedures that reflect your foundation’s commitment to diversity and inclusive practices.

4. Hire staff from diverse populations, viewpoints, and experiences.

5. Seek contractors and vendors from diverse backgrounds, communities, and populations.

6. Explore investment options that would support diversity and inclusive practices.

7. Consider and enhance the impact of your foundation’s grantmaking on diverse communities and populations.

8. Consider ways to model inclusive practices and the value of diversity in your role as a philanthropic leader and convener.

9. Assess how your foundation is perceived by the public, especially by diverse populations, grantees, applicants denied funding, and organizations that have not sought funding from your foundation.

10. Share what your foundation is learning about diversity and inclusive practices.

Individual recommendations in each report are accompanied by advice and/or a lesson learned from a leader-practitioner in the field, as well as half a dozen or so key questions to consider. 

The broad recommendations are fine -- maybe even better than fine -- as far as they go. The question is, Do they go far enough? And if not, what has the council left out?

Use the comments section to share you thoughts....

-- Mitch Nauffts

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Posted by Archana  |   April 26, 2010 at 01:12 PM

Private foundations should leverage their commitment to diversity to pressure grantees to make a similar commitment.

Greenlining and others tend to label some charities as benefiting communities of color and others as not. I'm not sure the lines are so clear. Many mainstream grantees (theaters, museums, zoos, etc.) are portrayed as not benefiting diverse communities, when they are just not specifically for one or more diverse populations.

There is no reason that such grantees and mainstream civic institutions can't focus on diversity. They may need a 'push' from their grantmakers. Grantmakers could require grantees to measure who's participating in their programs, who's on their boards, etc.

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