Tactical Philanthropy is currently covering the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations conference with the help of a blog team. This is a guest post by Kathy Reich of the David & Lucile Packard Foundation.
By Kathy Reich
At today’s session on “Foundations and Communities of Color”, session moderator Anne Vally from the James Irvine Foundation called me out as a Tactical Philanthropy blogger and challenged me to write a blog post on this topic. (Thanks, Anne.) Diversity and inclusion in grantmaking are hard topics to write about. They’re even harder to talk about, as the session today showed.
How foundations can and should relate to communities of color is not a topic one can even begin to address in 90 minutes. I was left struggling with the limitations of conference formats. On the one hand, what’s the use of starting a conversation that needs not 90 minutes, but months and years of intensive reflection and challenge? On the other hand, the folks who need to engage in such deep reflection the most are not the ones likely to devote that kind of time and attention to it. For some people, 90 minutes may be all you get.
I think Anne did a great job of shepherding the conversation, and I did want to share a few thoughts and reflections from the group:
- Moving to more philanthropic support in communities of color is not something that you can do in a three-year grantmaking initiative (for example). It takes many years of commitment.
- Foundations should remember that some of the biggest, most successful white-led nonprofits began as efforts that were catalyzed and supported by foundations for years or even decades before they truly prospered. Foundations should think about making similar investments now to build the capacity of organizations led by and serving people of color.
- We need to be collecting better data about diversity in grantmaking—and we need to do it in a centralized, standardized way, so that a nonprofit doesn’t have to provide diversity data to 15 different funders.
- The opening plenary speaker, Dev Patnaik, spoke about the need for empathy in philanthropy. Empathy, combined with a healthy dose of humility, is essential whenever foundations connect with people and communities of color.
- What kinds of networks can we all catalyze and strengthen to help people of color-led organizations build connections and access to foundations?
Finally, one point that I don’t think came out in the discussion: This was a session about foundations and communities of color. But there are so many aspects to diversity that could get missed or underemphasized with this lens—LGBT, class, age, disability, gender, ethnic differences that are not technically racial differences, to name just a few. A lens on communities of color is extremely important, but we can’t afford to neglect the others either.
How have you entered into conversations about foundations and communities of color in your work? Have you tried anything that you feel is particularly innovative, empathetic, risky? Have you tried anything that didn’t work, and what did you learn from it?