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Grantmaking organizations: Diversity, equity, and inclusion

February 12, 2022
This image shows an ethnically diverse group of grantmakers discussing diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Although society values diversity more than ever, the demographic makeup of the philanthropic sector has not changed to reflect this. In many grantmaking organizations, women and people of color still experience barriers to leadership and the staff lack diversity. The field as a whole still has a long way to go to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive at a rate that reflects the changing demographics of the United States.

Change can be slow, but the lack of progress is holding organizations back. Socially diverse organizations are more innovative and better equipped to solve complex problems because their employees are committed to working passionately and tirelessly toward ambitious goals. Most importantly, these organizations can better meet the needs of the communities they serve because their diverse staff gives voice to the root causes and consequences of inequity.

Many grantmaking organizations are already committed to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and need to begin taking concrete steps toward making these principles a reality. If your organization is looking to incorporate DEI into your organization’s core values, here are three steps you can take to help move forward.

1. Write or review your diversity statement.

A written commitment to DEI is a great starting place. On its own, a written policy won’t solve any problems or make any changes in your organization. However, the exercise of creating the written policy will align your board, directors, and employees on the importance of these core values.

If you already have a written diversity or inclusion statement, this is also a good time to review it. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you review the statement:

  • Is it actionable?
  • Is it specific?
  • Did a diverse group of employees have input when it was written? 
  • How does your organization’s purpose connect with DEI?
  • What are some concrete, high-level ways you can implement the principles of DEI?

A basic statement should include your organization’s commitment to equity, specific goals that will help move the needle within your grantmaking and donor services processes, as well as action items that every employee can take to meet those goals. This will help everyone in your organization understand where you stand on DEI.

2. Invest in DEI training.

Studies show that organizations led by people of color have far fewer financial resources than nonprofits that are not led by people of color. Grantmakers have an opportunity to level the playing field by training grant reviewers on how to achieve equity through grantmaking. Topics that your foundation can train staff on include:

  • Implicit bias.
  • Culture and identity awareness.
  • Microaggressions.
  • Accessibility.
  • Inclusive leadership.
  • How best to invest in under-resourced communities and nonprofits that serve people of color.
  • How the grant application process may be perpetuating inequity.

Having this training is imperative for grantmaking organizations looking to incorporate DEI. While having a diversity statement is a great first step, this training will give your organization more actionable advice on how to implement DEI. There may be behaviors or aspects that you haven’t considered making more DEI-friendly, and this training can help widen your perspective.

3. Provide grant applicants with more resources.

Grantmaking organizations can set all grant applicants—not just the ones with access to more resources—up for success by offering sustained technical assistance and capacity building. You can do this by offering evidence-based fund-development best practices and using tools such as Bonterra’s Jumpstart program (formerly Jumpstart powered by Network for Good).

By providing coaching, a strong technology infrastructure, an educational curriculum, and a dynamic template library to all your grant applicants, you can help emerging leaders hone their skills and put their organizations on the path to sustainability. Giving equal opportunity to all grant applicants will help your organization give grants to those truly in need.

How DEI benefits foundations

DEI practices can be beneficial to grantmaking organizations in a variety of ways. They help you attract grant applicants from all types of backgrounds, leading to a larger network. Additionally, staff teams and boards that are more diverse gain unique viewpoints that help enrich their thinking, leading to more creative ideas. Implementing DEI principles is an important step to improving your organization, so take the time to consider how you can include these values in your everyday operations.

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    Grants Management
  • Diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging (DEIB)
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  • Capacity building
  • Grant management & grant making