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Supporting and investing in BILPOC nonprofit leaders

August 12, 2021
A diverse group of workers embrace and talk at the office, showing the importance of supporting and investing in BILPOC nonprofit leaders.

It’s a well-known fact that people of color and immigrants receive inequitable investments across most areas. In banking, BILPOC communities receive fewer loans and do so at higher interest rates. In education, BILPOC students occupy fewer student leadership positions, are far less likely to be in advanced classes, and are over-identified as risky students.

Because BILPOC nonprofit leaders are often considered riskier investments for grantmakers than their white counterparts, it’s even more important for philanthropists and grantmakers to support and invest in BILPOC causes. Ensuring that you implement fair practices when assessing grant proposals is a huge step towards equitably investing in nonprofit causes. That’s why it’s so important to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusivity principles in your grantmaking practices, starting with examining your biases.

Investing without biases

Grantee partners that receive repeat funding from multiple grantmakers are able to grow their “trustworthiness” and relationship with their funders across multiple grant cycles. Each time their grant is renewed and the nonprofit fulfills their promised proposals, the more they’re seen as a trusted investment.

On the other hand, BILPOC nonprofit leaders who are leading new initiatives and working in diverse communities often have trouble getting their first grant, making it challenging to build connections and show their trustworthiness. When considering new nonprofits to award your grants to, consider how you can mitigate bias, build trust with new leaders, and break the cycle of underfunding.

Examining risk, privilege, and positionality is an important aspect of your organization’s grantmaking. Start by assessing your board leadership, your executive team, and support staff. We often extend feelings of trust and goodwill more generously to people that come from similar backgrounds. This means that having a diverse leadership team can lead to more equitable grantmaking by taking more life experiences into account when assessing proposals.

How to assess if your organization is making equitable investments

Committing to DEI principles in your investments will require you to evaluate your philanthropic process. If you want to review how equitably you’re making your investments, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are you working on behalf of? Who are you potentially leaving out?
  • How have those most central to your purpose been impacted by different markers of diversity, starting with race?
  • Does your organization have data on all investments made based on race?
  • Does your organization rely on (mostly) white program officers as the liaisons to and for your nonprofit partners?
  • Does your organization have BILPOC nonprofit leaders on your board of directors or trustees?
  • What is the lived experience of your board leadership?
  • If your leadership has noticeably different lived experiences than your grantees, what steps are you taking to extend trust to new organizations?
  • Does your organization host open forums and/or listening sessions specifically to learn about and from nonprofit grantees in your community?
  • When was the last time your organization hosted an open, informal Q&A session for all nonprofits in your community/issue area?

These questions will help you evaluate your organization and have a better understanding of how equitably you’re investing in nonprofit organizations. Keep an open mind and be receptive to feedback—remember that the nonprofits seeking your funding want to work towards improving society with your help.

Centering DEI means change

Committing to including BILPOC nonprofit leaders may mean that you have to change some aspects of how your organization operates. Start by evaluating your leadership team and work your way to examining your everyday operations based on whether they help or hinder BILPOC nonprofit leaders from getting the support they need for their organizations. Keep your focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how incorporating those values will improve your organization as a whole.

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    Grants Management
  • Diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging (DEIB)
  • Social justice
  • Philanthropists
  • Foundations & grantmakers
  • Grant management & grant making