Strategies for Equitable Grant Making and Resources for Grant Seekers

Posted February 5, 2022
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
The image depicts three toddlers from behind—a Black boy, a white girl, and a Brown boy—who are in a daycare setting. They are facing a low table on top of which are several colorful learning tools and games.

A new report urges grant mak­ers to cul­ti­vate rela­tion­ships with non­prof­it lead­ers of col­or and adopt equi­table fund­ing strate­gies for invest­ing in communities.

Effec­tive Strate­gies for Orga­ni­za­tions of Col­or in Phil­an­thropy explores racial equi­ty and inclu­sion prac­tices for grant mak­ers. The paper also address­es admin­is­tra­tive chal­lenges that small orga­ni­za­tions of col­or encounter when they seek fund­ing. Orga­ni­za­tions of col­or are not fund­ed equi­tably com­pared to oth­er groups, despite pledges of sup­port by cor­po­ra­tions and phil­an­thropies after the 2020 mur­der of George Floyd by police sparked nation­al protests, the paper says.

This paper sug­gests reme­dies, strate­gies and resources for grant seek­ers and grant mak­ers — and both groups can do more to cul­ti­vate rela­tion­ships that improve access to fund­ing, sug­gests the report’s author, the Build­ing Bridges Ini­tia­tive Lead­ers of Col­or Project. Launched in 2018 with sup­port from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, the Lead­ers of Col­or Project pro­vides oppor­tu­ni­ties for pro­fes­sion­als of col­or in child wel­fare and men­tal health fields to devel­op resources and share their expe­ri­ences and exper­tise. They help indus­try peers devel­op cul­tur­al and lin­guis­tic com­pe­tence and sup­port prac­tices that lead to pos­i­tive out­comes for youth and families.

The work of strength­en­ing fam­i­lies and address­ing the needs of chil­dren, espe­cial­ly chil­dren of col­or, ben­e­fits when phil­an­thropic invest­ments are informed by data ana­lyzed through a racial equi­ty lens,” says San­dra Gas­ca-Gon­za­lez, vice pres­i­dent of Casey’s Cen­ter for Sys­tems Inno­va­tion. Sup­port­ing com­mu­ni­ty-led solu­tions is one equi­ty-dri­ven strat­e­gy to help keep fam­i­lies and chil­dren togeth­er and out of the child wel­fare system.”

Racial Equi­ty in Grant Making

Grant deci­sions often depend on trust­ed rela­tion­ships and con­nec­tions, the paper says. Fun­ders who have few rela­tion­ships in com­mu­ni­ties of col­or may mis­per­ceive a non­prof­it organization’s needs and capa­bil­i­ties or may rely on unin­formed ideas about what works in a com­mu­ni­ty. A phil­an­thropy that does not have a diverse staff or board may lack cul­tur­al com­pe­ten­cies need­ed to fos­ter healthy rela­tion­ships with poten­tial grantees.

To bridge the sup­port gap faced by lead­ers of col­or, fun­ders must cre­ate a port­fo­lio with a more diverse set of grantees, which will require fun­ders rethink­ing their assump­tions about what is worth fund­ing and where solu­tions are found,” the report says. For instance, elim­i­nat­ing often-used base­line cri­te­ria for the size of the orga­ni­za­tion a fun­der is will­ing to fund, as this prac­tice has cre­at­ed an almost invis­i­ble class of orga­ni­za­tions that are con­stant­ly dis­missed for being too small to fund.’”

Fundrais­ing Strate­gies for Non­prof­it Leaders

Small orga­ni­za­tions serv­ing peo­ple of col­or may ben­e­fit by strength­en­ing their admin­is­tra­tive and fundrais­ing exper­tise. Groups with bud­gets of less than $10 mil­lion, low rev­enue and lim­it­ed assets may need help with pro­fes­sion­al fundrais­ing and report­ing tools and capa­bil­i­ties. Bar­ri­ers to fund­ing may include a lack of board mem­bers with con­nec­tions in phil­an­thropic cir­cles. These chal­lenges under­line the dis­ad­van­tage at which min­i­mal fund­ing for oper­a­tions puts lead­ers of col­or and the orga­ni­za­tions they oper­ate,” the report says.

Non­prof­it lead­ers can start by research­ing the cor­po­ra­tions with which they have rela­tion­ships, instead of mak­ing cold calls, the report suggests.

Fundrais­ing and fund devel­op­ment are not adver­sar­i­al activ­i­ties, and access to engage­ment is the great equal­iz­er across orga­ni­za­tions,” the report says. This is espe­cial­ly true for lead­ers of col­or lead­ing orga­ni­za­tions that have his­tor­i­cal­ly been too small, too qui­et, or too on the fringe’ to draw the atten­tion of fun­ders who are posi­tioned to be change makers.”

Equi­ty Resources for Grant Makers

The report sum­ma­rizes resources on racial equi­ty and inclu­sion for grant mak­ers. It also draws on results from a Lead­ers of Col­or Project sur­vey describ­ing their suc­cess­es as well as busi­ness challenges.

Non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tions have tak­en on the respon­si­bil­i­ty of sub­si­diz­ing social infra­struc­ture in com­mu­ni­ties and pop­u­la­tions that have been pushed out of the main­stream econ­o­my because of their inabil­i­ty to cre­ate sup­port struc­tures in a rapid­ly chang­ing soci­ety,” says Tekoah Boat­ner, exec­u­tive direc­tor of Youth Oasis in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and a Lead­ers of Col­or Project member.

Since many of these orga­ni­za­tions are run by lead­ers of col­or and because we know that orga­ni­za­tions mir­ror the soci­ety in which they oper­ate, we see these lead­ers bat­tling the same racial bias­es and bar­ri­ers that they face in their day-to-day lives on an insti­tu­tion­al lev­el,” she says. This paper was cre­at­ed using the input of lead­ers of col­or across the nation and pro­pos­es solu­tions to fun­ders and sup­port­ers to change this nar­ra­tive. If we are to con­tin­ue to expect these orga­ni­za­tions and lead­ers to thrive where gov­ern­ment and oth­er sup­port struc­tures have failed, then we must col­lec­tive­ly decide to choose anoth­er path.”

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