Strategies for Equitable Grant Making and Resources for Grant Seekers
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.”