At a pivotal historical moment, family foundations are poised to address matters of racial equity, inclusion, and diversity to enhance their impact. These concerns are central to any thematic area a family foundation would address in its programming. Health, education, income and wealth, and any range of other issues are characterized by persistent disparities among demographic groups. If family foundations hope to influence systemic change, the realities of today’s demographics and inequities between racial and ethnic groups would have to be incorporated into strategic thinking and action.
This is not only true for foundation programming; its significance permeates every dimension of philanthropic institutions—their governance, staffing, purchasing, investing, evaluations, and so on. Overall, strategic philanthropic approaches taking into account the nature of complex demographics and disparities are especially crucial in the twenty first century.
A panel at the Council on Foundations Family Philanthropy Conference (“Race, Diversity and Inclusion in Family Foundation’s Grantmaking Strategy,” 10:30 a.m.–noon, on Monday, January 28) will explore an array of considerations for family foundations around race, inclusion, and diversity. These considerations are comprehensive, spanning external communications with constituent populations, grantmaking, internal policies and practices, governance. The panel is being moderated by Dr. David Maurrasse, founder and president of Marga Incorporated. Founded in 2000, Marga advises philanthropic initiatives and community partnerships.
Marga coordinates the Race and Equity in Philanthropy Group (REPG), which engages a cluster of foundations in continuous learning exchange on policies and practices related to racial equity, inclusion, and diversity. Members of the REPG include the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the California Community Foundation, the California Endowment, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and the Woods Fund of Chicago. Through the REPG, these foundations share their experiences on a wide range of issues, including the role of boards of directors, data collection on grantee demographics, and broad strategic plans and policies designed to align entire foundations around inclusive commitments. The REPG is mutually reinforcing, as member foundations’ policies and practices are informed by learning from peers.
The peer exchange approach is central to the REPG’s success, providing member foundations concrete ways to learn from each other and ultimately institute new ideas in their organizations. The philanthropic field can benefit from the REPG’s progress, which is captured in reports on the approaches of member foundations and other communications materials.
The panel at the Family Philanthropy Conference is designed in the spirit of peer learning exchange. Three panelists will address different ways in which family foundations can contribute to systemic change by consciously addressing critical demographic concerns. The panelists are: Gerald Solomon, executive director, the Samueli Foundation; Quinn Delaney, cofounder and president, Akonadi Foundation; and John Morning, a trustee of various organizations (most recently the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation). These panelists will share their experiences and the audience will have an opportunity to do the same. This panel should contribute to the growing dialogue and action to increase philanthropy’s inclusion, equity, and diversity.
Cynthia Jones is CEO of Marga Incorporated. David Maurrasse is its founder and president.