Bridging Divides

In-Depth knowledge on Bridging Divides

This report from the Council on Foundations and the Kettering Foundation summarizes a two-day symposium the two organizations convened in May 2018 to wrestle with these questions. A group of prominent foundation leaders working at the national, state, and community levels explored how philanthropy can narrow the gap between people and institutions, strengthen public engagement, build civic capacity, and generally bolster democratic norms and practices in the United States.

Brennan Gould, president and CEO of the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, reflects on the city a year after the "Unite the Right" rally, and discusses the importance of acknowledging and addressing inequality.

The philanthropic sector has a unique opportunity to highlight the voices and concerns of the communities it works with. Nonprofit Votes, Independent Sector and the Council on Foundations believes we should bring those voices to the forefront. By producing a toolkit to provide nonpartisan support, encourage voter participation and strengthen democracy we hope we have taken that step. These include one aimed at community foundations, and another aimed at private foundations. The toolkits provide a cross-section of measures to educate and organize nonpartisan events around voter engagement, including options, sample content, and case studies.

How poignant and timely that we gathered with HR professionals from around the country to explore what equity means to our foundations just as our nation is grappling with its own diversity conversation in the backdrop of the recent troubling events in Charlottesville, the latest in an increasingly racially-polarizing environment. In the Charlottesville incident, Heather Heyer was killed after a car plowed into counterprotesters of a white nationalism event.

Last week’s shootings in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas have made more urgent our need for a national civil discussion about longstanding systemic challenges that deeply divide our communities. The Council on Foundations steadfastly denounces the killing of innocent people, no matter their skin color, political position, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. We mourn the lives lost and send our thoughts to their friends and loved ones and to our philanthropic colleagues who serve and lead in the affected communities.