Grantmaking with a Racial Equity Lens

A focus on racial equity can increase your effectiveness at every stage of the grantmaking process. Blending experience and candid advice from grantmakers, this guide explores how a racial equity lens can help you scan your field or community, cultivate new leaders, encourage creative approaches, get people talking, and nourish change inside your own foundation.

This guide was developed in partnership with the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity.

Highlights

  • Three tools for activating a racial equity lens
  • Your Race/Your Role
  • Questions to ask inside your foundation

What's in the Guide?

  • What Is a Racial Equity Lens? For grantmakers and foundation leaders, using a racial equity lens means paying disciplined attention to race and ethnicity while analyzing problems, looking for solutions, and defining success. Some use the approach to enhance their own perspectives on grantmaking; others adopt it as part of a commitment endorsed across their foundations.
  • How a Racial Equity Lens Works: A racial equity lens is valuable because it sharpens grantmakers’ insights and improves the outcomes of their work. People who use the approach say it helps them to see patterns, separate symptoms from causes, and identify new solutions for their communities or fields.
  • Applying a Racial Equity Lens: Skills and Strategies: Where, specifically, does a racial equity lens get put to use by individual grantmakers? The answer is simple: everywhere. A keen awareness of race and ethnicity, and of their impact on access to power and opportunity, is a distinct asset when applying the classic skills of effective grantmaking.
  • Implementing a Commitment to Racial Equity: Policies and Practices: When a foundation decides to focus on racial equity, how does that commitment get translated into the organization’s goals and routines? Foundation leaders and program staff share examples of what they have learned about applying a racial equity lens to their programming, operations, and external affairs.
  • Looking Inward: Using a Racial Equity Lens Inside Your Foundation: Grantmakers who have championed racial equity within their foundations describe a handful of tactics for getting over the predictable hurdles. Ground the discussion of racial equity in the foundation’s mission, they say, be open to learning, and be upfront about your goals. But don’t lose sight of the possibility of resistance and setbacks.
  • Takeaways
    Questions to Ask Inside Your Foundation About Your Foundation's Own Policies, Practices, and Grant

    About Your Foundation's Own Policies and Practices:

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  • Takeaways
    Encountering Resistance

    Respond (don’t react) to resistance.
    Most people who try to advance the cause of racial equity grant making inside their foundations run into resistance at some point. Sometimes the pressures are overt. For example, a woman of color who was introducing a racial equity lens into her foundation’s arts programming recalled meeting with the board members of another foundation. At one point, “one of the trustees leaned over and said, ‘When is this whole multicultural thing going to blow over so we can get back to the business of making good art?’” The question was insulting, she felt, yet she answered with an explanation: “Multiculturalism is a reality. Demographics tell the story. It’s not going to blow over.”

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  • Takeaways
    Interpret Grantmaking Guidelines in New Ways

    A grantmaker found, for example, that the foundation generally funded groups organizing for policy change at state, regional, and national levels — a practice that had the unintended effect of disqualifying many people-of-color led groups, which tended to work at a more local level.

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  • Takeaways
    Create Space for Learning about Race

    Because racial equity is such a charged issue, grantmakers often need to create opportunities to explore issues of racial equity with each other. Ideally, those should be structured so that they can eventually seed larger institutional investments in racial equity.

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  • Takeaways
  • Takeaways
    Implementing a Commitment to Racial Equity in Policy + Practice

    1. Modeling Diversity and Inclusiveness: “As you’re unpacking this issue and trying to figure out what to do,” a white grantmaker suggested, “it makes sense to start by asking, ‘How do we increase diversity in our own organization? Do we need a more diverse board? Do we need a more diverse staff? Do we need a more diverse vendor base? Do we need a more diverse fill-in-the-blank grantee base?’

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  • Takeaways
    Racial Equity to Assess Impact

    For a grantmaker running a national initiative in juvenile justice reform, a racial equity lens helped identify a rigorous way to trace the impact of a program intended to improve “a broken system that relies much too much on incarceration and does not produce good results, either for kids or for public safety.”

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  • Takeaways
    Applying a Racial Equity Lens Skills and Strategies

    1. Get People Talking
    “What we’re finding,” said a grantmaker whose foundation has embarked on an explicit course of racial equity grantmaking in education, “is that we’re getting more people and different people to the table. By engaging in this conversation, we’re getting people who would have been afraid on their own to come forward” to talk about racial disparities in student performance.

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  • Takeaways
    Racial Equity and Other Lenses

    A racial equity lens can be used with other lenses. A racial equity lens sheds light on racial dynamics that shape social, economic, and political structures. Other lenses illuminate other important dynamics that shape issues grantmakers seek to address.

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  • Takeaways
    How a Racial Equity Lens Works: Relevant to ALL Groups

    A racial equity lens reveals how race is relevant to all groups. “Like everyone,” said one program officer, “grantmakers sometimes fall back into very narrow definitions
    of racial equity.”

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A focus on racial equity can increase your effectiveness at every stage of the grantmaking process. Blending experience and candid advice from grantmakers, this guide explores how a racial equity lens can help you scan your field or community, cultivate new leaders, encourage creative approaches, get people talking, and nourish change inside your own foundation.

This guide was developed in partnership with the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity.

Highlights

  • Three tools for activating a racial equity lens
  • Your Race/Your Role
  • Questions to ask inside your foundation

What's in the Guide?

  • What Is a Racial Equity Lens? For grantmakers and foundation leaders, using a racial equity lens means paying disciplined attention to race and ethnicity while analyzing problems, looking for solutions, and defining success. Some use the approach to enhance their own perspectives on grantmaking; others adopt it as part of a commitment endorsed across their foundations.
  • How a Racial Equity Lens Works: A racial equity lens is valuable because it sharpens grantmakers’ insights and improves the outcomes of their work. People who use the approach say it helps them to see patterns, separate symptoms from causes, and identify new solutions for their communities or fields.
  • Applying a Racial Equity Lens: Skills and Strategies: Where, specifically, does a racial equity lens get put to use by individual grantmakers? The answer is simple: everywhere. A keen awareness of race and ethnicity, and of their impact on access to power and opportunity, is a distinct asset when applying the classic skills of effective grantmaking.
  • Implementing a Commitment to Racial Equity: Policies and Practices: When a foundation decides to focus on racial equity, how does that commitment get translated into the organization’s goals and routines? Foundation leaders and program staff share examples of what they have learned about applying a racial equity lens to their programming, operations, and external affairs.
  • Looking Inward: Using a Racial Equity Lens Inside Your Foundation: Grantmakers who have championed racial equity within their foundations describe a handful of tactics for getting over the predictable hurdles. Ground the discussion of racial equity in the foundation’s mission, they say, be open to learning, and be upfront about your goals. But don’t lose sight of the possibility of resistance and setbacks.