Racial Equity Grantmaking

November 4, 2009 Leave a comment

As I described recently, I had the great fortune of hearing Rinku Sen of the Applied Research Center, Ellen Gurzinsky of Funders for LGBTQ Issues and Lori Villarosa of Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity present on”Catalyzing Change and Deepening Racial Justice Impacts” at the Neighborhood Funders Group Annual Conference in New Orleans. I wanted to share some of what I heard about racial equity grantmaking.

Funders for LGBTQ Issues (an affinity group of foundations who fund LGBTQ issues) started a Racial Equity Initiative a few years ago, under the leadership of Karen Zelermyer and with the creative and smart expertise of Robert Espinoza. The initiative was started to improve the ways that LGBTQ grantmakers incorporate a racial equity lens into their internal processes and grantmaking. Rather than taking a single approach, they used a multi-faceted approach (which seems to be what’s necessary to REALLY change an organization’s direction), choosing to create a broader context for the work. The initiative started with an assessment of foundations supporting LGBTQ issues, looking at internal operations and seeing whether they were applying a racial justice lens to their grantmaking (the 2008 Report Card on Racial Equity). Funders then launched a grantmaking initiative – raising $1,000,000 to match with funding at eight queer community foundations to identify and support local people of color organizations (which sometimes required learning and shifting of strategies for some foundations distributing funds). And they convened a very successful Racial Equity Retreat of LGBTQ funders.

Finally, Funders for LGBTQ Issues is in the midst of launching an online toolkit to help grantmakers working with multiple and intersectional populations – including “a variety of tools, perspectives from leading thinkers in the fields of racial equity/racial justice, LGBTQ rights and strategic and effective grantmaking, and spotlights of publications and grantmakers that are integrating a racial equity lens into their LGBTQ grantmaking.” Some tools already available on their website include questions grantmakers can ask themselves to help understand how structural racism affects grantees, and frameworks and approaches for understanding racial inequities in policies, programs and grantmaking.

It’s a great example of foundations looking at intersectionality to ensure that their grantmaking works across different social justice lenses. I wonder what other examples you might know about. As well, the approach (using a multi-faceted campaign) is very similar to one going on at IISC right now to move us toward being an anti-racist, anti-oppression, pro-liberation organization (more on that later). In the meantime, I wonder what other examples you may know about.

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