By Debra Rainey
D5 Coalition and the “State of the Work” to Advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Diversity. Equity. Inclusion.
“It’s tough, it can be uncomfortable, but institutions who consider issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion as things that are ‘nice to do,’ do so at their peril. Organizations risk their continued relevance and ability to operate effectively in the communities they are trying to serve without putting these issues front and center. You can’t continue to consider it optional or ancillary if you plan to be functioning in the next 10 to 20 years.”
According to Kelly Brown, director of D5 Coalition, it is essential that philanthropy fully commit to becoming a diverse, equitable, and inclusive sector, and she’s spent the past five years leading an effort to persuade the charitable community to see it as essential, as well.
D5 Coalition has been a five-year collaboration focused on advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the philanthropic sector. D5 grew out of conversations started in 2007 among leaders from across philanthropy who were concerned that the social sector in general and foundations in particular were out of step with America’s changing demographics. They also were becoming increasingly alarmed about the sector’s future viability if it did not take seriously the importance of reflecting the constituencies it serves.
Founded in 2010 by more than a dozen organizations — including philanthropic infrastructure entities, IS member the Council on Foundations (COF), affinity groups, regional associations, and population-focused firms — D5 sought to build a framework to support philanthropic associations and foundations in addressing DEI issues in a coordinated and focused way.
Now more than 250 partners and allies strong, the coalition is guided by three IS member CEO co-chairs: Dr. Robert K. Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment, an early proponent of a coordinated sector focus on DEI; Stephen B. Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; and Luz Vega-Marquis, president and CEO of the Marguerite Casey Foundation. Vega-Marquis came onboard as a co-chair in 2013, replacing Sterling Speirn, past president and CEO of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.
When it launched, D5 had four major goals:
- Recruit diverse leaders for foundations, including CEO, staff, and trustees.
- Identify the best actions we can take in our organizations to advance DEI.
- Increase funding for diverse communities and ensure that foundations offer all constituencies equal opportunity to access the resources they need to thrive.
- Improve data collection and transparency so we can measure progress.
Why five years? “Five years was a clearly ambitious time frame, but we wanted to establish a point where progress could be assessed without going too far out in the future,” Brown said. “It seemed a reasonable time period to assess the field’s perception of change, and what were reasonable and feasible mechanisms for accountability going forward.”
While D5’s goals were clear, the extent to which they would be achieved was less so. “The Coalition did not have specific, measurable expectations about what changes were feasible in the five-year period, and that was part of the challenge,” Brown said. “In addition, the lack of clear baseline data made it difficult to document what changes were in fact achieved.”
Each year, D5 issued a State of the Work report on progress made toward its four goals. The final State of the Work report, released in 2016 at the Council on Foundations’ annual conference in Washington, DC, reflects on progress made and work still to be done. It also celebrates stories of organizations and people that have taken steps proactively and voluntarily to advance DEI, in the hope these success stories will inspire others in the sector and serve as a roadmap they can follow.
Assessing DEI in Philanthropy
The first State of the Work report, issued in 2011, confirmed what most already knew — the philanthropic sector had a long way to go when it came to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The report outlined four major findings:
- The demographics of the foundations who responded to the COF annual Compensation and Benefits Survey showed that foundation leadership, executives and trustees, doesn’t reflect the nation’s overall diversity, nor that of its workforce.
- Fewer than a third of the foundations surveyed by the Foundation Center’s annual survey have diversity policies and practices in place.
- While the lack of consistent and standardized reporting protocols keeps us from painting a full picture of funding to diverse communities, the data we do have suggest that they are underfunded and largely reflect the giving through population-focused funds.
- Philanthropy needs more standardized data collection and studies on diversity-related issues.
To begin to address these issues and chart a course toward leading the charitable community to where it can be in terms of DEI, the coalition first needed to quantify where the sector was. But the lack of reliable data would complicate that effort.
As noted in the final State of the Work report, “While other fields harness the power of data to measure effectiveness and such critical indicators as diversity, the foundation community lags behind in collecting information about the diversity of their trustees, staffs, and grantmaking. There is also no consistent standard for how to share such data. Without a comprehensive approach, we will never know the full story of how philanthropy is doing in its pursuit of greater diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Currently, the Foundation Center does much of the sector’s data gathering, collecting, and statistical analysis based on public tax records and grantmaking information voluntarily submitted by some foundations, as well as surveys by COF. Each year the Foundation Center and COF partner to conduct the Grantmakers Salary and Benefits Survey, which collects information on benefits, policies, and practices, along with data on compensation for more than 30 positions at community, corporate, private, public, and operating foundations.
Because the survey is distributed primarily to COF members and through the network of regional associations, and participation is voluntary, the survey cannot be generalized to the field as a whole. But a results snapshot of organizations that participated in the 2014 Grantmakers Salary and Benefits Survey makes it clear that among those foundations responding, people of color remain underrepresented top of charitable organizations.
The final State of the Work report indicates that women and African Americans are over overrepresented at the program officer level. While noting that “data for people with disabilities and people who are LGBT have not been widely collected,” the report also acknowledged as an upside “seeing a greater willingness among foundations to include these populations by better tracking their presence in their organizations, so we hope that in the future, these individuals will be more visible.”
“The U.S. workforce is rapidly becoming more diverse and providing much greater pools of talent,” says Brown. “While there is more diversity at the staff level, why are we not seeing similar changes at the senior levels of philanthropic institutions?”
Addressing the Data Problem
With the clear need for a comprehensive approach to data collection, D5 collaborated with IS member GuideStar to develop to develop data standards and a transparent collection process, working with a wide range of partners, including the Foundation Center, the Race and Equity in Philanthropy Group, regional associations of foundations, and others. Launched in 2014, the data collection standards are intended to foster transparent and uniform data collection about staff, board, and volunteer demographics in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors to enable more informed decisions about philanthropy. Organizations are encouraged to share information on the composition of their boards, staff, and volunteers based on gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, and ability/disability.
Available on the online GuideStar Exchange, the national voluntary standard program is the only known one of its kind. The launch coincided with a pilot partnership with Green 2.0, an initiative dedicated to increasing racial diversity across mainstream environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs), foundations, and government agencies. Green 2.0 worked with D5 and GuideStar to encourage environmental organizations to participate in the data collection initiative. While many organizations still do not make available their demographic statistics, to date, more than 5,300 organizations, including more than 250 foundations, have shared demographic data through the GuideStar Exchange.
Foundations reporting gender and racial and ethnic data for full-time staff in the annual COF survey have grown by 31 percent and 29 percent respectively since 2010, as noted in the final report, reflecting “a sea change for a field that is increasingly recognizing the importance of demographic data collection.”
Resources to Guide Sector’s DEI Efforts
Even without a comprehensive repository of demographic data and a precise collection system, it was clear there are foundations and nonprofits that want to improve DEI within their own organizations, but are unsure about where to begin.
“To help us fill in knowledge and learning gaps, early on we commissioned several pieces of research to scan existing policies, practices, and programs to aggregate and curate what had already been done in the field, particularly as it related to philanthropy’s engagement around these issues, and to organize it in a way so that people could access and understand what was already available based on where they were within their own practice,” according to Brown.
Research and a 2013 analysis report by JustPartners, Inc., commissioned by D5, provided a wide range of existing print and online resources from philanthropy and the fields of organizational effectiveness and social justice, identifying existing policies, practices, programs, and tools that could help inform and guide philanthropies seeking to advance DEI within their organizations.
D5 Coalition also commissioned a study by IS member the Bridgespan Group on the state of more than 400 funding vehicles that specifically serve racial, ethnic, or cultural communities. Known as “population-focused funds,” the study considered trends that may affect these organizations’ continued effectiveness and financial viability, providing research that can be used to develop strategies to strengthen their financial status and impact on the respective communities they serve.
In addition to sharing this research with sector organizations, D5 also developed and made available a number of other resources, including a DEI Self-Assessment tool to identify areas where foundations are already engaged, and opportunities for growth; recorded webinars and presentations with downloadable slides; produced a video series, “I Am a Philanthropist,” a short film collection of stories on people from diverse backgrounds who are active in philanthropy; and a directory with a searchable, interactive map of population focused funds developed by the Foundation Center.
D5 also developed communications tools to help advocates convey within their own organizations the importance of advancing DEI. “We invested in messaging research and the design of a strategic messaging framework to help organizations understand the importance of using communications as a tool to effect change. We did audience segmentation, message development, and training to help people understand that in a field like philanthropy where there are few measures of accountability or leverage to make change, it is even more important to rely on strategic persuasion to enroll and engage people.”
D5’s final report celebrates efforts by organizations and people who have proactively advanced DEI within their organizations and their larger communities. The stories also are offered as instruction on approaches others might consider as they pursue greater diversity, equity, and inclusion. These stories include:
- Portland’s Meyer Memorial Trust and its use of data to make its grantmaking more equitable. Rethinking its grantmaking strategy, the Trust moved from “a responsive and broad approach of funding worthy groups that shared its values to something deeper and more systemic: working to identify the barriers to racial, gender, and disability status equity, and other forms of equity, and attacking them.”
- Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque and its initiation of Inclusive Dubuque to encourage inclusion and celebrate diversity in that city. Acknowledging the changing demographics of a “once homogeneous” city, the venture brought together leaders from faith, education, business, nonprofit, and government organizations to “encourage inclusivity and celebrate diversity” in order not to “risk losing the promise that comes with both.”
- Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, and his efforts to encourage environmental organizations to “walk the walk” on DEI issues, reflecting his belief that it was important for these groups “to weigh in on ‘nonenvironmental issues’ like racism, voting rights, and immigration.”
- Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and its work to make arts and culture more accessible. The Council’s pilot program brought together people with disabilities and arts organizations, as explained by Anne Mulgrave, manager of grants and accessibility, helping to “change people’s attitudes toward disabilities” and make social inclusion a priority.
- Ana Valdez, a philanthropist and political and media consultant based in Los Angeles, who explains how her “personal story influences the way she helps the Latino community tell its own,” and how individual philanthropists can impact communities beyond donating money.
- William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund and its forward-looking actions to make a real impact on social issues. The Fund realized that to truly “tackle the issues of race and inequality,” as explained by Bill Graustein, trustee and son of the Fund’s founder, they also “needed the right person to do it.”
- Unmi Song, president of the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, on the importance of board diversity and why “different backgrounds and life experiences bring a richer and more diverse conversation to boardrooms.”
- Minnesota Council on Foundations and its efforts to “build a pipeline of talented professionals” to “advance diversity among foundation staffs” and “give people of color a foot in the door.”
What’s Next for D5 Coalition
Brown and her staff are completing their formal evaluation and qualitative work during the summer, which will include a sector-wide survey to assess what people in the field felt changed over five years, and what needs to come next. In October, they will present their findings to the D5 co-chairs and a select group of foundation CEOs to digest the learnings and consider recommendations and commitments about next steps.
Going forward, Brown indicated she’d like to see a focus on DEI with regard to the makeup of boards. “We did not have a solid strategy to address the composition and engagement of foundation boards, given the restrictions of our five-year time frame. I do think there is likely to be some sort of focus on trustees. There is a lot of energy from the co-chairs and a fair amount of energy from the field indicating that specific area needs a special type of attention.”
After 5 Years, Still a Touchy Conversation
Convincing the field to embrace the link between philanthropy’s future and its ability to reflect the changing world may remain a challenge, but it is on the minds of many in the sector. The need for more diversity, equity, and inclusion was raised over and over during the Threads conversations held by Independent Sector in 15 communities around the country during 2015. In direct response to the field’s concerns, IS and subject matter experts, advised by Brown, curated the best existing thinking on addressing DEI and other challenges raised. In July 2016, IS made these resources easily accessible and available at no cost on a dedicated focus areas section on the IS website (see p. 6 for more on these online focus areas).
But Brown says there’s also another challenge: convincing more organizations to be open and willing to reflect upon and talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“We came out of a place where people just didn’t talk about it. They put their heads down and pretended that if we don’t address these issues we can pretend we are colorblind. But now we’re at a point where we have to engage. We went from the movements of the 60s to a phase of expecting people to merely assimilate into a dominant culture where some people were let in, but it was on the condition that you ‘fit in.’ Now, with movements like Black Lives Matter and marriage equality, it’s not just about fitting in,’ but about co-creating new cultures and frameworks of identity and what that means for the organizations we want to sustain.
That’s a different type of orientation, and it can be much more anxiety producing for folks to consider what it means to navigate your own identity in relation to others, and to harness that in a positive and constructive way.”
In urging philanthropic organizations to embrace the reality that the country is becoming ever more diverse, Brown points out that the American electorate is changing, as well. “I can’t imagine that charitable entities benefiting from policies that protect significant resources won’t come under increased scrutiny about their relevance, as the electorate becomes more diverse and attentive to these issues.”
Brown says she’ll see the work of the D5 Coalition through the end of the year, plans to finish her Ph.D., and will stay open to what comes next. And, looking back on five years of work to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy, how does she sum up the State of the Work?
“The field itself is changing, the infrastructure is evolving, Independent Sector is engaging the field in conversations about diversity and inclusion. There are evolutionary dynamics going on in the field that will create a broad range of opportunities for how to proceed,” Brown said.
“Sometimes it has felt very hard, like we’re not moving forward, but I truly believe we are. We’ve made incremental progress. But I tell people, that’s how you build a better muscle. Ten years from now, there will be other parameters of identity that we will grapple with. Hopefully if we really commit now to having hard conversations and considering hard questions, and be open to making different kinds of choices that diversity by definition means we must do, we’ll be better prepared and better positioned to reap the profound benefits of authentic inclusion.”
Debra Rainey is the manager of grants development at Independent Sector.