Racial Equity at Independent Sector
The Independent Sector Board, leadership, and staff are aligned that driving toward equitable outcomes is no longer an aspiration, but a mandate.
It wasn’t always this way.
Since our founding, Independent Sector has sat at the intersection of many mission areas and many organization types and sizes, while representing the interests of nonprofits and philanthropy in our research, thought leadership, storytelling, advocacy, and federal policy work. For many years, we drove our strategies and mission forward while holding that racial justice and equity were the focus of particular social justice nonprofit and funders. But it took some time for us to fully realize that within this social good space, we all have a role and responsibility to create a just world.
Our strategies began to shift significantly in 2017 and 2018 with the generous support of our partners, such as the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Ford Foundation, Lumina Foundation, and Annie E. Casey Foundation, among many others, who called on us and other organizations to advance racial equity within our operations, strategies, and outcomes. In early 2019, Independent Sector began using the ResultsCount methodology to fully embed racial equity and results-driven strategies into the organization. As a Results Count Hub, Independent Sector committed to focusing not just on how much we do on behalf of our members or the sector, but to expand our intention to the result or impact we have on our society. We are committed to using data and stories to understand the state of the sector, drive to close racial and other disparities in our operations and outcomes and commit to building deep and meaningful relationships with leaders and organizations who share similar goals.
In 2020, with COVID-19 and the heightened national awareness of the level of systemic racial injustice embedded in the foundation of institutions across this country, we recommitted to our goals of driving toward equity. Our commitment toward a healthy and equitable sector is now core to how Independent Sector reacts to the issues of our time, shapes public policy positions, advocates on behalf of our sector’s organizations and leaders, and crafts strategies that advance our mission.
In our Sector Health work, we begin with the premise that a healthy and equitable nonprofit sector is a necessary pre-condition to building a nation in which all people can thrive. From there, we gather and analyze data that helps us understand the state of the sector’s health and make recommendations for policy and practice changes that strengthen the health of the sector and make it more equitable.
In our Community Building work, we doubled down in our approach to create a locally grounded, nationally relevant community where leaders of all kinds are able to connect, heal, and focus on building a healthy and racially just world. Through our events-based strategy with Upswell and in our Fellows leadership development programming, we are driven by racial equity and inclusion, where Black people, Native people, other people of color, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and anyone experiencing marginalization co-create our shared vision and actions. Our work to build community is deeply reflective, relational, and ever-evolving. In more recent years, we’ve led leadership programs to focus on bridging toward belonging, centered in the exploration of how racist systems are at the core of most of our nation’s divides.
In our Public Policy work, we look to see where gaps exist between a vision of a healthy sector and the realities on the ground in communities we serve. We then use our public policy and advocacy tools to close those gaps by shaping and advancing federal policies that strengthen nonprofits, foundations, and diverse communities nationwide. Much of the policy and advocacy work we do is aligned – often through coalitions – around broadly shared goals. In 2020, Independent Sector and KABOOM! joined together to form the Nonprofit Infrastructure Investment Advocacy Group. This diverse and growing coalition was initially formed to ensure that the federal government was investing in the nonprofit infrastructure in this nation to ensure an equitable recovery from COVID-19, the economic crisis that resulted from the pandemic, and systemic racism. Today this coalition continues to focus on policies that help ensure a healthy and equitable sector. Internally, we have developed new policies and practices that drive equity in how we operate in the nonprofit ecosystem. From our own hiring and retention practices to equitable policies around vendor selection and speaker honorariums, we continue to refine, adjust, and acknowledge the ways we can drive racial equity, inclusion, and belonging in our daily practices.
It has taken many hundreds of years of history for organizations and individuals to learn practices and policies that, regrettably, have led to the disparate outcomes we see in our communities every day. In every mission area – from housing to health to arts and culture and beyond – our collective journey to build a new world where all people thrive is something that will take many more years to become reality. But Independent Sector, like so many of our members and partners, is committed to this journey for as long as our community entrusts us to do so. We continue to be grateful to the community leaders, nonprofit executives, and funders who have partnered with us and will continue to do so until the work is done.