The Urgency of Now: Foundations' Role in Ending Racial Inequity

by Gary L. Cunningham; Marcia Avner; Romilda Justilien

Apr 1, 2014

This article explores the multiple approaches that foundations can use to advance racial equity, focusing on a specific set of approaches used by the Minnesota-based Northwest Area Foundation. The article also gauges the depth of the challenge that communities face in racial disparities, the long history of racialization of institutions and systems, and the evolution of the role of philanthropy in addressing poverty.
  • Historic racial practices of neighborhood segregation, workplace discrimination, lack of access to credit, and educational inequity account for much more of the wealth and income gap than cultural or social factors.
  • Philanthropic funding specifically targeted to people of color is currrently in the 4.5 percent range, according to a 2013 D5 State of the Work diversity report.
  • Philanthropy has the capabilities to challenge the systems of racialized poverty, through strategies that include grantmaking, research, cross-sector collaborations, and designing leadership models that maximize results using a social-justice lens.
  • In order to change policies to address racial disparities and advance equity, Northwest Area Foundation has focused on policy advocacy research and opportunity mapping and served as convener and network connector.