Working Towards Diversity

Principles_65x84_1_ This is part of "Principles for Grantmakers & Practice Options for Philanthropic Organizations."

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Minnesota is becoming a more racially, ethnically and culturally diverse state. Diversity is growing in suburbs, in regional centers outside the Twin Cities and in rural areas, in addition to Minneapolis and St. Paul. Similarly, the communities and nonprofits with which grantmakers work are becoming more diverse. This reality presents a new set of needs, issues, challenges and opportunities. To be effective, all grantmakers must gain new competencies and experiences in diversity to guide them in doing the work of philanthropy.

Over the years, members of the Minnesota Council on Foundations have asked us to identify examples of practices to address the Council's diversity principle. This special chapter offers foundations and corporate giving programs some fresh ideas, good practices and current examples of diversity work in the field. The purpose is to stimulate more thinking about how every foundation can embrace diversity.

MCF's Previous Work

Since 1991, the Minnesota Council on Foundations has worked toward two strategic imperatives:

  • Create a climate of inclusivity in philanthropy.
  • Recognize and work to eliminate and prevent racism in philanthropy.

Working Towards Diversity Research: The Council has completed four benchmark surveys (1995, 2000, 2005 and 2011) on diversity in Minnesota philanthropy. This research was intended to define what diversity meant to grantmakers, understand inclusive practices employed by grantmakers to achieve diversity in their work, and identify any changes that had taken place during the previous five years in the field. The Council and its Race and Diversity Task Force set in motion groundbreaking work that helped shape the field and provided national leadership on diversity, including the Diversity Framework and Diversity Toolkit.

Diversity Framework: The framework serves as a guide to help grantmakers discuss and take action on diversity issues, and identifies four distinct roles in which grantmaking organizations can act: grantmakers as funders, grantmakers as employers and boards, grantmakers as civic participants, and grantmakers as economic entities.

Diversity Toolkit: The toolkit helps foundations and corporate giving programs become more inclusive within their four specific roles as grantmakers. "Building on a Better Foundation: A toolkit for creating an inclusive grantmaking organization" provides examples and stories of ways in which grantmakers have worked to implement the four roles of the Diversity Framework to reflect the ever-changing faces of the communities they serve.

Diversity Framework

In devising a framework for applying the diversity principle, the Minnesota Council on Foundations has identified four distinct grantmaker roles: funders, employers, civic participants and economic entities.

As a funder, a grantmaking organization has a wealth of opportunities to foster diversity. For many funders, a commitment to inclusion policies may trigger a whole new way of thinking about grantmaking and how best to reach a diverse constituency with funding dollars. For some funders, it means including the community itself in the process. For others, it means investing in organizations whose daily work strengthens the fabric of a diverse society.

As an employer, a grantmaking organization shapes its staff and can also determine the composition of its board of trustees or directors, as well as volunteer staff and advisory bodies. The employer role provides important opportunities to bring diversity, in all its meanings, inside the institution.

As a civic participant, a grantmaking organization can contribute to the public good through involvement in communities, not just through funding. Funders are well positioned to learn about the needs and issues of diverse constituencies and can often act as facilitators and initiators of community action. They can offer technical assistance and draw upon resources that would be unavailable to many small nonprofit groups. More importantly, funders can become equal partners in their communities, gaining valuable insight and knowledge through firsthand experience.

As an economic entity that invests its assets and operates as a business, buying supplies and services, a grantmaking institution can direct its financial activities in ways that amplify a commitment to inclusion and complement its grantmaking mission. Socially responsible investment policies are one way. Supporting businesses owned by people of color, the disabled, and gay men and lesbians is another strategy for consciously building an inclusive organization.

For each of these roles, we offer several examples of how grantmakers are successfully building an inclusive organization.