Imagine the future of philanthropy where foundations respond to changing demographics by including more people of color on staff and in key leadership positions, diversifying boards and investing in leadership in diverse communities. Imagine the future of philanthropy where foundations commonly provide capacity building grants to communities of color to support the development of their own brand of homegrown philanthropy. Imagine this and more because the seeds have been planted for such sweeping shifts in philanthropy over the next two decades.Where is the evidence for this? In a surprising place, buried in the robust discourse that has surrounded California Assembly Bill 624, which would require foundations based in the state with assets over $250 million to disclose data on the diversity of boards, staffs, contractors and nonprofit grantees. Don’t get me wrong: A.B. 624 is no panacea for the problems of exclusion and inequity in philanthropy. Its focus on data collection might bury the real issue – the need to strengthen philanthropic practices of diversity, inclusion and basic fairness. Though right-hearted, the proposed bill might be wrong-headed. However, it has popped the million-dollar question: what is philanthropy’s proper relationship to diverse communities as an expression of its mandate to work in the public trust? As a member of the philanthropic community, we say to our colleagues “let’s go with the discussion.”
With a mission to promote and model philanthropy that is transparent and accountable, Changemakers would never be accused of opposing diversity – to the contrary. We do vow to speak freely and truthfully about how to capitalize on this moment in history to begin to support a real change agenda for the field. This would build on the laudable work of the foundations that “get it” and use their stories to advance knowledge in the field about the relationship between inclusive practices and effectiveness. We know that the foundation world needs to do a whole lot better on this score. . And we are not naïve enough to believe that everyone will embrace such change but what foundation does not want to be a wiser steward of its resources and to maximize its positive impact on the community?
Our approach focuses on cultural change — not legislative mandates– to ensure more equity in philanthropic investments for the long haul. This is not the “diversity police” speaking but rather a humanistic nonprofit that believes in the possibility of forging right-hearted AND right-headed strategies to advance the greater good.