May 4, 2020

Overcoming the Racial Bias in Philanthropic Funding

Racial bias—both personal and institutional, conscious and unconscious—creeps into all parts of the philanthropic and grantmaking process. The result is that nonprofit organizations led by people of color receive less money than those led by whites, and philanthropy ends up reinforcing the very social ills it says it is trying to overcome.

By: Cora Daniels, Lyell Sakaue, Peter Kim, Cheryl Dorsey

A Native American-led nonprofit organization was recently up for a grant renewal. Its CEO had hoped the process would be routine. After all, his organization had been a grantee of the foundation for 25 years and part of the program officer’s portfolio for almost eight years. Yet he still found himself having to defend his organization’s approach and its demonstrated success.

Visit our Racial Equity in Philanthropy Resource Center for more information about dismantling the persistent and substantial barriers leaders of color face in securing philanthropic funding.

Meanwhile, one of the CEO’s white peers ran into the same program officer in a bar after a conference and sketched out a three-year project plan on the back of a napkin. The white CEO secured funding in three months. The Native American CEO’s turnaround time? Eighteen months.

“That kind of privilege, that access, that trust—it’s pretty powerful, and awful,” says Mike Roberts, the Native American CEO in the story. “And that disparity is just what happened to us recently. I have similar stories for nearly every grant we go for.”

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