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.
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.”