Black and brown Leaders Deserve Better from Philanthropy

As an organization led by women of color, Insight Center has had to continuously fight the white supremacy and anti-blackness that exists in our society at large, and particularly within philanthropy. To better understand how our own experience in fundraising matched up with others in the space, we conducted a survey of several nonprofit leaders and development professionals of color. We kept the questionnaire anonymous to encourage candor and not jeopardize any future funding prospects for our colleagues.

Here are findings from the survey:

What are your observations on funding trends for white-led organizations vs. those led by POC?

“It’s easier for white led orgs to convince funders to make big bets and multi-year commitment to support their leadership and vision.”

  • “It’s easier for white led orgs to convince funders to make big bets and multi-year commitment to support their leadership and vision. There is an enormous amount of change management work that goes into convincing staff and board as well. And it’s often invisible.”
  • “White led organizations seem to have an easier time getting funding. They are able to speak funder speak, make connections with well resourced people in a way I can’t (life experience), and seem to be trusted.”
  • “I have observed no difference.”
  • “We have written about this & raised how problematically orgs with predominantly white leadership end up still getting more of even supposedly racial equity focused dollars either for their own ‘DEI’ work or outreach or reform efforts that they drive even against interests of Black, Brown & Indigenous communities but in their name.”
  • “That white led orgs don’t get questioned as much, don’t have to have as many meetings to prove your worth and mission, etc.
  • “My POC program officers tend to be much more flexible with the funding, much more responsive to requests, and their grant applications/requirements tend to be less arduous.”
  • “White-led organizations are funded at larger amounts, more frequently, and often for the same work that POC led organizations are doing. Or they receive money to “re-grant,” but dollars aren’t actually regranted or are with ridiculous strings attached.”
  • “White led organizations tend to need to be explained the ‘why’ more often because of anti-blackness baked into their understanding of the world.”
  • “I haven’t noticed a measurable difference, some POC led orgs are getting funded while others are not and because of the lack of transparency from funders. There is no way to tell who is getting funded and who is not.”
  • “They have connections & as a result have access to power and resources. I find white people are more likely to hoard resources and give POC orgs crumbs from funds they get on equity that they actually can’t perform w/o POC orgs and their equity work.”
  • “In my experience white led organization are more likely get funding that organizations led by POC, specially women immigrants.”
  • “White led organizations can get racial justice funding by putting up racial equity statements and hiring people of color.”
  • “I feel that white-led organizations tend to have greater success with fundraising, though POC-led organizations may have a better sense of what their beneficiary communities need.”

What should funders do to provide greater equity in access to funding opportunities?

  • “Give feedback and make introductions. Be a partner and not a grader.”

“Be a partner and not a grader.”

  • “General operating for BIPOC, specifically make commitment to fund BIPOC women led, decrease funding to white led orgs doing work in BIPOC communities, push for BIPOC led.”
  • “Ask their current grantees for recommendations and look at who they have worked with — written articles, etc.”
  • “Well my first observation is that most of the funders I’ve been connected with are white.”
  • “Prioritize leaders of color for funding (recognizing our communities often lack capital compared to white communities). Make the grant applications less arduous. Build a network of community consultants in working class POC neighborhoods to identify and vet potential grantees. Fund projects that will result in structural change and not just band aid solutions. Fund policy work and political advocacy. Use your dollars and influence to create anti-racist political change through direct advocacy, offer training programs in communities of color that teach folks how to access and manage grants, provide enough money to ensure your grant-funded work will pay living wages, provide unrestricted/multi-year grants, require good compensation for community when grantees are doing community engagement work, check your paternalistic/racist socialization when dealing with grantees of color.”
  • “Primarily, funders need to interrogate the anti-blackness that informs the way they view the world and the priorities they select. Secondly, they need to streamline the proposal and reporting process.”

“Primarily, funders need to interrogate the anti-blackness that informs the way they view the world and the priorities they select. Secondly, they need to streamline the proposal and reporting process.”

  • “A number of things including 1) provide more transparency about the funds they give out, total amount of giving, what % goes to POC leading org, their goals for increasing giving 2) share and outline how they are specifically advancing racial equity in their giving 3) increase the amount of overall giving with a majority going to BIPOC organizations 4) reduce the barriers for applying by drastically simplifying their applications and making all grants general operating with no strings and for multi year commitments.”
  • “They should walk the talk. They are not getting the funds out as they say and not seeking out smaller orgs.”
  • “Give the opportunity with open mind to POC leaders without expecting perfection on the articulation of the work narrative and keeping the status quo.”
  • “Fund POC led organizations.”

“All in all, funders need to do a better job of reaching beyond their networks to learn about and fund organizations who are led by people who do not look like their leadership.”

  • “Though I understand the impulse to reject unsolicited proposals, I feel funders should devise a mechanism that allows them to learn from and engage with all groups who reach out to them, as enforcing a policy of only engaging with groups the funder knows about only reinforces inequitable dynamics. All in all, funders need to do a better job of reaching beyond their networks to learn about and fund organizations who are led by people who do not look like their leadership.”

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