Recent research supports what Veatch has learned from our own grantees — that women and people of color leading social justice organizations face challenges when assuming leadership. Check out the resources below to learn more about this issue, and what’s being done about it, within the broader social justice movement. We will continue to add to this page as more research and resources become available:
“Deep Disparities Persist in Finances of Nonprofits Led by White People and People of Color,” Chronicle of Philanthropy, June 2022.
In this article, Dan Parks provides evidence that demonstrates the deep disparities that persist in the level of giving and other forms of support for white-led nonprofits versus those led by Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color despite widespread commitments by foundations and other donors to distribute funding more equitably. The article’s findings are based on a national survey of 1,168 charity leaders. The study urges donors to consider a Veatch-like funding model that promotes easy reporting requirements and expanded use of unrestricted funding. “General operating support helps, period,” said Trella Walker, interim CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund. “So do we have to keep talking about it?”
“7 Tips for Donors who Want to Successfully Support Latinas in Leadership,” National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy, January 2021
In this 2021 article, Denise Collazo, Senior Advisor for External Affairs and Director of Institutional Advancement at Faith in Action (a Veatch grantee), described how civic engagement organizing led by Black and brown women had been highly successful in 2020 and yet too few foundation dollars were directed to support this type of leadership. She outlines a series of recommendations for funders who want to change this picture and support the leadership of Latinas and other women of color. Among these, and echoing the conclusions from the aforementioned analyses, funders should: trust Black and brown women leaders; reach out to them and be responsive when they seek support and advice; and invest in their personal and organizational development.
“Racial Equity and Philanthropy: Disparities in Funding for Leaders of Color Leave Impact on the Table,” Echoing Green and The Bridgespan Group, May 2020
This report shows the depth of the disparities in nonprofit funding based on the race of an organization’s leader, even when accounting for factors like issue area or education levels. The problem, the authors argue, may even be the result of well-intended color-blindness—an attempt to disregard race as a predominant factor in grantmaking under the assumption that in this way funders equalize the field for all applicants. However, this position actually lacks an “understanding the role of race in the problems philanthropists are trying to solve” and fails to acknowledge “the significance of race when it comes to how philanthropists identify leaders and find solutions.” This results in Black-led organizations having revenues 24 percent smaller than those of white-led groups, a disparity that increases to a 3:1 ratio when looking at unrestricted net assets. The report concludes that “population-level impact cannot happen without funding more leaders of color.”
The “Race to Lead” Series, The Building Movement Project, 2017 and 2020
The Building Movement Project contributes important insights to this conversation in its “Race to Lead” series based on surveys of over five thousand nonprofit employees on their experiences of race and leadership in nonprofit organizations. Among many important pieces of data related to staffers’ perceptions of people of color having inadequate salaries, less advancement opportunities, and being called on to push diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, these reports include some key findings that closely relate to the issue of equity in funding leaders of color. There is a clear disparity in the level of networks in general, and relationship with funding sources in particular, that people of color working in nonprofits have in relation to their white counterparts. And while knowing people does not ensure that a candidate will get a job in a leadership position or that a project will receive support, having direct relationships or access to the networks in which funders, recruiters, and other influential leaders interact increases the chances that a worthy candidate or project will be hired or receive financial support.
“Philanthropists Bench Women of Color, the M.V.P.s of Social Change,” The Groundswell Fund in the New York Times, November 2019
In this 2019 article, the Executive Director of the Groundswell Fund Vanessa Daniel explores funding inequities among women of color— showing that while they are overrepresented in making social change possible, they are greatly underrepresented in the resources they receive to do it. This is not only unfair, but it is also an ineffective use of resources. According to Ms. Daniel, there are some key factors to why this happens. There is a “false notion that bigger is better,” she writes—a tendency by funders to support large organizations in the belief that, in this way, their investment can reach scale when in reality many of those nonprofits do not have a real or strong organizing operations or are not closely connected to one. This notion also results in an “impulse to gentrify,” the practice of some funders supporting large, white-led organizations to try to replicate the successful organizing work started by small, people of color-led groups. As Ms. Daniel argues, there is also an implicit bias in philanthropy due to the fact that this field is still overwhelmingly controlled by middle- to upper-class white people, which “affects which prospective grantees they deem risky, credible, trustworthy or innovative, and gives a great advantage to leaders and nonprofits that conform to their cultural norms.” Reinforcing this is the culturally-ingrained perception in funders that grants given to people of color are risky investments. The flip side of this dynamic is the existence of “facially neutral rules” which attempt to not use race or class as factors when assessing grantees, which in reality perpetuates inequality by not accounting for the already existing socioeconomic disparities that communities of color have to face. The conclusion for Ms. Daniel is that funders must “use our access and relationships within philanthropy to open more minds and coffers” to support people of color-led, particularly women of color-led, organizing groups through multiyear, general-support funding.