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Internal & Community Initiatives for Equity and Inclusion

We asked our clients to share the work they're doing in the areas of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion and, no surprise, they went above and beyond. We are truly inspired by their responses and our follow up conversations, and look forward to sharing these stories with you in a series of blog articles to provide practical ideas for your organization and community. 

To further the pursuit of equity, inclusion, and justice (EIJ), it is important that organizations examine their own internal policies and processes, and also look for opportunities to support others on their journey. Learn about initiatives that several clients have launched to support EIJ both within their own organizations and in their communities. 

Internal Initiatives

Incorporating EIJ Into Board Policies

Updating your board policy can help clarify its role and responsibilities around EIJ work. Many clients shared stories about updating their board policies, including Park City Community Foundation.

"We are looking at our board policy manual and starting to embed more anti-racist, anti-oppression language," explains Vice President of Equity and Impact Diego Zegarra. "We are including language such as, 'I commit to being anti-racist and this is what it means...'"

Foundations Community Partnership (FCP) in Newtown, Pennsylvania, also updated its board manual by establishing a diversity policy. Executive Director Tobi Bruhn explains, "We define what this means for the organization and its board so that we have a common understanding going forward."

Inviting New Voices 

While many organizations understand the importance of welcoming diverse voices and lived experiences to their organization, boards, and grants committees, some are unsure of how to do this with limited resources, or in less racially diverse areas of the country. 

Creating Internships

When Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville (CFGH) in Alabama faced these challenges, they launched an internship program with two local historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The goal of the program was twofold. Ann Kvach, CFGH program officer, explains, "We know that minorities are highly underrepresented in philanthropy careers and we wanted to provide minority students with opportunities to learn more about what we do in community foundations and philanthropy. Secondly, we wanted to invite new voices to the table."

The program has been a win-win for participating students and the organization. One of their current interns, for example, had the opportunity to sit on a grants committee as an evaluator and whole voting member. He was also asked to review grant applications and interview questions for any unconscious bias that CFGH might not have recognized.

Developing Relationships

How does your board manage board recruitment and how are equity and inclusion integrated into the process?

"It's much easier to get invited to a board when you have a friend there or know someone there, rather than when you don't know anyone, look different than everyone else, and have a different lived experience," explains Diego Zegarra. "So I invite people to think about the relationships they hold."

Amy Owen, President and CEO of the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties, agrees that building a more diverse and inclusive community requires developing new relationships. She explains, "It is one of my goals to not recruit friends, but to instead recruit for geographic, racial, and skill diversity." When Owens attends the local Chamber of Commerce's events, she makes a point to sit next to people that she doesn't know and who don't look like her. She understands that building these relationships takes intentionality. 

"We have to focus on relationships and building relationships with communities that don't look like us," Zegarra explains. "It's going to take years. It won't satisfy your board diversity policy right now, but it's going to yield long-term results. It's forever kind of work."

Community Initiatives

Learning Cohorts

In addition to examining your internal policies and processes, organizations have an opportunity to launch community initiatives that can help support others in the philanthropic sector on their journey to equity and inclusion.

Park City Community Foundation created a Social Equity Learning Cohort with 20 local organizations such as the city, county, school district, and their leaders including the mayor, superintendent, and chief operating officer of the local mountain resort. 

"The goal is to have a shared language, shared framework, and the ability to apply an equity lens to one's own practices. It's both an individual journey and an organizational journey," explains Diego Zegarra.

The year-long program is dedicated to raising awareness, as well as consciousness about the types of resources that are required for this work. The cohort meets quarterly and is assigned homework in between each session.

The North Dakota Council on the Arts (NCDA) is also creating a learning cohort for approximately 25-30 people selected based on their equity and inclusion work to-date. NCDA Executive Director Kim Konikow explains, "My goal is to start with people who are "doing something about it, talking about it, and thinking about it." She plans to select participants who have connections in their community and can help spread the word. 

NCDA is working with Circle Organization, based in Colorado, to offer six online sessions: five for the cohort with NCDA staff, and one for their board. The sessions will focus on establishing common language, uncovering biases, leadership development, and coaching.

"We're going to start by asking, 'How do you define these terms, what's going on in your organization, why do you want to do this, and what do you think you can gain by doing this?,'" explains Konikow. 

She continues, "My hope is that as a result of this training, we can think about our board representatives in a different way, along with how we do our outreach—the people who apply to us for money, how we talk about it, how we grant it, and how we go about it. Maybe it doesn't have to be a normal grant process. 

 Additional Training Programs

Train the Trainer

North Dakota Council on the Arts is also partnering with the Native American Development Center on a "Train the Trainer" program in which two native trainers will teach 20 native artists about topics including business skills, marketing, copyrights, contracts, grant writing and financing, online presence and materials in portfolios, self-awareness exercises, and branding. Participants can become certified trainers and teach back what they learned to other native artists in their communities, exponentially increasing their reach and impact.

Racial Equity Advocates 

The Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties (Community Foundation) in Virginia is exploring a Racial Equity Advocates program. Understanding that Loudoun County has a relatively small nonprofit community and that many organizations have a smaller, less diverse staff, Community Foundation will invite participating nonprofits to choose someone from their staff to take a six to 10-week training program to be the equity advocate in their organization. 

President and CEO, Amy Owen shared an example of a team member who had been through similar training and called out an issue with a job position that was going to be limited to residents in their footprint. Knowing their community is one of the more expensive places to live, the equity advocate recommended that the foundation open the search beyond the area, as long as the candidate could commute to the county.

One of the first steps in the journey to equity and inclusion is to examine your internal processes and policies. Consider your policies and how to empower new voices. Also look for opportunities to support others in this journey as we learn together and collaborate to make meaningful change.

Additional Resources

Read the other posts in this series: 

Also don't miss Who's at the Table?: Resilient Philanthropy Through Inclusive, Equitable Practice. Hear our client panel provide valuable insights as they share their journeys, their missteps, their fears, and their celebrations in a very special educational webinar featuring an expert facilitator from Montana Racial Equity Project.

About the Author

Foundant Technologies has specialized in making philanthropy easier and more impactful through innovative software solutions and exceptional client experiences since 2007. Passionate about philanthropy, our team is dedicated to meeting the unique needs of grantmakers, scholarship providers, community foundations, and nonprofits to enable change-makers to make the world a better place for all.

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