Posted by: kbvale | May 15, 2010

The California Endowment’s Continuing Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Robert K. Ross, M.D. (see it also here)

At The California Endowment, the issues of diversity and equity are always top of mind. Our foundation was created to address the needs of underserved California communities, and the reality of our state is that the majority of those who live in underserved communities are people of color. In making grants to support improved health in these communities, we seek out organizations whose strategies and staffing reflect a deep understanding of the communities they serve. We also seek to have our Endowment staff and board of directors reflect the ethnic and racial richness of this great state.

We’re proud to be considered philanthropic leaders in making grants to organizations led by people of color. The priority we give to diversity reflects a steadfast commitment by our board of directors, not only as a critical component of our core values, but as a strategic imperative to create and sustain meaningful change through the lens of our mission. In other words, this is fundamentally about impact, and the matter of results.

We have done well in this area, but we can do better. This communique serves as a report to stakeholders and constituents of The Endowment about how we are expanding our longstanding commitment to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors.

I would like to share progress at our foundation on three fronts:
  • Our commitment to a multi-foundation coalition to improve funding to minority-led organizations, in response to the 2008 introduction of California Assembly Bill 624 that challenged foundations to do more in this area;

  • The Endowment’s role in the national Diversity in Philanthropy Project;

  • Our own commitment to staff and board diversity at The Endowment, as well as current and future commitments to grant making and capacity-building in minority-led organizations through our 10-year Building Healthy Communities plan.
Our Coalition Commitment
You may recall that a little over a year ago, a group of nine California private foundations committed to invest $30 million over 3 years to build and strengthen grassroots-level, minority-led nonprofit organizations. Although a substantial portion of The California Endowment’s grantees have historically included such organizations, we committed an additional $2 million as part of the foundation coalition. We recently announced our first set of coalition grants, with $1.4 million in funding to strengthen grassroots organizations focused on improving the health and well-being of communities of color.

In addition to the coalition commitment, we have pledged $8.65 million over the next 2 years to support increased capacity for minority-led organizations involved in our Building Healthy Communities strategy. So, rather than viewing the foundation coalition commitment to capacity building in these organizations as a “special project,” we integrated the commitment into our long-range strategic grant making.

The National Diversity in Philanthropy Project
From 2007 through 2009, The California Endowment helped launch and served in a leadership role in the national Diversity in Philanthropy Project (DPP), an effort undertaken by 35 executives and trustees of key leading philanthropic institutions across the country to strengthen voluntary activity to advance diversity and inclusion in the field. Here are the highlights and outcomes of this 3-year effort:
  • Established a 20-member Data and Research Working Group to develop recommendations on data collection to better track foundation diversity performance and to identify new research on the topic of diversity.

  • Engaged over 50 philanthropy researchers and practitioners throughout the country for discussions about creating better diversity measures. Demographic studies have been completed in California, New York, Michigan and the Pacific Northwest.

  • Produced a seminal report on 300 U.S. Diversity Focused Funds (minority-led) compiled by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. A special issue of the National Civic Review titled Philanthropy And Diversity: New Voices, New Visions will soon be published.

  • Engaged more than 100 Foundation CEOs in Chicago, Detroit, Columbus and Los Angeles in focus groups to share successes and failures related to their diversity work.

  • Provided additional support to Regional Associations of Grantmakers to promote lessons learned from Transforming Michigan Philanthropy Through Diversity and Inclusion, a 5-year initiative of the Council of Michigan Foundations. Based on the success of this initiative there has been an increased level of interest by other regional associations, including those in California, to replicate this approach.

  • Co-commissioned a study, with the Race & Equity in Philanthropy Group, to assess what is needed to effectively incorporate racial equity and inclusion into foundation priorities and systems. The results of the study, Lessons Learned in Addressing Racial Equity in Foundations, is forthcoming.

  • A new Diversity in Philanthropy Web site, offers a range of resources, publications, and links that address, assess and advance diversity including legislative updates. An e-newsletter was launched this year and is distributed nationally.

  • Philanthropic leaders have committed to strengthening the capacity of five institutional partners to advance diversity, inclusion and equity. These partners are The Council on Foundations, The Foundation Center, The Regional Associations of Grantmakers, The Joint Affinity Groups and Minority-, Women-, and LGTB-led philanthropies.
The California Endowment’s Enduring Commitment
Since the founding board of directors launched The California Endowment in 1996, we have maintained a strong sense of values with respect to diversity, inclusion, health equity and social justice in philanthropy. Since our inception, the board of directors,  in its makeup, has reflected the extraordinary diversity of our state. Currently, 11 of our 16 board members are persons of color, and 14 of our 16 members are either women or persons of color. At the management level, 7 of our 12 senior managers are persons of color, and 10 of 12 are either persons of color, women, or openly gay.

People of color make up 65 percent of our staff, and this percentage rises to 85 percent when women and persons of color are added jointly.

This strong commitment to diversity expresses itself through our grant making, as well.  Our practice has not been to routinely collect racial and ethnic data about grantee organizations; rather we ask prospective grantees to identify the target populations they will serve.  Through this data, we know that nearly 100 percent of our grant funds, in some manner or form, are working to address the needs of communities of color, low-income populations or the underserved. However, we are exploring ways we can assess grants made to minority-led organizations as a way to better understand their needs and concerns.

The California Endowment’s 10-year Building Healthy Communities strategy, which begins implementation in 2010, affirms our commitment to improved health equity in low-income, communities of color. We have completed an arduous, year-long process of selecting and engaging leaders in 14 disinvested communities across the state – from City Heights in San Diego and Coachella in the south, through the Central Valley, and as far north as Del Norte County. We will concentrate grant making and other efforts in these communities challenged by poverty, violence, and health inequity, and work with leaders to transform them into healthier places to live, eat, work and play for children and youth. Across these 14 communities, more than 90 percent of the resident populations are persons of color. We anticipate investing several hundred million dollars across these communities in the coming decade.

Finally, our foundation has recognized steep equity challenges faced by boys and young men of color in disinvested communities across the state, and we are heavily engaged in planning efforts to address the health needs of this high-risk group of young people under the umbrella of our 10-year strategy. To learn more about the challenges faced by these youth and promising policy solutions, see Reparable Harm: Assessing and Addressing Disparities Faced by Boys and Men of Color in California, a RAND Corp. report commissioned by The Endowment and available for download at

In Closing
For The California Endowment, this enduring commitment to diversity, inclusion, race and equity is not a manifestation of an obligation to quotas, set-aside formulas or political correctness. Rather, it reflects a strong sense of values, a recognition of historic and deeply embedded discriminatory practices and policies that perpetuate health and economic disparities, and a strategic imperative that our communities deserve better. Through the lens of our mission, it is our strong belief that achieving meaningful and sustained improvements in the health of underserved communities cannot be achieved without investing in the innovation and leadership efforts by community leaders and organizations who directly confront these challenges. Social problem-solving emerges from the ground up, and not the other way around.

While we are proud of this track record and commitment, we recognize that we have more work to do to assure that a powerful commitment to diversity is fully expressed through all that we do. In 2009, our foundation commissioned the firm Social Policy Research Associates to conduct what amounted to a “diversity-inclusion-equity audit” of the organization. Some areas of needed improvement include how we contract for services, our practices in social- and mission-related investing and the policies that shape how the foundation’s assets are invested.

We also recognize the impact of structural racism and the historical disadvantages faced by people and communities of color. To that end, we are developing a training Institute on Racial Justice for our staff and community partners to deepen our understanding of this issue and identify ways we can more effectively support minority-led organizations.

Our board of directors recognizes that the matter of diversity and inclusion in philanthropy has, in recent years, become the subject of some controversy. Over the past 20 years, we have witnessed meaningful improvements in diversity in the field, and in particular, at the level of boards and senior management. It is our view that voluntary leadership practices should continue to drive improvements in diversity and inclusion. For a nation struggling to improve equity and opportunity in vulnerable and underserved communities, we believe that organized philanthropy must recognize that diversity is both a moral and strategic imperative.

Daniel Boggan, Chair of the Board
Tessie Guillermo, Vice Chair of the Board
Robert K. Ross, President and CEO

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