Philanthropic organizations are making changes to address racial inequities. Success is more complicated than more funding.

by Danielle Cruz

As industries grapple with racial inequities highlighted by the pandemic and protests for racial justice, recent promises by philanthropic organizations suggest positive steps.Of more than 200 foundations surveyed nationwide by the Center for Effective Philanthropy [CEP], 80% said they’re revising funding processes to better consider racial equity. Many have also committed funding to communities impacted most by the pandemic.

But CEP’s Foundations Respond to Crisis 2020 study gives a note of caution: Success in philanthropy will depend on follow-through in a field where priorities quickly shift.

At the local level, a nonprofit effectiveness study released by the Program to Aid Citizen Enterprise [PACE] examined funding disparities across Western Pennsylvania. While nonprofit organizations serving diverse communities did best overall in obtaining philanthropic support, the study found that the average grant for organizations serving majority-white communities was nearly twice as large as the average grant for organizations serving communities of color.

More attention seems to be paid to equity — something that’s long overdue — but he also worries that the complicated nature of grant applications, coupled with a need for better outreach, means that funding isn’t getting to those who could benefit most.

“I think people are trying,” said Agnew, whose organization focuses on artistic development and entrepreneurship. “But it still has to get better.”

Meanwhile, several Pittsburgh-based foundations said they have examined their practices, including outreach and streamlining of applications, to increase support for historically disadvantaged communities.

Carmen Anderson, vice president of equity and research at The Heinz Endowments*, said it’s crucial for foundations to listen to the communities they serve and take steps to address unmet needs. 

Protesters march down P.J. McArdle Roadway from Mount Washington en route to Downtown Pittsburgh on June 7, 2020. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

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Philanthropic organizations are making changes to address racial inequities. Success is more complicated than more funding.

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