What’s Next for Diversity in Philanthropy?

Philanthropy411, in partnership with the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers, is currently covering the Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by Henry A. J. Ramos, Principal at Mauer Kunst Consulting and Lead Consultant for the  Diversity in Philanthropy Project.

By:  Henry A. J. Ramos

This year’s Council on Foundations (COF) Annual Conference concluded with an important off-line breakfast gathering of nearly 40 leading foundation CEOs, trustees and philanthropy network executives. The group met to build on recent field-wide efforts to advance diversity in the independent sector.

Since 2007, many of these leaders have voluntarily assembled in allied discussions under the Diversity in Philanthropy Project (DPP) banner — an effort, I should disclose, that I have helped to develop as lead consultant. That effort laid the groundwork for new perspectives on the issues extending beyond earlier rationales for diversity investments solely as a matter of social justice; specifically it underscored the simultaneous value of diversity, inclusion and equity investments as a matter of philanthropic effectiveness.

DPP substantially increased attention to the issues at the senior-most levels of the field, and at institutions of vastly varying types, sizes and program interests. As importantly, it set the stage for current efforts by five leading philanthropy infrastructure organizations — including COF, various regional associations of grantmakers, The Foundation Center, the Joint Affinity Groups (JAG), and select community-based diversity funds operating under the auspices of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors — to work more collaboratively and strategically on diversity issues, rather than separately or at cross-purposes.

The voluntary coming together of these anchor networks in what is being called the “D5” campaign, will strive to increase field inclusion and social equity in a more concerted fashion over the next five years. The campaign promises to model new philanthropic leadership and learning strategies on other important cross-cutting issues affecting the sector and society.

By combining forces as never before, philanthropy infrastructure groups participating in D5 are bound to enhance their impacts on diversity and other social justice issues requiring concerted investments and responses in order to overcome their historical intractability and the relative resource constraints of recent years.

The next stage of diversity work in the field — D5 — is previewed in detail in the latest edition of the DPP website (www.diversityinphilanthropy.org). It focuses on integrated strategies to meaningfully increase — both quantitatively and qualitatively — diverse community representation relative to foundation appointments, field knowledge building and reporting efforts, and grantmaker agenda setting, programming and contracting.

Some of the challenges and imperatives surfaced at Tuesday’s VIP breakfast that bear on this work’s ultimate success include:

— properly benchmarking and setting the campaign’s essential outcomes goals;

— resourcing the work adequately to ensure its prospects for success and sustainability;

— growing the constituency for this work beyond the executives and institutions already involved; and

— ensuring that the work ultimately results in meaningful improvements in grassroots communities and the broader society.

Given the magnitude of these directives, since January interested funders have granted or pledged nearly $7.5 million — about half of what field infrastructure groups agree will be required to make a real impact over the five year period commencing this year and concluding in 2014.

Champions of this work project that its full-fledged implementation will result in new tools, resources, approaches and social investment impacts, and inform both key internal and external changes in the ways participating foundations do their work.

The leaders who met in Denver to advance D5 expressed strong interest in soliciting continuing field feedback, ideas and suggestions intended to strengthen the effort going forward.

So please let us know what you think, and how you and your institution may be able to join in this ground breaking campaign!

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