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Conference Speaker Blog: Leveraging our Influence to Advance Nonprofit Diversity, Equity, and Inclus

Thursday, October 4, 2018   (0 Comments)
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The Boston Foundation:
Leveraging our Influence to Advance Nonprofit Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

By Amanda Holm & Andrea Madu

As a 103-year-old community foundation, the Boston Foundation (TBF) has long strived to uphold the value of ensuring our community is a vital and prosperous place where justice and opportunity are extended to everyone. While supporting racial equity has always been a part of the Foundation’s work, in recent years we have taken a more explicit approach to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). On this journey we have also learned that achieving a healthy sector centered on DEI is not a static place where we, or our nonprofit partners, will simply arrive one day. It is long-term, messy, but critical work. In this session, you will learn how we are using grantmaking, capacity building, and thought leadership to help advance DEI efforts in the nonprofit sector.

Grantmaking: In 2015, in response to direct nonprofit feedback within our Grantee Perception Report, TBF developed a new grantmaking program, Open Door Grants, designed to be open and responsive to community needs, as a complement to our strategic Impact Area Funding. The Open Door Grant program is not only an opportunity for us to welcome new nonprofits into our portfolio, but has proven to be the perfect opportunity for staff to design a new grant application and revisit the Foundation’s due diligence process with an explicit DEI lens. In this session, we will share the evolution of our DEI efforts through the lens of the Open Door Grant program and demonstrate how nonprofit grant seekers have responded.

Thought Leadership: One of the Boston Foundation’s greatest strengths is the impact of our voice in the Greater Boston community. Over the last year, our Nonprofit Effectiveness team has utilized the Foundation’s public platform to share findings around structural barriers to leadership for people of color within the nonprofit sector. Through research reports and public forums such as Race to Lead, Opportunity in Change, and Leading with Intent, we hope to underscore the importance of these DEI issues, spark continued conversations, and catalyze action to reduce racial leadership gaps within nonprofit staff and boards.

“We have to stop thinking about people of color as the unit that needs to be changed,” said Sean Thomas-Breitfeld, co-Director of the Building Movement Project and co-author of the Race to Lead Report. “We have to think about the organizations and structures that need to change to actually support people of color instead of erecting barriers to their advancement.”

Capacity Building: TBF believes in effective, sustainable and inclusive leadership, and building the organizational capacity of its nonprofit partners. To move those values forward, we are providing direct support to nonprofit leaders and organizations to advance staff and leadership diversity, equity, and inclusion. We will share a number of our evolving approaches to capacity building, including investments in leaders, programs, and networks, such as the Racial Equity Leaders Learning Circle, a start-up program for executive nonprofit leadership, and YWCA Boston Dialogues on Race and Ethnicity, a program that creates space for organizational wide conversations around racial identity within the workplace.

As we continue to make improvements to our organization’s processes, data collection, and grantmaking program implementation, we know we are bound to make mistakes along the way. But we are committed to this work, believe in its success, and look forward to sharing our learnings and hearing about your experiences.