Philanthropy, Foundations, and Communities of Color
I recently came across a blog post entitled “Philanthropy’s Race Problem” on The Greenlining Institute’s website. The Greenlining Institute is a multi-ethnic public policy research and advocacy institute.
The post by the organization’s Executive Director, Orson Aguilar, is provocative and offers a different way of thinking about individual philanthropy in communities of color, and more particularly, in the South Asian community.
Aguilar asserts that communities of color are not receiving their fair share of foundation assets. He supports this conclusion with data from the Applied Research Center, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, and the Greenlining Institute’s own study (which found that in 2006 that found a mere 3.6 percent of grants in 2004 invested in organizations led by people of color).
He goes on to talk about a bill introduced in the California state legislature entitled The Foundation Diversity and Transparency Act (A.B. 624) that would have required foundations with assets of $250 million and more to report basic diversity data on an annual basis. Ultimately, A.B. 624 did not pass. Instead, a compromise led ten of California’s largest foundations agreed to come up with a plan to invest millions in nonprofit organizations that are led by and that serve people of color. They also agreed to diversity and to nurturing a new generation of leaders from communities of color. Aguilar posits that many were disappointed by the effort to kill A.B. 624, but that there have been many positive developments as a result of the legislative process.
For me, the Greenlining Institute’s efforts to understand the role of racism within institutional philanthropy are exceedingly important. And, I think the Institute’s description of this disproportionality is important for public knowledge. For, with such knowledge (assuming that what Aguilar asserts is true), communities of color, including South Asians, must be clear about the following: if we do not take care of our own, then there are few dollars to take care of us. To me, this ranks high among the reasons South Asians must engage philanthropically in this country.
What do you think?