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2023 Racial Equity in Lean Foundations: Incorporating Allyship Into Your Philanthropy


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Incorporating Allyship into Your Philanthropy

Collected through FOMR data, surveys, and interviews with members, this report centers on the relevance of racial equity to our members’ mission, as well as their board and staff demographics. We also describe how racial equity relates to good governance, grantmaking, and investment practices. New in the 2023 report, we focus on allyship and use Service Never Sleeps’ CLAIM framework (Care, Learn, Act, Influence, Maintain) to help you explore what it means to adopt an allyship approach in your philanthropy. 

What Is Allyship, and Why Embrace Allyship at Leanly Staffed Foundations? 

At Exponent Philanthropy, when we refer to allyship, we are using this definition from our colleagues at Service Never Sleeps. 

“Allyship is an active way of life in one’s respective areas of privilege that centers bridge-building to pursue social justice for everyone. This is accomplished by centering BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, People of Color] and other marginalized people, working on the self, and influencing others. Using a racial justice lens,... Allyship [relies on a] foundational knowledge of white supremacy and [encourages] individuals in real time to address discrimination and promote social justice....”

Allyship is an opportunity for leaders—both board and staff members—at lean foundations to use their privilege to pursue social justice. 

Lean funders are increasingly focusing on racial equity, an essential part of philanthropy. Nearly three in four members of the Exponent Philanthropy community see racial equity as somewhat or very relevant to their foundation’s mission. Although fewer foundation boards have all members who identify as White compared with years past, individuals who identify as BIPOC are still underrepresented among foundation boards and staff. Our findings show that the demographic makeup of a foundation’s board directly relates to how that foundation regards racial equity. And how a foundation views racial equity is, in turn, explicitly tied to how it chooses to support its grantees. 

A constant theme in racial equity and allyship work is that this work is a journey. You aren’t going to be able to fix every issue all at once. But foundations can make a real difference with a long-term, consistent effort. Embrace the fact that racial equity work is a long, winding road. You will make mistakes. Learn from them. Do your best to minimize the harm you cause as you learn. Use your privilege to call people in and help bring others along on their journey. Work to find opportunities to implement equity within your organization’s practices and policies and encourage others to do the same. 

Product Details

Product ID: 1009
Publication Year: 2023

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