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Philanthropy Associations & Networks Are Stepping Up on Staff Diversity & Capacity, But Much Work Remains

Friday, September 8, 2017

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post to share some thoughts on how we move forward as a country, and as a philanthropy field, after Charlottesville. I described how United Philanthropy Forum has begun a journey to play a role in advancing racial equity, diversity and inclusion in philanthropy. We are doing that by convening, connecting and collaborating with our more than 60 member organizations—regional and national philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs) representing diverse communities and interests across the country. We are supporting our members in building their own leadership and capacity to engage in this work in their own organizations, as well as with the more than 7,000 foundations and other philanthropic organizations that they represent.

In order for our members—or any organization for that matter—to be authentic leaders in addressing issues of racial equity, their own staff and board should be diverse in terms of race and ethnicity. Diversity alone is not enough, of course, but it’s an important aspect of engaging in this work in an effective way (not to mention that many studies have shown that a more diverse workforce that includes a range of perspectives enhances creative thinking, innovation and problem solving, resulting in better decisions).

To obtain a solid baseline for this work, the Forum gathered data on the diversity of our members’ staff as part of our 2017 Compensation & Benefits for Philanthropy-Serving Organizations report, which is the first-ever examination of the employment practices of regional and national PSOs. The report reveals that two-thirds (66%) of PSO staff are white, compared to 74% for U.S. foundations (according to the latest Council on Foundations data), indicating that PSO staff are more racially and ethnically diverse than the field that they work to advance, inform and support. In this regard, it is encouraging to see some indication that PSOs are stepping up to “walk the talk” in terms of leadership in the area of staff diversity.

But the report shows that there’s clearly more work to be done. The share of PSO staff who are white (66%) is higher than the 61% of the U.S. population who are white, suggesting that PSOs need to make additional progress to reflect the full diversity of our country. Furthermore, the share of regional PSO staff who are people of color (34%) is unchanged from five years ago. (The Forum has tracked these data for regional PSOs for many years, but only began gathering data on national PSOs this year, so right now we only have trend data for our regional members).

The need for more diversity is even greater at the CEO level. The report shows that 78% of CEOs of regional and national PSOs are white, far above the U.S. population figures. However, this figure is well below the 90% share reported for both the nation’s foundation CEOs (according to the COF data) and nonprofit CEOs (according to a newly released BoardSource report). Also, the percentage of CEOs of regional PSOs who are people of color has risen from 13% to 22% in the past five years. Again, some progress but much further to go.

As many PSOs also work to provide leadership to the field in helping philanthropy strengthen nonprofit capacity, the report shows that regional and national PSOs are “walking the talk” in this regard as well—in terms of offering a supportive work environment that strengthens staff capacity. National and regional PSOs, which are nonprofit organizations, surpass the nonprofit sector as a whole in offering key employee benefits. For example, roughly two-thirds of PSOs offer their employees vision plans and short-term disability insurance and 74% provide long-term disability insurance, compared to less than half of all nonprofits that offer all three benefits.

The report also shows fairly high but steady staff turnover rates at PSOs, consistent with overall trends for the nonprofit sector. In addition, PSOs report generally positive experiences in recruiting new staff. One survey respondent noted that PSOs have at least one hiring edge: “We can articulate the social benefit of the work we’re doing, which has particular appeal for younger employees.”

You can download two different summary reports—a one-page Highlights report and three-page Executive Summary—from the Forum’s website. (The full report is only available to Forum members and other survey respondents.)

This new compensation & benefits report is part of the Forum’s ongoing efforts to advance, inform and support the vital work of PSOs in the philanthropy field. The full report provides PSOs with data, information and knowledge to help them learn from their peers and benchmark themselves against similar organizations, so that they can excel in their work, track their progress on critical issues like workforce diversity, and hold themselves accountable. The summary reports provide funders and others with key data and trends about a critical component of the philanthropy field. We view the report as an important contribution to the Forum’s ongoing and growing work to lead change and increase impact in philanthropy.

David Biemesderfer
President & CEO, United Philanthropy Forum
Follow me @dbiemesderfer