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Advancing Racial Equity in Philanthropy: A Scan of Philanthropy-Serving Organizations

Publication date: 
July, 2018

United Philanthropy Forum conducted a scan of regional and national philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs) in February through May 2018 to get a more comprehensive understanding of PSOs’ current work and future needs to advance racial equity in philanthropy. The scan involved both a survey that asked about PSOs’ current work, future needs and greatest challenges in advancing racial equity, plus in-depth interviews to discuss what it takes to do this work effectively and to identify their key challenges, barriers and opportunities for addressing systemic inequities.

The scan reflects the input of 43 regional and national PSOs that participated in the scan survey and/or the scan interviews, representing more than half of the Forum’s membership. The scan report includes the Forum’s plan for action to respond to the scan’s key findings.

The Forum’s racial equity scan was made possible in part thanks to support from the Ford Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Key Findings

43% of survey respondents define their racial equity work as “just beginning”


51% of survey respondents have been engaged in racial equity work for a longer period of time but don’t consider their efforts as “advanced”

Biggest Gaps & Needs for PSOs to Advance Racial Equity

  • Access to guiding frameworks, professional development, tools and training on both internal practices as well as working with members on racial equity. This need was identified by PSOs that self-reported as “beginning” the work as well as those who have been at this work for a while.

  • Access to additional financial resources to support racial equity work. Many PSOs discussed the need for funding to either contract with skilled consultants and/or training for increased staff capacity.

  • Need for peer learning. The interest in peer exchange is high within the Forum’s membership.

  • Need for case studies. Nearly all respondents alluded to a request for case studies or conversations with experienced funders, particularly on how to “influence up” to the level of trustees and president.

  • Engaging board members. This issue is twofold: PSO staff dealing with their own boards as well as helping their members to engage their foundation boards.

  • A stronger power analysis for the sector, especially around foundation boards and investments. There is a belief that the sector could benefit from more honesty around the origins of wealth in philanthropy, as well as more timely and accurate data about funding work that is led by and benefits people of color.

Learn More

Read the Report

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