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News & Press: National Philanthropy News

Philanthropy Associations & Networks Stepping Up on Staff Diversity & Capacity, More Work Remains

Friday, September 8, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Tausi Suedi
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By David Biemesderfer, President & CEO, United Philanthropy Forum

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).

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