A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

3 Immediate Steps Funders Can Take To Move Towards Racial Equity

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We discussed how philanthropy can start to advance racial equity in the first two parts of this blog series: Developing a Shared Language and Introducing an Anti-Racist Intersectional Frame.

Now, here are three steps that lean funders can take to start doing racial equity work in real time:

1. Look internally

Before trying to deepen racial equity efforts, organizations should first look internally and ask: How do my organization’s policies, practice and culture reinforce or challenge white supremacy and racism?

Consider the make-up of your board. Is it diverse? Does the board work past diversity and towards inclusion? In other words, do all people have the space and power to show up as their full selves, and have their opinions valued?

To be clear, diversity and inclusion is not anti-racist work. This is just a starting point for foundations to understand how they might be organized in ways that reinforce white supremacy.

2. Complete an internal audit to examine how funding decisions are made

Philanthropy’s biggest power is deciding what gets funded and what doesn’t. And this can quite literally determine what type of work happens.

Internally, foundations can look at who has the power to make funding decisions. Are they knowledgeable on racial equity? Do they have lived experiences related to the work being funded? Can they consult with those who have lived experiences about funding before those decisions are made?

These important questions can unearth inequities in your funding processes.

3. Assess where your funding goes and who gets funded

Moving towards racial equity means shifting power. And often, the same types of organizations receive funding, while others struggle to secure the support they need.

It’s important to fund organizations that explicitly take an anti-racist approach to their work and projects. And are these organizations made up of people from the communities within which they work? Similarly, will funding this help or hurt advancing anti-racism and racial equity?

Through funding decisions, philanthropy can shift power directly back to communities.

These three steps can start to transform how funders approach racial equity. There is a real opportunity for philanthropy to change how it’s traditionally practiced by deepening its commitment to anti-racism and racial equity, and changing how funding decisions are made.


Maya Pendleton supports CSSP’s child welfare work to address racial equity and improve outcomes and increase well-being for children, youth, and families. As a member of CSSP’s Policy Team, she provides technical assistance to states and jurisdictions implementing the Family First Prevention Services Act, aiding states in the implementation of federally required quality improvement and evaluation measures for evidence-bases prevention services. Maya also supports CSSP’s Equity, Inclusion, and Justice team, which focuses on addressing racial equity and anti-racism both internally and externally. Maya completed her B.A. degree at Georgetown University in Government and African American Studies and completed her Master of Public Policy at the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Administration, focusing specifically on social policy at the intersection of race and gender.

Juanita Gallion is Deputy Director of Equity & Learning at CSSP. She helps lead the organization’s work to advance racial equity through facilitation, training, capacity building, leadership development, and coaching with a variety of national and local partners and philanthropic organizations. In addition, she supports the learning culture within the organization, and shapes the creation and dissemination of lessons learned across CSSP’s various bodies of work. She previously managed the technical assistance and training for several large-scale community initiatives, including the U.S Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods program, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Making Connections initiative to ensure families and communities had the resources they needed to achieve success.

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