Foundation Center Briefing – How California Foundations Address Diversity – Part Two

In a briefing held in San Francisco, Lawrence McGill, Senior Vice President of Research of the Foundation Center, emphasized that the results of the Foundation Center’s recent study on diversity and grantmaking in California are still only preliminary steps towards a more comprehensive understanding of diversity in grantmaking. McGill stated that the Foundation Center simply does not have the exact data available to answer the important question regarding the number of grants and grant dollars awarded by California foundations to nonprofit organizations led by persons of colors because this is a void in all currently available information. McGill believes this is not a dead end, but prompts important questions for the nonprofit sector. Should the IRS require such information in the Form 990? Should foundations require such information in their grant applications?

McGill was careful to point out that the study was limited: non-independent foundations (including community foundations and private operating foundations) were not analyzed and although independent foundations account for 4/5 of all grantmaking in the US, the study only focused on 50 of the 64 largest independent California-based foundations (a 30% section of all California foundation grant dollars awarded in 2005). Furthermore, the study excluded all foreign and out-of-state recipient organizations and analyzed only domestically focused grants awarded to California based recipient organizations – approximately 64% of the aforementioned section. Given the extensive additional research that became necessary to identify the beneficiary populations of grants given by larger foundations that supposedly have the capacity to handle this type of information tracking, McGill stated that one can only imagine the difficulty for smaller foundations and vast amount of information yet to be accounted for. Learning more about these undiscovered areas on all fronts such as studying other types of “diverse” populations will only contribute to a greater understanding of diversity in grantmaking.

For more background information, see the previous posts on the Foundation Coalition Compromise and the Embracing Diversity Report.

– Emily Chan