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

On Monday, August 4, 2008, Lawrence T. McGill, Senior Vice President of Research of the Foundation Center, led an informative briefing, “How California Foundations are Addressing Issues of Diversity,” in San Francisco. The presentation focused on the results of the Foundation Center’s recent studies on diversity and grantmaking in California as reported in their publication, “Embracing Diversity: Foundation Giving Benefiting California’s Communities of Color” of which McGill was a primary author.

McGill described the report as a response to the basic question: Do California foundations support the needs of the California populations? To answer this question, the Foundation Center took a two-prong approach to acquire the information necessary to identify and code beneficiary populations. In first prong, the Foundation Center looked to two sources of grant data already available: the IRS 990 form and the electronic grant reports filed directly with the Foundation Center that ask for 28 fields of information, including the “population group(s) served” by the grant. If still unable to identify the beneficiary population, the Foundation Center proceeded to the second prong of research: engaging in in-depth hand-conducted research on each non-coded grant, looking at information such as the demographics of the location of the organization, the organization’s website, and the like to determine the beneficiary population.

Based on their research, the Foundation Center made a lower boundary estimate that 2,720 grants (translating into $301 million) benefited California’s communities of color in 2005, accounting for approximately 39.1% of the total number of grants (and 33.2% of total grant dollars) analyzed. The study further showed that of these estimates:

  • 13.6% of total grants (9.7% of total grant dollars) were coded based on the mission statements of the recipient organizations.
  • 6.8% of total grants (7.6% of total grant dollars) were coded based on grant descriptions explicitly specifying that they were intended to benefit populations of color.
  • 18.7% of total grants (15.9% of total grant dollars) were coded through the Foundation Center’s in-depth analysis of a random sample of not clearly specified grants.

McGill urged a deeper assessment of these conclusions, stating that we should approach these statistics with two key questions in mind:

  1. To what extent is this the appropriate lens through which to make grants?
  2. What is the purpose of grantmaking?

– Emily Chan