Partners For Impact helped support Triangle Capacity-Building Network’s 2019 grantmaking process. As part of the funding application, nonprofit organizations were asked about the role racial equity plays within their organization. This blog (the third in a series) summarizes the results of applicant responses to that specific question.
The answers reflected a range of understanding regarding the issue of equity. Some organizations had a pretty thorough rationale for their work in communities of color. However, that was the limit of their demonstrated commitment to racial equity. One organization said,
Our program serves children, overwhelmingly from the S.E. Raleigh, NC community. The ages range from 3-years old in our pre-k module, to the time they graduate from high school, and enter college. Over 95% of our participants are African American children; and over 90% are from low-income households (based on their participation in free/reduced lunches).
Raleigh, NC consistently rates among the best cities in America to live, and raise a family. However, a 2014 joint report done by Harvard and UC-Berkley entitled, “The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States,” ranked Raleigh forty-eighth among the 50 cities listed in the survey, in socioeconomic mobility. The study found that 95% of residents born in poverty, in Raleigh, NC never reach the top 20% in income.
We believe education (STEM education in particular), is the key to producing young adults, who are able to secure sustainable, livable-wage careers. Such careers will effectively break the cycle of generational poverty that is so persistent in communities of color. We further believe that a high quality education is the greatest tool in achieving racial equity in our society.
This is one of several examples that lack any mention of how the organization is trying to build an equitable organization.
Most organizations focused on having, and/or trying to hire, staff that reflect the communities that they serve. For example, one applicant simply responded by saying, “As our demographics indicate, we have achieved racial equity relative to people of color in the organization, in leadership positions, and in the community we serve.” Another one scarcely answered the question by stating only, “Our organization,” when responding to building equitable organizations and communities. Many organizations wrote about taking the next step in training staff on issues of racial equity (the Racial Equity Institute was named several times). These two strategies made up the majority of how applicants described building equitable organizations and communities.
Some organizations are beginning to think about how to build an equitable organization and discussed this in more detail. For example, an applicant says,
We are explicit about how over-policing disproportionately impacts black and brown youth in all our messaging. Internally, we ensure the board and staff are majority people of color. We have ground rules which we display at general body meetings that are explicit about creating a space grounded in challenging anti-blackness. Our leadership development includes robust political education to ensure we’re organizing in a way that is welcoming for people of all identities affected by policing.
Several organizations are really beginning to use equity as a lens for what they are trying to do and have incorporated it throughout their organizations. One of the funded projects described it as follows:
We incorporated racial equity objectives into each of our overarching organizational goals. We have adapted the content of our leadership development programs to prioritize information about how US immigration policies have been and continue to be a reflection of racial oppression and anti-blackness. During our mid-year and end of year staff, board and community leader retreats, we collectively review the level of progress we have made around specific benchmarks and modify for the following 6-month period. At the end of 2018, we made a commitment to addressing an aspect of white supremacy culture that frequently manifests itself here: the fear of open conflict. To address this, staff members identified how they are currently dealing with conflict and what they need from one another in order to effectively engage in conflict. In addition, we have updated our process and criteria for coalition work to prioritize supporting coalitions that are led by and/or supporting other people of color-led organizations.
Other organizations are taking it a step further and engaging their constituencies in these conversations as well. For example, “We provide racial equity training and reflection for our constituents because we want it to be an institutional part of our organization. We coordinate equity training every year with staff and student participants to strengthen relationships and to promote balanced power dynamics between co-workers, students, and partners.” Other organizations are encouraging these conversations across all parts of the organization.
Please feel free to take a look at the full report found here.