What entails being a “stronger foundation” with better foundation practice? A recently published report by the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) reflected on this question regarding the issue of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The answer, as expected, is not straightforward. Rather, the report names nine different pillars that make up a stronger foundation.
Foundations themselves need to take criticism, evolve their practice and become active agents of change. Especially in the DEI department, there is some room for improvement. Pillar 4 states that “a stronger foundation has a diverse trustee board and staff team, both in terms of demographics and experience”. Yet, the reality is another. An ACF report from 2018 argues that “compared to other charities, foundations boards are disproportionately homogeneous, being 99% white, two thirds male and almost 60% over the age of 65. Further, foundations tend to recruit staff and trustees from within the sector and from traditional networks. Thus, foundations are not sufficiently diverse or representative of society. On the contrary. Unfortunately, there is yet a tendency to put up defensive barriers in response to data and there are few external pressures that catalyse action. Nevertheless, foundations need to face such uncomfortable truths and take action. By addressing norms and implicit biases, they take one step in the right direction to become a stronger foundation. Sure, there is not a one-size-fits-all-approach. But all nine of the ACF pillars of practice can be pursued, no matter the foundation´s size, source of income, or area of focus.