Borealis Philanthropy Launches Fund to Advance Racial Equity in Philanthropy

August 2, 2018

We are excited to announce the launch of the Racial Equity in Philanthropy (REP) Fund, a collaborative funding effort based at Borealis Philanthropy that currently includes the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Our first round of grants totaling $14 million over three years will support 19 philanthropy-serving organizations committed to advancing racial equity within the sector and beyond.

From July 11-13, grantees of the REP Fund convened in Detroit to build connections, exchange knowledge, and discuss ways they can collaborate on racial equity strategies. During the convening, grantees heard from foundation trustees about how to engage them as champions for racial equity and visited Detroit neighborhoods where community leaders shared learnings about what racial equity means on the ground.

“Right now, the philanthropic sector is demonstrating a historic level of interest in racial equity, but to distribute funds more equitably in practice, institutions must change policies and priorities internally,” said Marcus Walton, Director of Racial Equity Initiatives at Borealis Philanthropy.

There is increasing, widespread visibility of the deeply entrenched racism in American society, creating opportunities and obligation in the philanthropic sector to address the root causes of racial inequities.

The REP Fund is premised on the belief that advancing racial equity and reflecting the diversity of U.S. society as a value is necessary to philanthropic sector effectiveness. While there have been attempts over the years to meaningfully address racial equity in philanthropy, there is still progress to be made in increasing racial diversity in leadership positions and resources directed at explicitly ending structural racism.

The goal of the REP Fund is to build the enduring capacity of the field of philanthropy to advance racial equity. The fund’s first step on this journey is to focus on philanthropy-serving organizations. These organizations, which offer research, learning opportunities, and best practices to the philanthropic sector, have the reach and influence to change policies and practices to ensure that racial equity is embedded in the cultural norms of the field.

“Philanthropic organizations are recognizing the close connection between changing our sector and the changes we seek in society,” said La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “Achieving these changes requires determination and a long-term commitment to infuse racial equity and inclusion into all of our internal and external policies and practices. Through our collective work, we will stand together to widen the path for equity in communities.”

The REP Fund builds upon the work of the Kellogg Foundation’s Strong and Effective Sector portfolio and the Ford Foundation’s Philanthropy portfolio with its own grantmaking strategy. The Fund centers race while also looking at how other aspects of identity, such as gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, class, and ability, further shape unique experiences of racism. Recognizing that philanthropy is often organized around specific issues and communities, the REP Fund’s grantmaking strategy will strengthen the racial equity practices of organizations that work across a wide range of areas to expand the potential for impact throughout the sector.

“As a sector focused on improving the world around us, we have an obligation to interrogate how our own practices and institutions may reinforce structural racism and inequality in our society,” said Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation. “By centering equity and inclusion in all that we do—from grant making and investments to hiring and contracting—we are better able to fulfill our mission and tackle the root causes of injustice.”

Understanding the importance of collective learning and with the intent to reach all types of philanthropic bodies, the REP Fund’s grantees fall in various parts of the racial equity spectrum, from beginning stages to advanced stages. As a cohort, they will provide in-depth training on racial equity, engage in research and data collection, develop communication strategies around policy issues that disproportionately impact communities of color, and participate in convenings where they can learn from each other and explore approaches to amplify their collective impact.

The REP Fund’s vision is to promote grantmaking strategies that prioritize structural change and ending racial disparities as the norm in philanthropy. We believe that a more nuanced approach to philanthropy that responds to the specific needs of communities will more directly close gaps in opportunity, achievement, and resources for people of color and ultimately improve living conditions for all people.

Please see below for a list of the inaugural grantees of the REP Fund: