How can we expect white leaders to solve problems most drastically affecting Black and Brown communities? That’s the question asked by Anastasia Reesa Tomkin in her article last May for Nonprofit Quarterly. As she examines how white leaders have come to dominate the nonprofit industry, Tomkin notes how the pipeline is built to provide white progressives with fulfilling careers rather than actually rectifying systemic inequalities by putting the right people at the forefront. “Even the most well-meaning of anti-racist allies will have blind spots and make grave miscalculations on matters concerning the well-being of people of color,” she says.
A 2019 study by the Center for Effective Philanthropy shows that 75 percent of executive directors identify as white, and 60 percent of them are female. Only nine percent identify as African-American or Black, only six percent Hispanic or Latinx, and only four percent Asian (including the Indian subcontinent).
If these past 18 months have shown us anything, it is that we must elevate BIPOC leadership to address the needs of the communities they represent. As a philanthropist or social impact investor, what are your best practices to ensure that your grants, donations, and investments are best aligned with the communities they are intended to impact? Here are some ideas for you to consider:
- Power = Equity
When you meet with a potential grantee or partner, does the diversity in their leadership team represent the people they serve? Within that leadership team, who holds the power? It is not enough that half the staff is BIPOC if they hold positions with little power and influence. Shared power is essential to achieving organizational equity.
- Focus on Those at the Margins of the Margins
At A Call to Men, we intentionally look to those “at the margins of the margins” to articulate their own lived experience and help define solutions that will be effective in their lives. When we center our attention and efforts on those “at the margins of the margins” who are experiencing multiple forms of oppression, it’s our belief that all will benefit. This philosophy holds true for any anti-oppression work, whether it be sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, ableism, or ageism.
- Commit to Intersectional Investing
In October of last year, I appealed to the philanthropy world to consider what it would take to create a more just world post-pandemic. I shared five immediate actions philanthropists could take. The third was to commit to intersectional investing. This means working with organizations that understand that all oppression is interconnected and that partner with marginalized communities. We can’t be anti-sexist without also being anti-racist.
If you are a white leader at a nonprofit, we invite you to commit to amplify your efforts as co-conspirators to work intentionally from an anti-sexism and anti-racism lens.
As Tomkin writes, “A good white leader is a good white follower.”