Diversity + Inclusion for More Powerful Philanthropy

“When the concepts of diversity and inclusion are added to basic due diligence, the result can create a philanthropy that is both responsive and efficient.”

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

In order to solve today’s most troubling societal ills: clean water crisis, systemic poverty, hunger, it takes a group of individuals with diverse ways of thinking. Tackling difficult issues with individuals who think similarly will produce stagnant results. Utilizing diversity and inclusion to evaluate philanthropic initiatives will provide for broad-reaching solutions to challenging problems.

The Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors define diversity and inclusion accordingly:

“Diversity is the practice of including a full range of perspectives, ideas and experience in philanthropic decision-making. Inclusion seeks the participation of individuals from diverse backgrounds in the process.”

By recognizing our differences and celebrating them, we can utilize them to develop comprehensive insights to solving these global challenges. By including individuals with varying backgrounds, they can apply their experiences and provide unique perspectives into how to tackle these issues.

So, why does diversity matter?

Professor Scott Page at the University of Michigan performed research on this topic with Lu Hong, an economist at Chicago’s Loyola University. They developed a model which determined that diverse groups of individuals outperformed the most talented individuals at solving problems. The reason? The diverse individuals didn’t get stuck as often as the talented individuals who thought similarly.

His example: New York City. It’s no coincidence that one of the most innovative and vibrant cities in the United States is also one of the most culturally diverse.

New York City

Professor Page advances the discussion asking questions such as, “How can we work more productively together?” versus, “Why can’t we get along?” This elevation in discussion lends itself to the new approach to diversity:

The Rockefeller Philanthropy Group provides findings from The Bureau of the Census which estimates that “minority” groups will take over as the majority in the United States by 2042. As the world changes, philanthropy must change to meet those needs.

Several community foundations already implement diversity and inclusion into their philanthropy programs by including diverse staff members, evaluating grant opportunities through a diverse lens, and including overlooked groups in funding opportunities.

From the corporate side, the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation uniquely combines employee engagement, giving, and diversity. In 1991, the trustees of the foundation elected to allow Ben & Jerry’s employees to review grant requests. It only made sense to entrust funding decisions to the community members themselves.

Four steps to incorporate diversity and inclusion into your CSR programs

1) Incorporate diversity in your staff and grant programs.

Include individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences on your staff, board, and in consultative and advisory positions so as to drive forward innovative discussions and decisions.

Extend this diverse way of thinking into your individual grant programs by targeting groups that may be traditionally overlooked in grant funding.

2) Consult with stakeholders. 

In order to best serve your community, you must speak with community members and understand their needs as opposed to providing them with what you think they need.

3) Devise a plan. 

Develop a plan to incorporate diversity and inclusion into your CSR programs and evaluate this plan with key advisors before you implement.

4) Run a trial program. 

Test the the program for a designated period of time and bring in stakeholders to evaluate the effectiveness.

Instilling diversity and inclusion into your funding provides for a more comprehensive approach to tackling social injustice. Just as investors must diversify to avoid risk in stock so too must philanthropists. Information and insight from multiple, diverse sources will lead to more qualified decisions and greater impact.