Graphic: Arrow Join Now! Graphic: Arrow MY AFP Profile Graphic: Arrow AFP Canada Graphic: Arrow AFP Mexico Graphic: Star MAKE A GIFT


Mixed Results on Growth in Foundation Diversity

(May 12, 2008) A new report reveals that foundation diversity has increased significantly in some areas, including board and staff composition, but there continues to be problems in others, such as funding to diverse organizations.

Philanthropy in a Changing Society: Achieving Effectiveness through Diversity is the first of three publications by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors that will examine the state of diversity in philanthropy.

The report analyzed data from foundations over the past 25 years and found significant growth in staff and board diversity at foundations. Overall staff diversity increased from 12.6 percent in 1982 to 23.2 percent in 2006, while board diversity rose from 4.3 percent in 1982 to 13.0 percent in 2006.

Diversity within foundations varies greatly by staff title, with program staff representing the greatest diversity and more senior or executive roles less so. A similar situation exists in other sectors. Thirty-five percent of program officer positions were filled by a diverse individual in 2006, compared to 15.4 percent in 1982.

The type of foundation also affects how diverse a foundation is and in which areas. Independent foundations are the most diverse among all staff, while public foundations have the most diverse boards, with corporate grant makers having the most diverse pool of CEOs.

Funding Still Scarce

Unfortunately, foundation grants to organizations serving diverse constituents did not rise at a similar rate to what was seen in staff and board composition levels. The share of grant dollars targeting minority populations increased modestly from 5.9 percent of all foundation giving in 1982 to just 7.4 percent in 2006.

Also of concern was the slower rate of growth in most diversity trends over the last 12 years. While CEO and board diversity more than tripled during the entire period covered by the study, only 41.5 percent and 32.7 percent of this change, respectively, took place between 1994 through 2006.  Since the early 1990s grant dollars targeting minorities hovered just above or below eight percent.

“While it’s good to see some progress, I think it’s clear we still have a long road ahead of us,” said Alphonce J. Brown Jr., ACFRE, director of development for the National Minority AIDS Council in Washington, D.C., and immediate past chair of AFP. “Given the growth of diverse populations in the United States over the past several decades, I am especially concerned about the lack of representation for diverse individuals at the board level and the lack of funding to organizations that work with diverse constituencies. We have to remember too that this study focused solely on diversity with regards to race, so any number of diverse populations is not included in these results.”

Despite the lack of growth in funding, the report notes that diversity programs have evolved in important ways since 1982, with more emphasis on inclusiveness of different voices and views as the ultimate goal as opposed to simply focus on a “diversity head count.” Generally, programs had a positive impact on individual participants and foundations, but limited resources, scale and duration, lack of coordination across foundations, isolated operations, and lack of outcome-oriented evaluations hampered replication or field-wide advocacy.

“I think the positive news from this study was how diversity programs have changed and evolved to focus on the real issues, such as inclusiveness and ensuring that diverse viewpoints are represented and considered,” said Joseph K. Goepfrich, CFRE, vice chancellor for advancement at Purdue University North Central in Westville, Ind., and chair of AFP’s Diversity Committeee. “With diversity programs now pointed in the right direction, we need to focus on diversifying boards and senior leadership positions within organizations. This is one of several challenges remaining in the fundraising profession as we work toward the seeking, achieving, and inclusion of a wide range of experiences, perspectives, opinions and cultures.

AFP’s resources for increasing diversity within the fundraising profession can be found here on the AFP website.

Strategies for Success

The report also provides some key strategies for charities to continue to address the issue of diversity:

  • Increase advocacy, outreach and peer support by networks of foundation leaders grappling with improving effectiveness and responsiveness in the face of rapidly changing demographics.
  • Collaborate with emerging donor communities to connect leadership among diverse communities with the larger institutional philanthropy field.
  • Improve and expand existing programs that increase the pool of diverse candidates for staff and board positions, support institutional efforts to include diverse voices in all aspects of their work, or efforts to reach out to disadvantaged and vulnerable communities across all program areas.
  • Promote field impact through coordinated multi-program strategies to leverage resources focusing on increasing diversity and inclusiveness, particularly at regional levels.
  • Increase research on trends in staffing, board composition and grant making so that foundations have data to establish benchmarks and monitor progress.

The study also found that affinity groups that began as informal support networks among staff of color have been the most consistent advocate for increasing diversity and inclusiveness.

About the Report

Philanthropy in a Changing Society: Achieving Effectiveness through Diversity is available at no cost by contacting  A PDF can also be downloaded here at the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors website.

The data for the study was derived from collected by the Foundation Center and staffing and board composition trends from the Council on Foundations.  The report’s authors also tapped the advice of more than 50 philanthropy professionals and reviewed relevant literature to collect, describe and assess diversity programs and resources, and solicit comment on successes and challenges.

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors is an independent, nonprofit service that develops and manages giving programs for individuals, families, foundations and trusts.  Headquartered in New York, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors advises on more than $200 million in annual giving in 60 countries. 

4300 Wilson Blvd, Suite 300, Arlington, VA 22203 • 703-684-0410 | 800-666-3863 | Fax: 703-684-0540
©2009 AFP. This site content may not be copied, reproduced or redistributed without prior written
permission from the Association of Fundraising Professionals or its affiliates.
Privacy Policy | Feedback | Contact Us | Advertise with Us