Equity in Philanthropy

Kerie Kerstetter

At this year’s Modern Governance Summit, one session took a close look at the changing landscape of philanthropy, and how it can be used to achieve just, sustainable and equitable outcomes. 

Driving Meaningful Change Through Philanthropy

Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, cited the teachings of Martin Luther King: “Philanthropy is commendable, but it should not allow the philanthropist to overlook the economic injustice that makes philanthropy necessary.” Walker explained the idea that wealth is in part a result of inequality and injustice. Therefore, philanthropists should be working to correct injustice, reduce poverty and alleviate the lack of opportunity that makes it difficult or impossible for certain groups of people to advance. 

Elevating the Economic Trajectory of Underprivileged Communities

One of the most powerful tools that can help underprivileged communities is education. Robert Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, touched on the importance of investing in education at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). He highlighted in particular, the importance of internships: “Having an internship creates that opportunity, and if certain groups of students don’t have a chance to participate in that economy early on, they’re at a disadvantage. In 4-6 years, we could change the economic trajectory of an entire community.”  

“We know that education is the highest premium, highest lever, of a philanthropic dollar.” – Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation

Evolving the Role of Governance 

Our panelists also touched on the idea that our conversations around diversity need to continue to evolve. Today, conversations around diversity have evolved – they are no longer restricted to tokenism. Companies understand that for a business to be truly successful, they need true representation. To achieve meaningful diversity goals, leadership teams and board members must be intentional and accountable in their initiatives and actions.  

“The point is to create intention, action, and then hold executives and the board accountable.” – Robert Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners 

Explore best practices, strategies, technologies and tools to drive board diversity in your organization with  Rewards of a Diverse Nonprofit Board: Making a Commitment to LGBTQ and DEI guide.

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