D5 Inspires Foundations to View Disability as Diversity

How can we inspire foundations to be more inclusive in their grantmaking?

This is a question that we at the Special Hope Foundation ask ourselves a lot. Recently, we had the incredible opportunity to talk with Kelly Brown, the Executive Director of D5, a five-year coalition to advance philanthropy’s diversity, equity, and inclusion:

Why and how was D5 started? 

For decades, affinity groups and other partners have been working to help foundations more effectively serve their constituencies. Building on the achievements and lessons of their work, 50 foundations and allied leaders began the Diversity in Philanthropy Project (DPP) in 2007, a time-limited campaign to expand diversity in the field.

D5 is the fruit of that effort. Launched in 2010, the D5 Coalition brought together 18 infrastructure organizations and set a strategic agenda to help advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy. Today, we
 continue to grow, helping foundations of all types and sizes, individual donors, regional and national associations, and organizations widen their perspectives and achieve greater impact.

Aren’t foundations already inclusive in their grantmaking?

Importantly, a growing number of foundations are paying attention to how their grantmaking impacts diverse groups. But often, organizations don’t have the data to back up exactly whom they are reaching—and without a sound system for rigorous data, we can’t know if the programs we invest in are achieving optimal impact on the communities we want to touch.

We also need to better understand the best ways to reach and support these constituents. More and more foundations and nonprofits are recognizing that, to understand and reflect their increasingly diverse constituencies, they must reflect that diversity within their own ranks.

Foundations are gaining access to more tools to help them do this. For example, D5 has been working with GuideStar to help nonprofits and philanthropic organizations voluntarily collect data about staff, board and volunteer demographics—which is available within the GuideStar Exchange. Green 2.0 is propelling this work among mainstream environmental organizations in the wake of wide press about the problematic “green ceiling”—the mainstream environmental movement’s failure to keep up with the changing face of America. 

What is the next area that needs to be tackled?

The philanthropic community prides itself on doing the best for the constituencies we serve. To do that, we need to constantly assess our own practices and strive to more thoughtfully include people with diverse backgrounds and experiences in our grantmaking and our own work. One area that warrants more attention is inclusivity for people living with disabilities.

One in five Americans has a disability, and the number is growing. People with disabilities are likely members of every community we serve. To better serve our constituencies, we need to do more to elevate the voices of people with diverse abilities within our own ranks.

Tell us about the series of guest blog posts about the 25th anniversary of the ADA and the overall message you want to convey about diversity and disability through those posts?

Diversity has many faces, but definitions of diversity often stop at race and gender. Our goal is to encourage foundations and their grantees to expand their understanding of diversity by including people living with disabilities as they choose where to invest, as they build their own teams, and as they measure success.

The anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a historic milestone in our fight for equal opportunity for all. It is also an opportunity for foundations to recommit to ensuring that people with disabilities are represented in both in the decision-making process and the outcomes of our work.

The stories we are showcasing highlight the work being done in philanthropy to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion for people living with disabilities. We want to show how, by bringing people living with disabilities onto our own teams, we gain the knowledge and perspective to better serve our constituencies, which allows us to better advance the common good. And we’re sharing tools and techniques for foundations to do so.

Resources such as the Workplace Disability Inclusion Assessment Tool, a checklist designed to provide organizations with a tool to initiate or enhance their disability-friendly practices, are great places for foundations to begin.

How will D5 continue to highlight disability as one aspect of diversity in your future plans?

We will continue to share stories to lift up disability as a critical aspect of diversity to consider, and with the help of organizations like RespectAbilityUSA, gather and provide resources for foundations to integrate it into their own work.

What has been the biggest obstacle to get foundations involved in your efforts?

While many people might support the idea of a more diverse and inclusive sector, they might not necessarily understand the benefits to their organization of advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have found that by connecting foundation staff to resources and to each other—so they can share experiences and ideas of how advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion can help them better serve the common good, we can get more people involved.

Do you wish there was more involvement by philanthropy community in D5? Do you think most grant makers are moving toward better diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Many foundations are already taking action to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in their work, and the more that do, the better the sector can enhance our impact, increase our effectiveness, and advance the common good. The more people we can engage, the better.

When we speak with a unified voice on these issues, the more likely we are to gain traction. So we help provide tools and resources to anyone in the field of philanthropy committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion—whether you’re a CEO, a program officer, an HR director or any other position within a foundation.

The Take 5 Campaign is one way we are helping motivate these champions to grow the movement. We’re asking champions to take a concrete action—such as making it a topic of conversation at the next board meeting, providing a grant to advance DEI work or collecting and sharing organizational diversity data—and report those activities back to us. With it, we’re able to demonstrate the building momentum of the movement to advance DEI.

What are the future plans for D5 as your initiative reaches its 5th year? What is D5’s long term goals for sustainability?

The momentum we’ve built over the last several years builds upon decades of work to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in philanthropy—and that work will continue for decades to come.

As we drive change in this fifth year, we continue to encourage the field to increase staff diversity, improve data collection and transparency, take on the challenge of equity, and motivate voluntary action to address these issues. At the same time, we’re working with our partners to see how the field can most effectively build on this momentum—exploring D5’s unique contribution to the field and the challenges future efforts to advance this work will need to tackle.

Regardless of what happens to the nameplate on the door, the work will continue. Foundations are more interested than ever in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion within their own organizations, but also leading by example as other sectors recognize its value in helping all kinds of organizations achieve greater impact.

Kelly Brown is Director of the D5 Coalition, a five-year, effort to increase philanthropy’s diversity, equity and    inclusiveness. Prior to this she was Principal Consultant at Viewpoint Consulting, which provides program design, planning, research, and facilitation services to nonprofits, philanthropic organizations and individuals investing resources to strengthen underserved communities. Read more about Kelly.

2017-06-20T16:58:50+00:00 August 13th, 2015|Blog|

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