Philanthropy and Race & Gender Quotas

Philanthropy and Race & Gender Quotas


In recent years, a growing number of political activists and elected officials have supported the notion that charitable foundations should allow “diversity” considerations to guide their philanthropic giving and their hiring practices — and that foundations which fail to do this “voluntarily,” should be sued in court.

The idea that foundations ought to view the world through the lens of identity politics dates back to the 1980s, when some liberal foundations, including the Ford Foundation, began requiring grant-seeking groups to report the race and gender composition of their respective staffs and boards. More recently, politicians and “community organizations” have joined the effort. In 2005, for instance, the Greenlining Institute, a “multiethnic advocacy group” based in California, started producing studies which claimed that the Golden State’s larger foundations were ignoring “communities of color” — contradicting a Foundation Center report that fully 39 percent of all grants made by California’s large foundations primarily benefited minorities.

But according to the Greenlining Institute, a grant cannot be officially tallied as one that benefits minorities unless it is given directly to a nonprofit organization whose staff and board are at least 50-percent minority. Such a policy, however, ignores the fact that the racial composition of a nonprofit’s staff and board bears no relation whatsoever to whether it is actually helping minorities. For instance, beginning in the 1950s, agronomists supported by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations developed the high-yield cereal crops that helped wipe out famine in Southeast Asia. If affirmative action policies had been in place at that time, labs would have been under intense pressure to diversify their workforces. This not only would have hindered their research, but may have destroyed it altogether.

Because of Greenlining’s lobbying, legislators in California were pressured into imposing affirmative action guidelines on the world of philanthropy. In January 2008 the California Assembly passed a bill requiring all California foundations with assets exceeding $250 million to report not just the race and gender composition of each grantee’s board and staff, but the race and gender makeup of their own boards and staffs as well. Today a foundation that remains colorblind in giving and hiring is considered suspect, perhaps even criminal.

Adapted from “
Never Enough Beauty, Never Enough Truth,” by Heather MacDonald (City Journal, Winter 2009).

Additional Resources:

Never Enough Beauty, Never Enough Truth
By Heather MacDonald
Winter 2009

Race and Gender Quotas for Nonprofits: How California Bill AB 624 Threatens Foundation Philanthropy
By John Gizzi
July 2008

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