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Charitable foundations must take action to be more diverse or ‘risk perpetuating injustices’

04 Oct 2019 News

Charitable trusts and foundations need to take action to improve diversity or risk “undermining the social good that we all seek to do”, the Association of Charitable Foundations has said.

The ACF yesterday published Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: The Pillars of Stronger Foundations Practice, which encourages the sector to put becoming more diverse at the heart of its work. It outlines nine key characteristics that foundations should adopt.

It is the first report from the umbrella body’s Stronger Foundations project, and ACF said the recommendations had been designed to apply to all sizes of funder. 

The report includes practical suggestions for foundations to improve. ACF has also published its own diversity, equality and inclusion policy and committed to publishing data about its own practices.

Research for ACF had previously found that the foundation sector is disproportionately dominated by white men. 

In a blog post published alongside the report, Carol Mack, chief executive of ACF, said: “We live in an unjust and imperfect world; unless foundations are also conscientious about the ways in which they work, we can risk perpetuating injustices and undermining the social good that we all seek to do.”

She added: “This is the start of a conversation, not the final word. But it’s also a time for action, and we hope that this report gives foundations plenty of inspiration to plan their next steps.” 

‘No more excuses’ 

The report was developed with support from a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) working group and external experts. 

Denise Ramsey, chair of the Stronger Foundations DEI working group, described the report as “a significant step”.

She added: “Not only does it articulate a variety of ways in which foundations can improve their DEI practice, it does so in a way that can be interpreted and implemented by foundations of all shapes and sizes. 

“There are no excuses anymore for foundations not to be pursuing excellent practice, and if these pillars are implemented in full, we could see a transformative impact on the foundation sector, the wider voluntary sector, and even beyond.”

Nine pillars 

The nine pillars identified by ACF as characteristic of an inclusive foundation are that it: 

  1. Invests time and resources in understanding and defining diversity, equity and inclusion 
  2. Produces and reviews strategies that will implement DEI practices 
  3. Collects, tracks and publishes DEI data on its own practices and performance
  4. Has a diverse trustee board and staff team, both in terms of demographics and experience
  5. Reflects and implements DEI practices in its funding activities
  6. Publicly expresses its DEI commitment, policies and practices
  7. Makes itself accountable to those it serves and supports
  8. Uses its own power to advocate for and advance DEI practices 
  9. Collaborates with others to promote and implement DEI practices 


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