The lack of diversity among staff and trustees at charitable trusts and foundations is leading to a bias against grant applicants from minority backgrounds, a report out today has warned.
Grant Givers’ Movement: Discrimination, Prejudice & Isomorphism, has been produced by a new network, Grant Givers’ Movement, which is calling on the sector to do much better when it comes to addressing diversity issues.
It carried out a survey of 130 grant-making staff asking for their views on diversity, inclusion and voice, and aims to raise awareness of problems to inspire action.
Two-thirds of respondents said that foundation trustee boards’ lack of racial diversity affected minority-led charities’ fundraising efforts.
“These results suggest to us that there is a serious problem of bias against some charities that we feel needs to be addressed,” the report said.
Foundations must do more
“Our results suggest that the challenge is not just to be ‘more diverse’ in our trustee boards and staff teams but also to be less biased in our funding decisions," the report said. "There was no suggestion that this bias was conscious (in fact the majority of respondents identified their foundations as ‘inclusive’ places) but that does not make the findings less worrying.”
Some 40 per cent of respondents said that they were aware of more than one incident within the sector of prejudice and discrimination based on age, gender, race, disability, sexual identity or any other protected characteristics.
It also warned that the lack of diversity at foundation level trickles down to those charities that seek funding from trusts.
“Our interpretation of this feedback is that that some charities launched by working class leaders may feel a pressure to appoint board members who reflect the organisations that finance them over the communities they serve in order to be seen as ‘fundable’,” it said.
The Grant Givers' Movement is writing to the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF), other umbrella bodies and the Charity Commission, urging them to follow up on issues raised in the report.
Responding to the report, a spokesperson for the ACF said: “ACF thanks the Grant Givers’ Movement for sharing this report, which deals with issues of vital importance to both foundations and the sector more broadly.
“We are keen to learn more about the findings, and to discuss potential next steps in order to better understand the nature of some of the problems identified. With that in mind, and as a matter of urgency, we have already reached out to representatives from the Grant Givers’ Movement and requested a meeting.
“In the meantime, ACF will continue to take forward the sector-wide discussion about these and related issues, not least through the Stronger Foundations Initiative which covers topics such as diversity, equity and inclusion, transparency and governance, with the aim of helping foundations to identify and pursue excellent practice in these important areas.”