“Talent is everywhere: Opportunity isn’t.”

Diversity isn’t just about who you employ or who sits round your board table. It’s also about how you invest your endowment, who does and doesn’t get your grants, where you choose to locate your office, which suppliers you use.  Amongst many reports and toolkits on promoting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, perhaps two are key in relation to the trust and foundation sector.  Excerpts from these reports are set out below.

Although many of the actions relate to individual leaders and organisations, many of them strongly point to actions that our sector bodies – the Association of Charitable Foundations, ACEVO, NCVO, SCVO, Institute of Fundraising and others – should be taking on a coordinated basis.

Work on promoting and improving Diversity, Equity and Inclusion understands that “Talent is everywhere: Opportunity isn’t” *.  DEI work purposefully seeks to benefit from the diversity of talents that are already available but which have been out of the sight or the reach of those who control the opportunities.  It also purposefully identifies opportunities to grow the pool of talent by investing in those who are qualified by experience or other criteria so that they can take advantage of opportunities when they are opened up to them.

These reports are a very useful starting point for UK-based trusts and foundations wanting to take action on DEI and provide a sound basis for ACF’s Stronger Foundations initiative to take forward work on this issue in the UK.

Ten Ways for Independent Foundations to Consider Diversity and Inclusive Practices – Council on Foundations (2010)

  1. Consider how diversity and inclusion relate to your foundation’s mission, values, and original purpose.
  2. Determine whether your board membership, volunteers, advisory committees, and governance offer opportunities to enhance the foundation’s diversity and inclusiveness.
  3. Cultivate an internal culture, policies and procedures that reflect your foundation’s commitment to diversity and inclusive practices.
  4. Hire staff from diverse populations, viewpoints, and experiences.
  5. Seek contractors and vendors from diverse backgrounds, communities, and populations.
  6. Explore investment options that would support diversity and inclusive practices.
  7. Consider and enhance the impact of your foundation’s grantmaking on diverse communities and populations.
  8. Consider ways to model inclusive practices and the value of diversity in your role as a philanthropic leader and convener.
  9. Assess how your foundation is perceived by the public, especially by diverse populations, grantees, applicants denied funding, and organizations that have not sought funding from your foundation.
  10. Share what your foundation is learning about diversity and inclusive practices.


Analysis of Policies, Practices, and Programs for Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – D5 Coalition (2013)

Drawing on the literature, interviews with foundations, and the authors’ decades of DEI consulting in philanthropy, the report provides a chart of policies and practices that are key to advancing and sustaining DEI.  These are anchored in five strategic questions and their indicators:

  • Has the organization made an expressed commitment to DEI? (with 3 indicators)
  • Has it authorized DEI in organizational policy?  (with 6 indicators)
  • Has it implemented DEI practices in its operations?  (with 11 indicators)
  • Has it implemented DEI practices in grant-making/other programmatic areas?  (with 11 indicators)
  • Does it utilize accountability mechanisms to monitor DEI?  (with 11 indicators)

A sample of these is set out below.



  • Connect with established leadership development programs designed to advance diversity.
  • Create avenues for systematic input and feedback from communities impacted by your work and grantees in which you’ve invested.
  • Adopt ideas from sample foundation diversity policies and practices.
  • Benefit from what other foundations have learned and are doing.
  • Learn from applicable resources beyond philanthropy.


  • As it applies to operations, be sure that outreach, hiring, and promotion policies are framed so that they do not have disparate impact and thus reduce your chances of having diverse voices in positions of power and influence.
  • In terms of grantmaking, review grant guidelines to ensure that they do not systematically exclude investments that could strengthen the voice and power of under-addressed populations and the organizations that they lead.
  • Learn how other foundations are working to advance equity.


  • Adopt policies and practices that enable workplaces to respect and utilize the talents of all populations.



  • Examine your institution’s mission and vision by deeply considering this question:

“Can we fully achieve the mission and vision we identify without addressing gender, race, LGBTQ, and disability issues?” You should use data and research to inform your answer.

  • Create avenues for systematic input and feedback from communities impacted by your work and grantees in which you’ve invested.
  • Review your grant guidelines to ensure that they do not systematically exclude investments that could strengthen the voice and power of under-addressed populations and the organizations that they lead.
  • Benefit from what peers are already doing.
  • Build equity explicitly into your strategic plan.
  • Become intentional to understand the ways in which different population-focused issues intersect.
  • Utilize asset investments to advance equity.
  • Systematically collect and assess data to measure performance around equity, wherever it is being undertaken operationally and programmatically.



  • Capitalize on the growing availability of leadership development programs designed to advance diversity.


  • Utilize the legally allowed opportunities foundations have to join and support campaigns and collaborations that mobilize resources for specific social justice goals.


  • Moments often arise because of activism around a particular group interest or concern. Become intentional about recognizing ”intersectionality” — how work with regard to one population is often cross-cut with the need to see how an issue operates for other population subsets.


  • Become an active participant in learning sessions and peer exchanges on DEI topics.
  • Share what you learn and your written policies and practices around DEI with the field.
  • Collect data on your DEI efforts to help advance a business case for the field.


* quote attributed to Hillary Clinton and, latterly, Idris Elba

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: