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Opinion: Why do grants ask for DEI?

๐—š๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—ธ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ, ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—น๐—ฑ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚ ๐˜€๐—ต๐—ผ๐˜„ ๐˜‚๐˜€ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฟ ๐——๐—˜๐—œ. I have developed a few opinion pieces for Black History Month related to philanthropy. Today, letโ€™s talk about the elephant in the room.

If you have recently applied for a grant, you may have noticed a relatively new trend since the summer of 2020. Almost every Grantmaker and funder, from the large established organizations to the more recent giving circles, want to know the racial and sexual orientation of nonprofit staff, leadership, and Board members. You may even wonder if this practice is ethical and legal.

๐—œ๐˜ ๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐—ฎ๐—ด๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐—ป๐˜€๐˜ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—น๐—ฎ๐˜„ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐˜€๐—ฐ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ฒ ๐—ฏ๐—ฎ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ผ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐—ฝ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—ฐ๐—น๐—ฎ๐˜€๐˜€๐—ฒ๐˜€. ๐—ฅ๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ต๐˜?

In my view, Grantmakers have a right to ask for this information and use it to build equity into their process. However well-intentioned, I believe it is a misguided attempt at Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

๐—ช๐—ต๐˜† ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ๐˜† ๐—ฎ๐˜€๐—ธ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ป๐—ผ๐˜„? It seems like a reaction to the nationโ€™s calls for racial justice and equality that grew loud during the pandemic. How were the government, Corporate America, and philanthropic organizations (aka funders) addressing racial injustice? And what were they doing about it?

Fair enough. However, instead of looking ----> inward <-----at their practices, these organizations started asking intrusive questions about nonprofit staffโ€™s racial makeup, sexual orientation, and disabilities. Yes, that information does give a window into how an organization works. ๐—•๐˜‚๐˜ ๐˜„๐—ต๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐—ต๐—ฎ๐—ฝ๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜€ ๐˜„๐—ถ๐˜๐—ต ๐˜๐—ต๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป, ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ต๐—ผ๐˜„ ๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐—ถ๐˜ ๐˜‚๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ฑ?

I recently saw a post in a membership community where a grant writer was wondering if they should omit information about their client- a white, cis-gender male from an application for fear they would not be selected solely on their race and not the merits or quality of their work (it was an arts grant by the way). ๐—œ ๐—ต๐—ฎ๐—ฑ ๐—บ๐—ถ๐˜…๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ผ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜€ ๐—ฎ๐—ฏ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐˜ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ถ๐˜€.

On the one hand, pouring more into Black-led nonprofits is overdue. But, on the other hand, it seems these practices do the opposite-further alienate and divide us and have Black-led organizations wondering if they are โ€œBlack enoughโ€ to get funded.

Furthermore, what about organizations such as hospitals and healthcare groups? They are the nexus to so many services for Black people. They also need more Black practitioners. But they also need to walk a narrow path of expanding their candidate pool without violating EEOC (US equal employment opportunity commission). Should they be excluded?

Or better yet, what about inclusive organizations, such as Collectives, that donโ€™t want their staff to label themselves?

Throwing another layer to it, what happens when we donโ€™t fit into the [boxes] and labels the Grantmakers give?

๐—œ๐˜€ ๐—ฎ๐˜€๐—ธ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ฝ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐—ฏ๐—ฒm๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ฐ?

Maybe, maybe not. I am not a lawyer or a politician.

But I observe and try to advise my clients on the best path forward, given their beliefs and constraints.

So, for Black History Month, instead of asking nonprofits what their staff looks like- Grantmakers. Could you show us your DEI?

If youโ€™ve come across these questions about race and sex in grant applications, what did you think/ what did you feel? Then, letโ€™s discuss this in the comments.

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