Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Matter

Philanthropy has contributed to social justice significantly in the last century.  It is no surprise that foundations are working to promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) practices as part of their organizational culture and work.

Recently, The D5 Coalition released “Foundations Facilitate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Partnering with Community and Nonprofitsan inspiringcorroboration of how foundations can influence the sector and partners on issues and practice of DEI.  These efforts appear not to be a top-down initiative, but rather values that are interwoven into the fabric of the organization and the communities they serve.

The report illustrates the lessons and key characteristics for philanthropy to integrate DEI in its interactions with community and nonprofit practitioners.  Promoting and practicing DEI is not simple. It requires planning, spaces to share, and a willingness to contribute to the national narrative on DEI.

At The California Endowment our values and our work in the communities we serve are based on a strong commitment to social benefit and a deep awareness of the obligations of our mission:

The California Endowment is a private, statewide health foundation with a mission to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians.

We have a strong authorizing environment at the board and executive management levels that allows for our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusiveness to be infused throughout our work. These organizational values have helped us articulate our commitment and establish a framework to hold ourselves accountable to our commitment.

Internally, we began assessing our own diversity and inclusion practices with a report card and developing a plan of action with the desire to make society more equitable and to enhance opportunities for a healthy California.

Our efforts in this area have not all had the same level of success.

In 2010, The Endowment launched its Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Initiative, a 10-year place-based community change initiative.  The BHC lives in 14 communities in California and is working to move power into the hands of the communities we serve.

At the onset of the ten-year initiative, we began collecting diversity data on organizations requesting funding from The California Endowment.  What we asked, how we asked, and what we did with the data were all areas of discussion, but we realized rather quickly that not all our nonprofit partners were prepared to or able to answer questions about their diversity.

To be successful in this ten-year social experiment requires TCE view the world through our communities’ lens.  It means that our Program Managers are on-site and develop relationships with our partners that go beyond a site visit and grant dollars. Program Managers along with our nonprofit partners have participated in joint Structural Racism workshops, as well as head to heart exercises that strive to increase our capacity as a “changemakers”, through increasing self-awareness around the issues of equity, inclusion and intersectionality.

To make meaningful change and impact, our efforts are not limited to program staff.  Opportunities to learn, share and have open dialogue conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion are expanding to an organizational scale.

At The California Endowment, we believe that the effectiveness of the foundation improves when we reflect the communities we serve—this allows us to develop strategies that better meet the needs of our diverse state.

So why does Diversity, Equity and Inclusion matter to The Endowment?  Simply stated, California’s future is in color.  Our state’s demographics are increasingly of color.  Only by tapping into the full potential of our diverse population can we keep California strong, vibrant and healthy.  D5’s report is a great road map for funders who want to incorporate this lens to their work and engage their nonprofit partners in a meaningful way.

Dolores Estrada

Dolores Estrada is the Manager of Grants Administration at The California Endowment. In her current capacity, Ms. Estrada oversees the administrative functions and policies of the foundation’s online grant-making process, and provides guidance on issues of tax and legal compliance review.