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PEAK Grantmaking

Breaking Down Barriers to Build Better Career Paths

Career Journeys in Philanthropy

On August 2, PEAK Grantmaking in collaboration with Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) hosted the first of a three-part learning and professional development series that explores career pathways in philanthropy, equity as an essential competency for emerging leaders, and tools for effective self-advocacy. The first session, A Leader Salon on Career Journeys in Philanthropy, featured TeQuion Brookins, director of operations at the McGregor Fund, and Lourdes Inga, executive director at International Funders for Indigenous Peoples, both of whom served as the guest editors for the 19th edition of PEAK’s Journal, Career Journeys in Philanthropy. Joining them was Eusebio Diaz, chief of staff at the Episcopal Health Foundation, who contributed an essay on how he forged his own career in the philanthropic sector. PEAK President and CEO Satonya Fair moderated the conversation, and at one point posed a trenchant question: What barriers do you see as you also try to show up as an advocate for equity?

Here are highlights from what they each had to say.

Lourdes: Indigenous peoples represent 6.2 percent of the global population, but between 2011 and 2015, only 1.2 percent of all global giving by U.S. foundations was identified as benefitting Indigenous Peoples worldwide. There is a lack of data that focuses on Indigenous people in philanthropy. Thus, it’s important that the voice of the Indigenous professionals is included. As a philanthropic community, we need to pay attention to that, as well as the lack of representation in foundations that are supporting Indigenous communities. It’s very much recognized that for Indigenous people in philanthropy there is not just a sense of responsibility but a level of accountability in our case to the Indigenous Peoples’ movement.

In terms of pay advocacy, we thankfully now have some organizations that provide reporting. The question then becomes: who puts those reports together: Who is not represented in those reports and why? In terms of pay equity, we need to think about pay equity not just in and of itself, but as it relates to supporting self-care and well-being.

TeQuion: When I think about the barriers, awareness sticks out. People don’t know about this sector unless they’re already in it. Once you’re within the organization, you have to fight culture. The McGregor Fund was organized in 1926 and is based in the city of Detroit. We didn’t get a Black person on our board until the 1990s. And I was the first person of color to hold a [director-level] role. We are working to redefine our processes and our board governance structures, we are trying to redefine that. Because of the disparities that I saw, I started the Minority Freedom Community Fund, which provides opportunities to people to learn about the philanthropic sector and develop skills in creating business processes.

Eusebio: In 1999, I was helping an organization that served low-income working families in the Texas border area with childcare. The 2000 census came out and because areas in other parts of Texas had grown significantly, areas that were also significantly more affluent, our program’s funding was cut by a third because funding was aligned with where the people were (not where the need was). From this, I took away that to make systemic change, you have to be where the money is. We see this now in the middle of this pandemic and in seeing  issues around racial justice where communities of need struggle to access the resources they need. Many of us philanthropy are trying to solve issues that affect us directly. Be aware of [how being engaged in this work] can affect you. I was doing some research around the impact of COVID-19 on Latino communities. It put me in a foul mood and said to my CEO that I had to step away from it because it was having a visceral reaction to this information. To white CEOs and supervisors: be mindful of your BIPOC staff. The issues we address are real to us. Be mindful of their mental well-being—this can be metally exhausting and isolating work for BIPOC folks.

For more insights from Lourdes, TeQuion, and Eusebio, and for more perspectives from the PEAK community on how they’ve built their own careers in philanthropy, read the latest edition of the Journal.