October 20 2020

In the aftermath of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor killings at the hands of law enforcement – and the nationwide outrage that followed – our Board of Directors pledged to intensify our focus on matters of structural racism generally, and anti-Black racism in particular. Among the pledges we made included a 10-year, $225 million commitment to invest in Black-led organizations engaged in activism and advocacy for social and racial justice.

A second pledge was for The California Endowment (TCE) to assert greater transparency and accountability in assessing our funding of Black-led and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)-led nonprofits. The report that follows represents a key step in the process of transparency and accountability for our foundation.

The findings of the report speak for themselves, but let me underscore some key points as you review the findings.

From the moment of its inception as a private foundation, TCE was founded upon the principles of access and inclusion, especially for communities who have historically been marginalized or excluded in policy and in practice. This historical disenfranchisement is anchored in structural racism, and has led to disproportionately poorer health outcomes in Black, Indigenous, and other racial and ethnic communities. At TCE, we have spent the lion’s share of the last two decades working with and investing in these communities to better understand the root causes of health inequity – and addressing them.

It is for this reason that we have labored to collect racial and ethnic demographic data from grantees for well over a decade, and we still fall short of accurate and complete accounting. Response rates could improve. Questions of voluntary-versus-mandatory reporting continue to vex those among us in philanthropy who endeavor to gain the clearest possible picture of who benefits from foundation grantmaking. In addition, the defining of what is a “Black-led” or “BIPOC” or a “multiracial” grantee organization has proven to be more art than science. We do share our definition in the following report, but variability across the field of philanthropy persists. Progress in our field is underway, but it has been slow.

Secondly, as a private foundation we have more work to do in assuring that our resources are tilting heavily in the direction of communities of color whose health and wellness are directly impacted by structural racism in America. But we are pleased to report that, over the past decade, the percentages and numbers of grants and grant dollars to organizations led by people of color is trending upwards.

Finally, a note about why any of this really matters. This is not simply a “numbers game” for us at The California Endowment. As we endeavor to better track and report funding to Black- and BIPOC-led organizations, there is no right number or percentage to target as a goal – we simply need to continue to do better because the strategy calls for it. This is fundamentally about our mission as a foundation, and the pursuit of a vision for a California where health, well-being, racial justice, and social justice are realized for all. Core to the strategy is what we call People Power: the ability and capacity of those communities directly impacted by inequity, inequality, and injustice to drive and shape structural, systemic, and policy change. It stands to reason, therefore, that increasing our investments in Black-led and BIPOC-led groups will serve impacted communities fighting for health system reforms, transformation in the justice system, equity in public education, and more inclusive community and economic development. We must strengthen our resolve to see to it that the makers of what civil rights icon John Lewis called “Good Trouble” are resourced to win their policy and system battles for social and racial justice.

It is in this spirit that we share our findings, and embark on a path of greater accountability. 

We acknowledge the hardworking efforts of Dr. Hanh Cao Yu and Mona Jhawar at The California Endowment, our colleague Traci Endo Inouye and the team at Social Policy Research Associates, and Bill Wright and the team at the Center for Outcomes Research and Education in assembling the data for this report.

Robert K. Ross, President & CEO

Toward Greater Transparency and Accountability: An Assessment of The California Endowment’s Funding to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color-led Organizations: Executive Summary and Full Report (October 2020).

This brief reports on TCE’s commitment to improved tracking, reporting, and transparency of TCE’s funding to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)-led organizations as shared in TCE’s Statement on Race and Racism.


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