On the beat: Number of blacks running philanthropies stuck at 3%

  • Article by: JEAN HOPFENSPERGERPHILANTHROPY
  • Updated: July 18, 2014 - 3:01 PM

The percentage of black CEOs and trustees at the nation’s foundations has remained flat in recent years, and the percentage of professional staff has slightly declined. What gives?

A new study sponsored by the Association of Black Foundation Executives tries to answer the question. It discovered that leadership opportunities were not “substantial” for blacks in grant-making jobs. They felt a sense of isolation on the job and a lack of opportunity to do on-the-ground work in the communities served by their foundation.

Three percent of the nation’s philanthropies are led by black CEOs, the report said, a figure that has remained flat over the years. About 9 percent of professional staff is black, a slight dip. While those interviewed said some progress is being made, it was not enough to keep them on the job.

Called “The Exit Interview,” the report is based on focus groups and interviews with blacks leaving grant making and other sources. It found:

• 72 percent said leadership roles for them were not substantial at their foundation.

• 36 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they were “pushed out of grantmaking institutions.”

• Just 12 percent agreed or strongly agreed that “in the past decade, employment opportunities have gotten progressively better for black philanthropy professionals.”

• 41 percent said their job didn’t allow them to work directly with communities.

Such sentiments holds true in Minnesota, said Shawn Lewis, a board member of the Pan African Community Endowment, a project of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners. It’s unfortunate, he said, because black staffers bring a wealth of firsthand knowledge of diverse communities that dovetail with many foundation goals.

“I think more attention needs to be paid not to just recruiting people, but retaining people,” said Lewis. “How do you move up the ladder? We need to be looking at internships, fellowships, not just getting them in the door but moving up.”

To read the full report, go to www.abfe.org.

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511

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