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Unconscious Whiteness in Philanthropy | Cohort 1: Philanthropic Consultants And Foundation Staff

Are you struggling to understand your role as a white person in philanthropic spaces centering racial equity? If you are a foundation or philanthropic-client serving staff member, board member or trustee, or a consultant who works with staff and board members of philanthropic entities, join peers in a five-session cohort learning experience to deepen your understanding of how white supremacy manifests in philanthropic organizations and systems.

In this series we peel back historical layers to review how white supremacy was created and embedded in the philanthropic sector, impacting everything from grantmaking and relationships to management and decision-making. Then we explore concrete strategies and actions to help you show up as interrupters of the status quo in philanthropic leadership and decision-making. We’ll use a blend of reading/listening/watching relevant content, interactive activities, and embodied learning. Be prepared to be uncomfortable in service of developing greater capacity to undo patterns that sustain white-dominant norms and perpetuate racism. The series uses a humanizing and healing approach that calls white people to be gentle and patient with ourselves while still choosing discomfort and taking meaningful action - a way of engaging that goes against everything white supremacy has taught us.

Alison and Ali use a humanizing and healing approach that calls white people to be gentle and patient with ourselves while still choosing discomfort and taking meaningful action - a way of engaging that goes against everything white supremacy has taught us.

Target Audience 

Cohort 2:  Staff of Foundations | Including philanthropic client-serving organizations, or consultants to them

WHO: White-identifying foundation leaders, especially staff, board members and senior executives of foundations and consultants who work directly with these people. You understand that racism, whiteness, and habits of white supremacy create problems but are unsure how to address these huge dynamics. This is for you if you are (still) feeling confused, overwhelmed, and intimidated by the idea of addressing how racism and white supremacy show up as you undertake philanthropic leadership and foundation work. You’re ready to learn how you can use your positional power to act in solidarity with people of color in service of advancing systems that benefit people of every racial group, and especially those who are marginalized. If you have a desire to take anti-racist action in your role as a foundation professional and white leader in the philanthropic sector, join us to grapple with white supremacy and how it shows up in your life and work.

WHY: Despite best intentions, white foundation staff, senior executives, board members & trustees still often engage in philanthropy with limited understanding of how systemic oppression operates. As a result, the same values and strategies that white supremacy promotes infuse all aspects of foundation practice. Though committed to championing equity, it’s often unclear to us white folks how to take principled and effective action that is supportive and respectful of foundation staff and of the nonprofits and communities they fund. This is for you if you want to be a more effective agents for change wherever you are in the philanthropic sector.

WHY AN ALL-WHITE SPACE? It may seem counterintuitive to do antiracism work as an all-white group or with white facilitators. However, as many leaders, scholars, trainers, and activists of color have pointed out, it is the responsibility of white people to unlearn our internalized racism, and to help one another do so. Racial affinity spaces offer us the opportunity to speak honestly and bluntly, to support and coach one another, and to ask embarrassing questions without the risk of hurting or over-burdening people of color. And while Alison and Ali have learned tremendous amounts from people of color about racism, they both believe that it is up to us as white people to become experts in our own practice of unlearning it. For more on how white-only spaces contribute to racial justice, explore this brief overview from Dismantling Racism; A Resource Book for Social Change Organizations, this essay by Alex Vlasic and this case study by Ali Michael and Mary C. Conger in Perspectives on Urban Education.

NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS: To maximize impact, we ask that two senior leaders OR a senior leader plus a board member OR two board members per foundation participate in the workshop series together. White foundation staff members are also invited to participate in pairs, if possible, to support one another in moving learning to action.



The curriculum aims to accomplish the following 3 goals: Deepen participant understanding of systems of white supremacy and how they show up in philanthropic and nonprofit culture; Identify concrete ways to show up as anti-racist leaders and interrupters of the status quo in philanthropy and roles as foundation staff, board, and trustees; Identify action steps in the philanthropic sector that apply their learning in service of disrupting systemic racism.


You will find the session schedule to the right. Please take a look cohort series page to learn more about session objectives.

Learn more about the session here

Alison Sirkus Brody

Managing Director

Alison Traina, M.Ed., CPC

Coach, Consultant, and Educator
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