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The State of Change: An Analysis of Women and People of Color in the Philanthropic Sector

Publication date: 
August, 2017

As the leading voice for philanthropy, the Council on Foundations is committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as a core policy and fundamental operating principle in the philanthropic sector. This report, The State of Change: An Analysis of Women and People of Color in the Philanthropic Sector, helps inform strategies that support DEI efforts.

The conversation about diversity in philanthropy is not a new one. Over the past two decades in particular, numerous actors, working both field-wide and at the level of individual organizations, have waded into the debate with various initiatives, studies, and questions. These efforts have included convenings throughout the country, special initiatives like the D5 Coalition (its predecessor the Diversity in Philanthropy Project), professional development programs like the Council on Foundations’ own Career Pathways program, and reports produced with the intention of increasing diversity in the philanthropic sector. The conversation has also evolved over the years, and, informed in part by the wider discourse on social justice, now includes the pursuit of “equity” and “inclusion” as distinct endeavors residing parallel to increasing “diversity” in philanthropy.

But where have these efforts led us? What does the diversity of the sector look like today, and has philanthropy become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive over the past five or 10 years? If so, are we doing so at a rate that reflects the demographic transformation of the United States in the 21st century? What are the organizational characteristics of the field that might slow or accelerate progress?

The Council has a unique data set that can help us begin to answer some of these questions and inform strategies that will support the sector in reaching its goals. In 1980, the Council published its first compensation report for the field. Since then, their flagship Grantmaker Salary and Benefits survey has grown into one of the largest studies of staff compensation, benefits, and hiring practices among foundations and grantmaking institutions.

Within the wealth of data pooled through this now annual study, the Council has consistently collected responses on the demographic makeup of full-time staff (specifically race, gender, age, and now disability status) within grantmaking organizations of all types for a number of years. These data provide unique insights into how the demographics of the employees of foundations have changed over time. This report is the first of its kind to examine changes in the proportion of women and racial/ethnic minorities employed as full-time staff by survey respondents, at both the leadership and overall staff levels.