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Unconscious Whiteness in Philanthropy Cohorts

NCG's Unconscious Whiteness in Philanthropy cohort learning series is for white-identifying foundation and philanthropic client-serving professionals, and foundation senior executives and board members. 


Are you white-identifying? Are you struggling to understand your role as a white person in philanthropic spaces centering racial equity? If so, we invite you and your peers to join a five-session cohort learning experience to deepen your understanding of how white supremacy manifests in philanthropic organizations and systems. The goal of this affinity group cohort is to offload the labor and burden on BIPOC folks in philanthropy. We invite BIPOC staff members to share with white colleagues they think would benefit.

In this cohort 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 cohort 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. 

Cohort Opportunities

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.

  • Cohort 1: Staff of foundations and philanthropic client-serving organizations, or consultants to them
  • Cohort 2: Foundation leadership, including board members, trustees, and Executive Directors/CEOs

Target Audience

Cohort participants are white-identifying staff, CEOs, senior leadership, board members, and trustees of philanthropic foundations and philanthropic client-serving organizations. Members and nonmembers are welcome to participate.

Cost to Participate

We offer a tiered pricing structure dependent on asset size of the foundation.

  • Under $1M: Members: $1,000 per person | Nonmembers: $1,100 per person
  • $1M - $20M: Members: $1,500 per person | Nonmembers: $1,625 per person
  • Over $20M: Members: $2,000 per person | Nonmembers: $2,150 per person



  • Participate in all five (5) two-hour sessions: Acknowledging that each one of us is juggling multiple competing priorities and commitments, we request firm commitment to participate in a minimum of 4 of 5 sessions completed
  • Complete preparatory reading (~1 hour) between bi-weekly calls 
  • Engage with a learning buddy between bi-weekly calls (10-30 minutes) 
  • Prepare an Action Plan to share with peers during final session 
  • Pay participants’ fees by first session 


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.

  • Session 1 Objectives: 1) Create a brave space for participants to be vulnerable, set the stage for intimacy and connection, and express clear expectations for participation (including coaching and “buddy” system, and review use of the Zoom platform. 2) Participants explore frameworks of power, privilege, and oppression and locate themselves within them.  
  • Session 2 Objectives: 1) Participants grapple with the historical creation of race (specifically whiteness), and how it has brought us to the current moment. 2) Participants discuss policies and systems that have both created modern philanthropy and upheld white supremacy in the U.S. over the last hundred+ years, and their present-day impact.
  • Session 3 Objectives: 1) Participants explore how whiteness shows up in organizations / on teams, and reimagine alternatives that open up the possibility for more liberatory ways of working and being together. 2) Participants consider their individual role in upholding white supremacy through their role as trustees.  
  • Session 4 Objectives: 1) Participants will use equity-based leadership practices framework to identify concrete action steps toward racial equity. 2) Participants engage with CEOs and trustees who have been doing this work, highlighting challenges and lessons learned from their journey and answering questions from participants.  
  • Session 5 Objectives: 1) Participants present goals, commitments, and challenges for group feedback. 2) Participants plan collaboratively for next steps, including follow-up coaching sessions.


Alison Sirkus Brody

Managing Director
Alison Sirkus Brody Consulting

Alison Traina, M.Ed., CPC

Coach, Consultant, and Educator
Alight Coaching and Consulting



Caitlin Brune headshot

Caitlin Brune, Senior Fellow, Northern California Grantmakers

For more information about participating in this learning series contact: