Re-Defining ‘Racial Equity’ May Increase Donations for It

(Associated Press) Though last year’s racial justice protests unleashed an avalanche of donations for minority causes, the philanthropic community remains divided about which donations should be counted as advancing racial equity.

Candid, a leading philanthropy research organization, told The Associated Press that it broadened its definition of racial equity to better reflect the intent of contributors and to help foster additional donations.

It now defines racial equity donations as “grantmaking explicitly awarded to benefit people of color broadly or to organizations that serve these populations.” Previously, it had limited its definition to “grantmaking focused on systemic change to advance racial equity.”

The change, introduced on its website Wednesday, raised the number of racial equity donations the organization has categorized in the past decade from roughly 60,000 to 600,000, according to Anna Koob, Candid’s director of research.

Under the new definition, Candid says it’s cataloged nearly 29,000 grants valued at $14.1 billion donated since George Floyd’s death. These include grants from foundations, corporations and wealthy philanthropists though not from everyday Americans, whose giving is difficult to fully track.

Contributions to racial equity are generally defined as providing resources to racial groups according to need, a practice that has been criticized by some conservatives who argue that this approach could neglect other communities in need.

Before the change was announced, Howard Husock, a philanthropy expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, had criticized Candid’s prior definition as favoring counting advocacy initiatives instead of programs that provide direct services. Husock says the new definition is an improvement.

A consensus definition of what constitutes racial equity giving would provide clearer examples of donations to minority communities, said Una Osili, an associate dean at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, and make it easier to determine how much money flows into these causes.

“The reality is there is inexactness in a huge range of terminology within the foundation sector,” said Lori Villarosa, PRE’s executive director. “The number of different ways funders decide what is arts, what is education, what is health, is often fuzzy,”

Though it worked with Candid on its new definition, PRE has a definition of its own. It defines racial equity giving as grants that focus “on the prevention of harm and the redistribution of benefits within existing systems.”

Using Candid’s new definition, which was developed with PRE, the organization reported this week that only about $3.4 billion was given to racial equity by corporations and foundations in 2020, even though billions more have been promised in business and other initiatives to benefit minority communities.