Yesterday, the Los Angeles area Weingart Foundation declared itself all-in on equity, setting this as its exclusive focus. In this, they join the Ford Foundation, which made a similar commitment to address inequality a little more than a year ago. The statement made by Ford Foundation President Darren Walker at the time talked about not only the “what and why” of this intensive focus but also about the question of “with whom” priorities were to be set and “how” grants were to be made. In this, the two statements have some of the same elements: unrestricted operating grants over project grants, for instance, along with listening more carefully to marginalized voices, and reflection on their position with their grantee partners. The statements do have some major differences, of course, but the similarities are striking, and in Weingart’s case the move has deep roots. From the Weingart statement:
To advance equity requires an examination of privilege, including the power dynamics between funders and nonprofits. Our full commitment to equity will also require the Foundation to constantly examine our own internal policies, practices, and culture with regard to equity and inclusion.
This is not the first time NPQ has reported on Weingart’s progressive grantmaking practices. In May of this year, we recognized them for actually making grants to help organizations build reserves. Last November, Weingart took the risk of criticizing, with two colleague foundations, the Broad Foundation for throwing its weight around in L.A.’s hotly embattled school reform agenda. It also helped back the campaign to raise the minimum wage in L.A. this past year, funding the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy for its campaign by providing core support.
As Roxana Tynan wrote on the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy blog on the occasion of the win, “Foundations are increasingly looking at how multi-year, general operating support creates opportunities for organizations to work on long-term planning that results in advocacy and organizing wins. […] Multi-year, core support allows us to respond nimbly and quickly jump into campaign work as new opportunities to build power for low-wage workers arise.”
In its 2017 program plan that accompanies the statement, Weingart goes further, writing that the commitment will be realized through:
- A robust network of nonprofits across Southern California that builds the personal and collective community power required to sustain long-term prosperity;
- Stronger and more effective nonprofits led and staffed by people who are representative of the communities they serve;
- More opportunities for nonprofit partners to leverage resources and increase partnerships with other funders, government entities, and other institutions; and
- Meaningful policy and systems change that lifts the communities who currently face the most obstacles to opportunity.
Because Weingart has already been walking this path, this declaration comes across as intensification rather than the faddish embrace of a new direction, as we have seen with other foundation pivots. Among other commitments, it promises to “increase…engagement with grantees around the importance of diversity and cultural competence as important indicators of organizational effectiveness” and extend its commitment to multi-year grants.
The Weingart statement can be found on the front page of the Foundation’s website and is signed by Fred Ali, President & CEO, and Monica C. Lozano, Chairman of the Board. We have reprinted it in full below.
A Full Commitment to Equity
Throughout our careers, we have been struck by the fact that life in our society is simply not fair. We do not all have the same access to the resources necessary to meet our basic needs or to opportunities to realize our dreams.
Southern California is a place practically built on hopes and dreams. Our region has long offered the promise of education, jobs, homes, and healthy lifestyles. Like our founder, Ben Weingart, people seeking opportunity have journeyed here—from across the country and around the world—full of hope for something better for their families and their future.
But far too many who saw Southern California as a place of opportunity have been disappointed. Across the region, people are struggling daily for the things some take for granted—safe streets, good jobs, access to health care, affordable housing, and a quality education for our families.
For 65 years, the Weingart Foundation has focused on serving the underserved by supporting nonprofit organizations fighting poverty and expanding opportunity for the Southern California communities that face the most obstacles. Our core values of listening to, and learning from, grantees and communities have always guided us—leading the Foundation, for example, to make a significant shift to focus on unrestricted grantmaking nearly 10 years ago.
But despite our best efforts, and the good work of others, the reality is that conditions in much of our region, and for so many people, are getting worse.