Robin Hood PowerFund

Investing in Non-Profit Leaders of Color Why we launched The Power Fund and why it remains important

Investing in Non-Profit Leaders of Color



While the tumult and change of the global pandemic, and the period of renewed racial reckoning that now characterize 2020 were tipping points for launching the Power Fund, new evidence about the lack of philanthropic investments in organizations led by people of color propelled us to act. A report by Echoing Green and the Bridgespan Group, detailed the challenges of underinvestment in nonprofits led by people of color, demonstrating how foundations can play a role in addressing or perpetuating inequities through their grantmaking practices. The research showed that although philanthropic giving increased by nearly 400 percent over the last two decades, only 1 out of every 10 dollars went to nonprofit organizations led by people of color, and even fewer dollars were directed to organizations led by women of color. 4 These events and findings set the stage for a prompt national conversation about race, equity, fairness, and opportunity. They also begged for a moment of introspection and self-examination among philanthropic funders, and more so, new commitments to funding for racial equity and racial justice. Nationally, philanthropic institutions committed more than $6 billion towards racial equity and racial justice initiatives, collaboratives, and organizations in the immediate aftermath of 2020 5 , much of that funding representing significant increases in funding levels over prior decades. However, most funding is earmarked for short-term causes between 2 and 10 years, and despite the Echoing Green and the Bridgespan findings, most funding went to organi- zations led by white leaders. Critics tend to point out that grants made by most philanthropic institutions did little to share or transfer decision-making power with or to communities of color. 6 At Robin Hood we were not immune to the influence of the moment. We took a measured approach to helping advance racial equity, focused on learning as we go. We

understood that we needed to remain faithful to Robin Hood’s core operating anchors – to let data inform our investments; scale programs that work; close racial gaps and disparities; use direct service funding, management assistance, research, policy, and advocacy as integrated tools to affect change; and recognize the unique strength of our experience and expertise within communities across New York City’s five boroughs. We looked to support, highlight, and elevate every opportunity to foster innovation, finding new ways to solve the complex problems of poverty. Through our Power Fund partnerships, we’ve begun to correct for the underinvestment in nonprofit organizations led by people of color, which has detrimental impacts beyond the organizations themselves. In a city where 4 out of 5 people living in poverty are people of color, the practice of underinvestment adversely impacts the predominantly Black, Latinx, and Asian communities that we aim to reach. Since launching the Power Fund, Robin Hood funded a report detailing the demographic analysis New York City’s nonprofit leadership and its surrounding counties, In Every County, Across All Budget Sizes: White Overrepresentation in New York City Area’s Nonprofit Leadership . The report, released in April 2023 and prepared by Nonprofit New York in partnership with Candid and SeaChange Capital Partners, cites significant overrepresentation of white nonprofit leaders in comparison to the general population, and overrepresentation among white nonprofit CEOs was especially notable compared to the general population. Our desire, driven by both empirical and quantitative research, to rebuild a “new” New York City that is inclusive, welcoming, and provides opportunity for every New Yorker, justifies why the Power Fund remains relevant today and why Robin Hood seeks to integrate its principles into our core grantmaking portfolio.


4 Bradach, Jeff, Cheryl Dorsey, and Peter Kim. “Racial Equity and Philanthropy.” The Bridgespan Group, May 4, 2020. insights/library/philanthropy/disparities-nonp rofit-funding-for-leaders-of-color. 5 “Two Years after Historic Uprisings, Where does Philanthropy’s Commitment to Racial Justice Stand?” Inside Philanthropy, August 31, 2022. https:// 6 Same as above.

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