Grant-makers accused of bias against ethnic minority-led charities

A report by the Grant Givers' Movement says a lack of diversity at trusts and foundations affects the fundraising efforts of charities run by people from minority backgrounds

Trusts and foundations have a "serious problem of bias" against some charities led by people from ethnic minority backgrounds, a new report warns.

Discrimination, Prejudice & Isomorphism, published today by the Grant Givers’ Movement, a group of people working in grant-giving, says that a lack of diversity among staff and trustees of trusts and foundations affects the fundraising efforts of minority-led charities.

A survey of 130 people working in and around grant-givers found that two-thirds of respondents agreed that a lack of racial diversity among foundation boards affected minority-led charities’ fundraising efforts, with only 5 per cent disagreeing.

More than two-thirds of respondents also said that trustee and staff diversity levels among trusts and foundations affected which organisations received funding.

The survey found that 70 per cent of respondents felt that trustee diversity levels among trusts and foundations affected which organisations got funded.

"These results suggest to us that there is a serious problem of bias against some charities that we feel needs to be addressed," the report says.

"The cumulative experience of those who prepare papers for trustees, build relationships with boards and present funding opportunities to them is that there is prejudice against organisations based on the profile of their executives," it says.

The report warns that the research in the report should not be taken too literally because of issues including the small sample size.

But it says that "the patterns are clear and the numbers are significant enough that they cannot be dismissed".

It adds that the results suggest trusts and foundations do not need only to be more diverse in terms of staff and trustees, but also less biased in their funding decisions.

"There was no suggestion that this bias was conscious (in fact the majority of respondents identified their foundations as ‘inclusive’ places), but that does not make the findings less worrying," it says.

The report says charity and foundation leaders should come together to discuss what can be done to tackle the issue, and says the Grant Givers' Movement will write to some of the major charity umbrella bodies to put forward the idea.

Responding to the report, Carol Mack, chief executive of the umbrella body the Association of Charitable Foundations, said the report dealt with issues of "vital importance to both foundations and the sector more broadly".

She said: "We are keen to learn more about the findings and to discuss potential next steps in order to better understand the nature of some of the problems identified.

"With that in mind, and as a matter of urgency, we have already reached out to representatives from the Grant Givers’ Movement and requested a meeting," she said.

"In the meantime, the ACF will continue to take forward the sector-wide discussion about these and related issues, with the aim of helping foundations to identify and pursue excellent practice in these important areas."

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