The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a philanthropic foundation devoted to developing a brighter future for millions of children at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes. Because children need all three to succeed, the Foundation focuses on strengthening families, building stronger communities, and ensuring access to opportunity. Based in Baltimore and working throughout the country, the Casey Foundation provides grants that help federal agencies, states, counties, cities and neighborhoods create more innovative, cost-effective responses to the issues that negatively affect children.
- Collecting demographic data from grantees can illuminate a foundation’s funding portfolio, inform grantmaking decisions, and support conversations on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- If foundations require grantees to submit demographic data, it should also collect similar data for its own staff and board.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation has always been a data-driven organization. The Foundation uses data to enhance their decision-making ability and to track and monitor their progress. Years ago, however, very few grant-funding organizations were formally tracking the compositions of their staff and grantees. In fact, a 2006 Greenlining Institute report found that less than 8% of funding was given to organizations of color. These findings moved Casey to action. In 2011, the Foundation informed its grantees that it would ask them to voluntarily share the demographic composition of their staff and board.
Initially, there was pushback regarding the Foundation’s request. Many grantees did not understand why Casey was collecting this data, and some feared that their lack of diversity would harm their funding stability. The Foundation assured its grantees that the diversity of staff and board would not determine funding decisions. Rather, the data would be used to understand the Foundation’s funding portfolio and deepen conversations regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
After collecting and analyzing its grantee data for two years, Casey found that the majority of people of color in their grantee pool held administration level positions and were not represented at the highest level of leadership. Furthermore, Casey found that white-led organizations received larger grants for work on strategic initiatives and thought partnership while people of color-led organizations received smaller grants primarily for direct services. Thus in 2013, the Foundation formally added collecting demographic data to their grantmaking process. Grantees could no longer receive a funding agreement until they provided demographic workforce data. Today, 40% of grantee staff are people of color, and there’s been a slight increase in CEOs of color. The Foundation’s top 20 grantee organizations are also becoming more diverse and inclusive.
The Casey Foundation also looked internally at the composition of their own staff and board. The Foundation recognized that it could not make a requirement of its grantees without meeting the same standard. An internal affinity group analyzed Casey’s staff composition and recommended that they share their own data every year. Now every May, Casey prepares a data report and shares it with its staff and grantees. Similarly, Casey sends a data report to all its grantees showcasing how they fair in relation to other grantees. Since these data reports, many grantees have increasingly prioritized DEI and have stated that they have a strategic planning process or consultants helping to develop an effective DEI plan.
For those foundations looking to replicate Casey’s work, the Foundation encourages others to be transparent and explicit about the data they seek, the purpose of the data, and most importantly, what the data will not be used for. Many grantees found comfort in knowing the staff composition had no impact on the grantmaking process. Additionally, Casey continues to think about how data can be used to help the organization become a more effective, diverse, and inclusive funder. To read more about Casey’s journey and how the Foundation promotes racial equity and inclusion in its work, read its Operationalizing Equity Report.