The Principles of Effective Family Philanthropy: Equity

Effective family philanthropy makes a collective commitment to meaningful societal change. It holds itself accountable to impact as defined by community, and to the proven practices that support it. It is adaptive, evolving with the family and the community or ecosystem within which it operates. It shares or cedes power with different family members and generations, as well as staff, communities, and grantees. Learn more about the principle of equity in the context of family philanthropy here.


Cathy Cha: Really lean into diversity, equity, inclusion with joy. And the reason why I say that is, you know, at the core of it, a lot of the DEI journey is about learning about other people, getting closer to communities, their histories, their culture, getting closer to your staff, their differences, their similarities, their culture, their backgrounds. And that is incredibly joyful.

Erin Borla: We focus in rural communities. Rural communities have been left out of a lot of conversation. We focus with a lot of our work with Indigenous communities. The Indigenous communities have been left out of a lot of conversations. We have tried to transition our definition of equity to distance from power. And that may mean a Black community in an inner city. It may mean a migrant community working on a farm, and it may mean a whole community eight hours away from where power is held and decisions are made. And so if we look at the framing of how we’re looking at equity, it allows us to have a more broad conversation and bring more voices to the table.

Liz Dozier: To practice in equitable ways looks like really understanding our own bias and how that shows up in our decision making every single day within our practices, within our organization, how it shows up in policies, and really just unpacking our own bias and our own even understanding of what risk is.

Kelly Nowlin: It’s not enough just to hire diverse staff or bring on non-family board members that don’t look like you. It is about embedding this in in more of a cultural way. It’s a commitment to ongoing learning. It’s not ensuring that you don’t burden your staff or your grantees to bring maybe a white, predominantly white board along this journey. We have to be accountable personally and do the work ourselves.

Sergio Rodriguez: I thought we already checked the equity box by virtue of the fact that we were serving Latino students in Texas whose college completion numbers really lag their white counterparts in Texas as they do in many other parts of the country. But in talking to college presidents, administrators, success officers, other foundations, and most of all students in college who were like the students that we would be serving, I really learned that there were multiple layers there that we could be impacting the students.

Nick Tedesco: So any meaningful change begins with awareness and awareness at the individual level. Individuals within family units must commit to learning more about why equity matters, why it’s an important and fundamental part of family philanthropy, and how a family can commit to centering it in their work, both in their governance practices, the decisions that they make, as well as the social impact strategies.

June Wilson: But we know that we do live in a system where some folks are advantaged and some folks are disadvantaged. And so in that, could we start to use a reparations framework, a way to sort of say, is there something because we’re human and we care about each other that we might think about what is the repair that we are all responsible for? It’s not just those back then. We are living in this system. We are all impacted by the system. What might we do now? What is possible now?