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Major Funders Join Enviro Groups in Sharing Diversity Data

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Building on its December announcement in Washington, D.C., that six major U.S. environmental organizations would soon begin reporting diversity data, Green 2.0 has now announced that five top U.S. funders of environmental work will follow suit. To date, nearly 60 environmental nonprofits have submitted or pledged to submit diversity data by April 2015.

At its “Breaking the Green Ceiling” forum in San Francisco earlier this month, Green 2.0 announced that by April, the Bullitt, Hewlett and Kresge Foundations, the Meyer Memorial Trust and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund will include diversity data in their profiles on Guide Star, an online database of nonprofit organizations.

The earlier announcement came in the wake of Green 2.0’s publication of The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations, which concluded that a “green ceiling” has led to under-representation of people of color on boards of directors and in staff leadership positions at mainstream environment groups, as well as at the foundations that support them and at government agencies.

‘Green Ceiling’ Hinders Up to 88 Percent

The report said “although people of color now account for more than a third of the U.S. population, they have on average not broken the 12-16 percent ‘green ceiling’” at the nearly 300 entities surveyed.

 “Submitting data to GuideStar allows us to establish an important baseline to measure diversity efforts,” said Green 2.0 founder Robert Raben. 

New America Media, which helped organize the San Francisco forum, reported that Green 2.0 Director Danielle Deane told attendees that foundations and nonprofits “acknowledge that diversity is important to make a difference,” but their efforts in that direction have been “lackluster.”

Peggy Saika, president and executive director of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, commented, “The question for us is, ‘Who makes decisions?’ People and communities that are most impacted by those decisions must not only lead on those issues, but they must be actively participating.”

Diversity Dividend

In an opinion piece for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Raben and Robert Ross, chief executive of the California Endowment and co-chair of the D5 Coalition of foundations seeking to advance diversity and equity in philanthropy, observed:

“Latinos and blacks routinely tell pollsters they strongly support efforts to promote clean air and water and measures to fend off climate change…That should come as no surprise, since the health consequences of environmental disasters fall hardest on communities of color. With leaders at the helm who have expertise in reaching those communities, the environmental movement could experience a dramatic boost.

 “The lack of diverse faces on environmental boards and in executive leadership means a missed opportunity to build alliances with influential organizations already run by leaders of color. These are the people who know how to conduct environmental outreach in their communities and bring a wealth of knowledge to the green nonprofits.

“It is the responsibility of foundation leaders to adopt the best hiring practices,” they continued, adding that a recent McKinsey & Company study showed “companies with women and people of color in their management produced stronger financial results than those that did not.”

They concluded by asking, “If there is a ‘diversity dividend’ for corporate America, why can’t there be one for foundations and nonprofits?”

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