Holding Foundations Accountable for Equity Commitments

Published: August 2021

Type: Publication

Re-imagining foundation accountability through strategy, evaluation, and learning processes

Tanya Beer
Julia Coffman, Headshot

In recent years, foundations of all types and sizes have made commitments to advance racial equity and justice. But good intentions can be undermined by the strategic and administrative structures and processes that shape foundation decisions. Social critics have deconstructed and shed light on the ways in which institutional operating procedures reinforce racism and other forms of injustice in police departments, the courts, and health and welfare agencies. So too, foundation practices warrant serious review.

This article examines how foundation strategy, evaluation, grantee reporting, and monitoring processes have allowed foundations to retain their power and sidestep direct accountability to the people and communities they say they want to serve. Without substantial shifts in decision-making power and how they act in relation to others, foundations may be making equity and justice promises that they ultimately will be unable to keep.

The authors advocate for a transformation in how foundations conceive of and operationalize foundation accountability, such that communities and grantees hold funders accountable for living up to their equity commitments.