Diversity Lacking Among Nation's Philanthropic Organization Leaders; Graustein Memorial Fund Cited As Model of Progress

Five years ago, America’s philanthropic community recognized it had a problem, not uncommon in board rooms nationwide – a lack of diversity.  More than a dozen organizations with connections to thousands of grantmakers came together to found the D5 Coalition to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in philanthropy. Now, the coalition’s final report on progress is out, and the picture is barely encouraging. In an op-ed published this month in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the co-chairs of the D5 initiative Robert Ross, Luz Vega-Marquis and Stephen Heintz said bluntly that “philanthropy remains on a par with country clubs when it comes to exclusivity,” observing that “there have been pockets of progress in the last five years, but philanthropy still does not adequately reflect the diversity of our nation.”Sow15-231x300

“The only source we have on foundation demographics, shows that the proportion of CEOs of color among respondents has remained flat over the past five years at eight percent. The corresponding figure for senior executive staff is a tad more positive – 17 percent, compared to 14 percent five years ago – but there’s been a slight decline in program officers of color.”

The status quo, they emphasized, “is unacceptable.”  They point out that “as matters of inequality in income, employment, housing, public education, justice systems, and health care stake a growing claim on the national agenda, philanthropy must set the tone and pace for inclusiveness, and for who plays a key role in deciding where money goes.”

Robert Ross is the President and CEO of the California Endowment; Luz Vega-Marquis is the President and CEO of the Marguerite Casey Foundation; Stephen Heintz is the President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.  Heintz, a former Connecticut resident, served as a state commissioner in the 1980’s in the administration of Gov. William O’Neill at the outset of his career.

grausteinThe D5 final report features stories about leaders in foundations and other philanthropic organizations taking meaningful action to advance DEI.  “Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to inspire action and change. We hope people working within foundations—whether they are a CEO, an HR manager or a program officer—draw on the important lessons from these stories, and apply them to their own unique situations,” said Kelly Brown, D5 Director. Kelly also cited statistics indicating that “when companies commit themselves to diverse leadership, they are more successful. Foundations and nonprofits,” she said, “have the opportunity to take a page from successful business playbooks.”

Among eight stories included in the final report which point to progress being made is one focused on Hamden-based William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund, headlined “A Family Foundation’s Shift Toward Diversity and Equity.”  The story explained that “Bill Graustein and his trustees had come to feel that the Fund would not make the desired progress addressing social issues unless it more explicitly addressed issues of race and inequality. To oversee that transition, in 2014 it hired as executive director David Addams, a former director of diversity at the ACLU and Vice President of Special Initiatives at the New York Urban League, who had made a mark running the Oliver Scholars in New York City, which identifies promising minority students and prepares them to succeed in top independent high schools and colleges.”

The report goes on to highlight that “a new mission statement, unveiled in 2015, pledges the Fund “to achieve equity in education by working with those affected and inspiring all to end racism and poverty.” The article indicates that they “will continue to attack barriers to achievement within schools and school districts, but, in an interview, Addams says a new focus will be ‘the barriers outside schools that undermine kids and undermine communities.’ Board members and staff members are thinking hard about how to translate the mission statement into new programmatic activity; they hope to present guidelines for the next phase of grant giving by mid-2016.”

Asked in the feature story whether it was important that the Graustein Fund turn to a leader of color at this juncture, Addams, who is African American, responded: “I don’t know if it has to be an African American person, but it has to be someone who can bring a missing perspective to the Fund. Part of that is understanding racism as well as — for me — having had the direct experience of coming up from poverty, and experiencing the barriers, and having been raised by a single black mother.” Addams, the article indicated, “grew up on the South Side of Chicago, in a neighborhood that was, and remains, nearly all black.”D5

The co-chairs of the D5 initiative note that “proponents of diversity and inclusion are successfully broadening the definition of diversity, which has evolved from a focus primarily on race and gender to include sexual orientation and disability. This strengthens our ability to have constructive conversations and help everyone understand how to get more perspectives into philanthropy.”

D5 has worked to help foundations and other philanthropic organizations recruit diverse leaders, identify the best actions for organizations to take, increase funding to diverse communities and improve data collection and transparency. Launched in 2010 as a five-year initiative, D5 has worked to help foundations and other philanthropic organizations recruit diverse leaders, identify the best actions for organizations to take, increase funding to diverse communities and improve data collection and transparency.

Diversity Appears Lacking On Boards Leading Connecticut’s Technology Efforts

As Connecticut steps up its push into technology fields, seeking increased economic activity and more jobs, two of the organizations often associated with propelling opportunity for entrepreneurs and existing tech businesses appear to be less than representative of the state’s diverse population. The Connecticut Technology Council, a statewide association of technology oriented companies and institutions, has 49 individuals on their Board of Directors, according to the Council website.  Based on a cursory review, among the 49 members of the board,  one is African American, two are Asian, and six are women. The seven officers of the organization are all white males. state-tech

Connecticut Innovations, a quasi-governmental organization, has 13 appointed members on its Board of Directors, along with four ex-officio members. Among the appointed members, none are women, none are African Americans, one is Hispanic, and one is Asian American.   Eleven of the 13 appointed members are white males, a review of the website reveals.

The Connecticut Technology Council provides leadership in areas of policy advocacy, community building and assistance for growing companies.  Speaking for over 2,000 companies that employ some 200,000 residents, the Council seeks to provide a strong and urgent voice in support of the creation of a culture of innovation, the organization’s website explains.

This includes working to position Connecticut as a leader in idea creation, workforce preparation, entrepreneurial aptitude, early stage risk capital availability and providing on-going support and mentoring to high potential firms.connecticut-technology-council

The mission of the Connecticut Technology Council is “to build an interactive community of innovators and their supporters that can leverage these great advantages to create a thriving economy, job growth, a global reputation for entrepreneurial support, and a lifestyle that attracts the best and brightest people to come here and retains the young people who have grown up here.”CTC board

Since its founding in 1994, the CTC has had the continued support of the state’s leading corporations, which have enabled CTC to stimulate and facilitate the growth and awareness of technology-based companies throughout Connecticut.  The CTC currently lists 10 major sponsors – including corporations, businesses and law firms – and 28 supporting sponsors.

Members include investors, startups, established public and private companies, university and private industry researchers, government agencies, academic institutions, local development agencies, and senior executives from a wide range of industries.

Connecticut Innovations (CI), a quasi-governmental organization created in 1989 to provide strategic and operational insight to companies to push the frontiers of high industries such as energy, biotechnology, information technology photonics, plays a key role in the deployment of the state’s efforts toward supporting innovation and entrepreneurship.  The Connecticut Development Authority was folded into CI three years ago.

Connecticut Innovations’ Board of Directors includes four women serving in ex-officio capacities - all by virtue of the elected or appointed positions they hold:  State Treasurer Denise Nappier, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith, Deputy Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management Karen Buffkin, and Board of Regents for Higher Education Director of Innovation and Outreach Gail Coppage.  Among the appointed members of the Board, none are women, none are African Americans, one is Hispanic, and one is Asian American.

The 17-member board is composed of nine members appointed by the governor and four appointed by the leadership of the General Assembly, as well as four ex-officio members who serve by virtue of their positions with the state: the State Treasurer, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, the President of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, and the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management (or their designees).

Connecticut Innovations’ Board of Directors is responsible for developing the overall strategic framework from which the organization creates policies and initiatives to help it succeed. The board is responsible for adopting an annual plan of operation and budget, overseeing the organization’s financial activities, including its investments, and overall governance of Connecticut Innovations. CI Board

Connecticut Innovations’ board of directors announced earlier this month that Claire Leonardi has resigned as chief executive officer. Leonardi’s last day will be January 8, 2015, which will allow her to assist with the transition and help the board name a successor, according to a CI news release.  Leonardi led CI for three years, and her accomplishments include its consolidation with the quasi-public Connecticut Development Authority, absorbing CDA.

CI was also in the news earlier this fall, when the quasi-public put on hold its investment and entrepreneurial programs until early next year because it lacked sufficient state funds to cover additional commitments, according to published reports.  Funds were allocated by the State Bond Commission last month.

The State Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and CI have created an Innovation Ecosystem called CTNEXT. As a public-private partnership, CTNEXT catalyzes public and private resources to better support the formation, growth and attraction of companies with high growth potential, according to the state’s Economic Development Strategy report, published earlier this year.  That document notes that “Diversity of people is also a critical prerequisite to innovation.”