Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
December 23, 2019
Communities know their own needs and should be able to make decisions about their future. Yet many communities of color and organizations led by people of color don’t have this opportunity. They have faced decades of disinvestment because of deeply entrenched institutional barriers in how money flows.
As an organization whose primary business is to provide loans and financial advice, NFF is best able to address inequity by helping community-centered organizations gain control of financial resources.
We acknowledge the position of privilege our access to financial and social capital—and that we have been white-led for 40 years—gives us that many organizations on the front lines fighting inequity do not have. We will use our position to advocate for change in the nonprofit sector to make funding practices more equitable and actively support grassroots organizations in advocating their own needs.
Our aim is for every aspect of our work to advance equity. This will require a variety of efforts, some already in place, to evaluate our blind spots and growth opportunities to ultimately guide us to a new way of working with our clients and within our organization.
Our Latest Work
We are proud that our work is mission-driven and guided by our values. While not all of it is specifically equity-focused, here are examples of ways we are working toward equity that represent our growing commitment to this value.
- Working with clients on the front lines of racial justice. Community Connections for Youth is a Bronx-based organization that seeks to reform the juvenile justice system with alternatives to incarceration. CCFY’s model has been so effective that it has grown rapidly. But in the nonprofit sector, growth comes with financial challenges. In 2017, CCFY was awarded a 5-year, $10.3-million contract from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to operate a “Youth Opportunity Hub” in Harlem. Many nonprofits that receive such contracts are burdened with late payments that leave the organization unable to meet expenses. Executive director Rev. Rubén Austria said: “It was crazy to get this large amount of money and still be struggling to make payroll and fending off vendors. We could not get a loan from traditional banks because we rent all of our space and don’t have collateral. When NFF provided a $1-million line of credit, it was a lifeline.”
- Addressing the cultural needs of our diverse clientele. The Theater Offensive (TTO) is a theater company in Boston presenting liberating art by, for, and about queer and trans people of color. Through a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, NFF advised TTO on their strategic plan from 2017 to 2020. Co-producing executive director Harold Steward said that in addition to technical expertise on finances and management, NFF’s advisors offered key cultural competence. “It was important to us to dismantle systems of white supremacy in our own governance. We chose to move toward a collaborative leadership and decision-making model to amplify diverse perspectives in our community. NFF’s advisers researched models alternative to the status quo to make a plan that worked for our values of liberation,” said Steward.
- Working to lead the community finance sector toward equity. In May 2019, NFF received a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to demonstrate how Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) can support economic justice and promote racial equity through their investments. We are partnering with fellow CDFI Capital Impact Partners with an initial focus on how lending to health clinics can help them create better health outcomes for people of color, many of whom disproportionately lack access to high-quality medical care.
- Committing internally to our value of Equity in Action (EIA). We host monthly EIA forums for staff to learn from guest speakers, discuss how we are addressing EIA in our client work and our internal policies and culture, including working with diverse vendors. When hiring, our Talent & Organizational Effectiveness team casts a wide net, reaching out to several networks that represent candidates of varied racial backgrounds. We created an identity style guide to help us communicate with an equity lens and avoid stigmatizing language. Our operations team has developed a process and standards for increasing contracting with diverse vendors.
- Proactive learning from frontline community leaders. We recently conducted a series of conversations with leaders of community-based organizations, many led by and serving people of color. We discussed how to remove structural barriers that limit their access to resources and how to build a future where social sector funding is more inclusive. Insights from these conversations are one of the tools guiding changes to our business focus and practices.
- Sharing our knowledge to inspire others to work toward equity. Our CEO, Antony Bugg-Levine, and other staff author articles and speak at conferences about how to increase equity in social sector funding. In October, Antony published an article and accompanying guide; Addressing Racially Biased Financial Analysis. NFF’s Claire Knowlton and Trella Walker, along with the Weingart Foundation’s Fred Ali, published an article advocating for full cost funding as an essential way to make grants more equitable. In addition, Chronicle of Philanthropy recognized their ongoing work helping nonprofit and foundation leaders come together in honest and open discussions about finances as one of the eight most important innovations in the nonprofit sector in 2019.
We will continue to update this page with our latest efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Check back every few months for our latest work.