Study Finds African Americans See Barriers to Philanthropic Leadership

Study Finds African Americans See Barriers to Philanthropic Leadership

Despite an increased commitment to diversity within the philanthropic sector, a majority of African Americans do not believe they have real opportunities for meaningful leadership roles within the sector, a report from the finds.

The report, (21 pages, PDF), found that in 2012 only 3 percent of chief executives and 7 percent of trustees at philanthropic organizations in the U.S. were African American, while the percentage of African-American professional staff and program officers had declined slightly from 10 percent and 17 percent  in 2010 to 9 percent and 16 percent in 2012. Based on interviews and focus groups with current and former African-American foundation staff and executives conducted in partnership with the , as well as a survey developed by the study found that 72 percent of respondents believed that African Americans "are making some progress as staff at grantmaking institutions but leadership roles are not substantial."

When asked why African-American philanthropic professionals leave grantmaking work, 41 percent of respondents said their role within grantmaking institutions did not allow them to work directly with communities, 65 percent said they found professional growth opportunities elsewhere, and 22 percent said they were pushed out. The study also identified challenges to the retention of African-American foundation professionals, including a sense of isolation due to politics, lack of a diverse staff, and/or a glass ceiling at the mid-management level (44 percent); an overly bureaucratic organizational culture and limited professional-track training, pipeline networks, and support systems (45 percent); and, especially among program officers, a feeling that their expertise was not valued or trusted by colleagues.

Among other things, the report recommends that executive leadership teams at foundations do more to identify and implement solutions to high turnover and attrition among African-American professionals in philanthropy; that more be done to collect and analyze employment data for African Americans in the sector; that foundations provide mentoring to develop the leadership capacity of African-American staff; and that regional associations of grantmakers do more to support the retention of African-American professionals in the sector.

"Retention strategies are much more about changing the culture of philanthropy as well as providing diverse leaders with the 'armor' and protective factors they need to survive in foundation environments," said ABFE president Susan Taylor Batten, "particularly if they are leaders on issues of racial and social justice."

Susan Taylor Batten. "." Association of Black Foundation Executives Statement 06/09/2014. "." Association of Black Foundation Executives Report 06/09/2014.