Racial Equity in Arts Funding: Executive Summary

Background and Project Scope

Grantmakers in the Arts retained Lighthouse Philanthropy Advisors to undertake the first audit of its commitment to racial equity in arts funding, covering the period of 2008-2016. GIA requested Lighthouse to engage in a comprehensive, organization-wide audit that would culminate in a report with recommendations on observations of internal policies, external communications, and organizational practices as they related to goals of racial equity.

Organizational Audit Questions and Data Collection

Three lines of inquiry undergird this audit:

  • Has GIA established racial equity as an organizational priority in internal policy documents? How does it evaluate its racial equity work and monitor progress towards achieving internal racial equity? How is staff/leadership accountable internally and to whom, and how is GIA accountable externally?
  • How is racial equity reflected internally in GIA’s governance, language and communications, policies, culture, operations, and practices? Are these elements effective in advancing racial equity internally?
  • How does GIA further racial equity externally among its membership through its communications, programs, and practices? What is the quality of those elements and are they having an impact?

To answer these questions, Lighthouse conducted various activities, including: a review of GIA’s internal equity policies, procedures, and programs, as well as its website and other field-oriented communications; a high level field scan to capture the experiences of key racial equity thought leaders and contextualize the audit findings; two surveys, one targeting stakeholder member institutions and another targeting foundation peer groups working in a variety of sectors unrelated to arts and culture; and, interviews with a diverse set of representatives of GIA staff, board, funders, learning group members and “un-connected member organizations.”

Summary of Audit Findings

In brief, the audit findings show that GIA has made considerable progress over the past eight years. Beginning with its bold racial equity framework, to the high quality of its communications, and the variety of platforms used, GIA was rated highly by key audit informants. Lighthouse heard loud and clear that while this work has not been easy, the GIA board, its leadership, and staff have steadfastly moved the organization’s racial equity in arts funding work forward internally and through external programming. Internally, the board composition is trending positive with regard to growing its African, Latine, Arab, Asian, and Native American (ALAANA) membership. But despite this and the leadership of the Racial Equity Board Committee, more work remains to be done. Areas that still need strengthening include organizational culture, staff ALAANA composition, and planning, evaluation, and accountability. Also, GIA should consider developing a formal racial equity plan, with corresponding goals, evaluation metrics, and accountability mechanisms that enhance the organization’s ability to set, measure, and report on its progress to the board and its members. While the quality of GIA’s racial equity programming is rated high and respondents report changes in attitudes and understanding of racial equity issues, it has not yet led to a significant impact in members’ institutional practices.

Audit Recommendations

Strengthening Organizational Polices

  • Consider revising the organization’s Guiding Principles to include an explicit reference to racial equity.
  • Develop and implement a written plan for furthering racial equity within GIA that includes formal mechanisms for setting, tracking, and evaluating racial equity organizational outcomes.
  • Establish a formal accountability system whereby senior staff and the board itself are held accountable for meeting racial equity goals. Ensure that the board has the appropriate cultural competencies to manage and provide feedback on racial equity issues.

Implementing Internal Policies and Enhancing Operational Practices to Create a Racially Equitable Culture

  • Schedule a half-day board retreat to discuss these recommendations and the possibility of a racial equity planning process that could be planned collaboratively by a team comprising staff and the Racial Equity Board Committee.
  • Enhance the quality of training offered by The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond or consider contracting with another training group that uses an expanded and more nuanced/current conceptual framework.
  • Commit to racial equity training for staff and board that is not a one-time event.
  • Continue to improve recruitment and hiring practices and be guided by criteria that support racial equity such as requiring cultural competency for all searches, hires, and performance reviews.
  • Task Racial Equity Committee members of the board with identifying areas of development needed to increase all board members’ capacity to champion racial equity.
  • Strive to keep the positive aspects of GIA’s informal culture, and at the same time, formalize practices that can enhance organizational culture and professional development, such as proactively providing mentoring or leadership development opportunities to line staff.
  • Create a formal evaluation process that the board can use to assess the President & CEO on racial equity organizational goals through both qualitative and quantitative measures. Create a parallel board evaluation and goal setting process.
  • Collect data and post progress towards racial equity goals, including board and staff composition, on the GIA website.

Enhancing Racial Equity Programmatic and Communication Practices

  • Look for opportunities to further strengthen GIA’s traditional and social media messaging, including seeking support from a communications consultant during this current website redesign phase, and increasing its use of social media.
  • Consider convening a focus group to further evaluate and understand GIA member organizations’ stance on racial equity in arts funding and determine how to move forward effectively with them on this issue.
  • Continue to fully integrate GIA’s racial equity conceptual framework into all of its internal and external field-building work.
  • Consider adding more introductory level racial equity sessions at the national conference and other in-person events, offering extended learning opportunities, and/or taking a mini-racial equity session on the road.
  • Make efforts to recognize the differences in members’ level of awareness of and interest in racial equity. Provide education that advances racial equity more equally and effectively among all members.
  • Develop more specific “how to” written materials and training opportunities for the arts funding field that concretely assist members to implement a racial equity lens.
  • Engage trustees and other top decision makers of large, traditional arts and culture funders to move them in their own learning around racial equity, without alienating them.
  • Connect with other affinity groups to increase “intersectionality,” notwithstanding GIA and those groups’ limited staffing and resource capacity to do so.
  • Consider setting racial equity goals and benchmarks for GIA’s work with members to measure progress on internal changes and the impact of their grantmaking, and evaluate this work on an ongoing basis.

Next Steps

As a next step, Lighthouse recommends that GIA hold a retreat to review the full report and begin deliberations that will culminate — over the medium term — in the development and implementation of a racial equity action plan for the organization.