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ACF calls for ‘urgent action’ to address racial disparity

200 foundation representatives came together today to discuss foundations' response to racial disparity, particularly in the context of Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter. A panel of experts shared views on foundations’ responses to date, and what they’d like to see happen next, as well as setting out a range of practical way to make urgent changes to funding practices.

Chaired by Fozia Irfan, ACF trustee and CEO of Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundation, the speakers were Fatima Iftikhar from Charity So White, Debbie Pippard on behalf of Funders’ Alliance for Race Equality, Derek Bardowell representing Future Foundations UK, and Dilhani Wijeyesekera, Comic Relief's lead on equity and inclusion.

The discussion came amid fears for the future of BAME-led organisations. Recent research has found that BAME-led organisations are highly vulnerable to the financial impact of covid-19. A survey of 137 BAME-led micro and small organisations by the Ubele Initiative, a social enterprise, found that 87% do not have sufficient reserves to last more than three months, and therefore risk closure.

Foundations were challenged to address racial inequalities in their funding processes and outcomes, with speakers sharing experiences of practices that excluded or deterred BAME applicants. The speed and agility with which many foundations have responded to the covid-19 crisis shows how change is possible, and suggestions included ringfencing funding and joining sector-wide initiatives to increase funding for BAME-led organisations.

In addition, speakers asserted the importance of foundations recognising internal inequalities, including in their organisation’s history and how assets were accumulated. Speakers highlighted ACF’s Stronger Foundations reports on strategy and governance and transparency and engagement, which both emphasise these considerations as a vital element of stronger practice.

The speakers offered a range of suggestions for action, some of which are being implemented to an extent within the foundation sector. A bank of these resources is available here.

ACF Chief Executive Carol Mack said:

“Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown are having a disproportionate impact on BAME communities. There is an urgent need for action. An effective response now needs BAME voluntary organisations to be at the heart of it, as well as in the thinking about how the country comes out of the current crisis. To achieve that, national and local government, foundations and other funders need to work with BAME organisations to build long-term sustainable funding for the sector.

“ACF is making progress in the way that it supports foundations in their approach to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), principally through promotion of the ‘pillars of stronger foundation practice’. We hope this work will play a part, but we know that we, and the foundation sector, still have a long way to travel, not least in addressing with urgency the specific racial inequalities this meeting explored.

“I know foundations want to be doing more so I urge foundation staff and trustees to check out our web page with supporting advice and to read the Stronger Foundations report on wider good practice in diversity, equity and inclusion.”

The webinar recording is available to view below.

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