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Foundations, Covid-19 and racial disparity: A time for urgent action

ACF's CEO, Carol Mack, writes about the foundation sector's response to Covid-19 in the context of the racial disparity highlighted by this crisis

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.

Many charitable foundations have a long history of commitment to social justice, reducing inequality and countering prejudice in society. Many are active, long-term funders of organisations and initiatives that support those whom society has most marginalised.

But 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.

The Charity So White campaign has asserted that the actions of funders to date to support BAME communities and address racial disparities are not matching the urgency of the situation, and that they have encountered “a range of problematic power dynamics, including many who are early on in their journey of understanding structural racism and learning and acknowledging the power they hold”.

Fortunately, plenty of advice and guidance has already been developed to assist foundations address these important issues before it is too late. For example, the Future Foundations UK network of minoritised racial groups working in the trust and foundations sector has published a call to action and practical recommendations to ensure equitable approaches. And based on early evidence from the Coronavirus crisis, some broad principles for funders of the charity sector have been developed with input from funders and umbrella bodies representing groups highly impacted by Covid19. We will profile these in depth in the next issue of our members’ magazine, Trust & Foundation News.

In a recent article, Charity So White acknowledged that ACF has made 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’, which were developed in collaboration with members and published at the end of 2019. We hope this work will play a part, but we know that we, and the foundation sector, still have a long way to travel.

We are developing a programme of events, meetings and training opportunities for foundations on aspects of DEI practice, including racial inequity, which we will launch later this year. A session on unconscious bias is open to members now, delivered in partnership with equality and human rights charity Brap.

In the meantime, on the 23rd of June we are holding a panel discussion with key expert organisations about their take on the current response by foundations to race inequality in the context of Covid-19, and what they’d like to see happen next.

We invite all ACF members to join this important discussion, which will also be recorded for those not able to attend live. It will be chaired by ACF Trustee, Fozia Irfan, who launched the DEI Coalition of funders six months ago and will update on its progress. Fozia will be joined by four experts and foundation representatives engaged in change: Fatima Iftikhar from Charity So White, Debbie Pippard on behalf of Funders for Race Equality Alliance, Derek Bardowell representing Future Foundations UK and Dilhani Wijeyesekera, Comic Relief's lead on equity and inclusion.

We look forward to seeing you online as we work together to address this critical issue for our sector.

Carol Mack, CEO of ACF

Members of ACF can book their free place here.

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