Could the Supreme Court’s Decision on Affirmative Action Affect Philanthropy?

Wednesday, May 31, 2023 - 9:47 am
CoF Author Council on Foundations

Will the Supreme Court end affirmative action in June? It seems likely, and the legal consequences may ripple beyond college admissions to other sectors, including philanthropy and the wider charitable sector.   

As you may know, the Court heard two cases – Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard and SFFA v. University of North Carolina (UNC) in October 2022. These cases raised the question of whether the promotion of diversity remains a compelling interest for higher education institutions and, if so, whether a race-conscious admissions program can help achieve that broader interest. Since oral arguments, higher education officials and legal experts have widely discussed the potential ramifications of a ruling prohibiting or even restricting the use of race-conscious admissions program. However, the potential effects outside of the academic arena – including philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, more generally – have not been as widely considered. 

Over the past few years, many foundations have increased their commitments to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion through scholarship programs, leadership development opportunities, and broader grantmaking. Like many of our members, the Council is committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion and supporting our members to expand these investments and commitments.   

We don’t yet know whether these important programs will be impacted by the court’s decision, but the Council will continue to be a resource as foundations navigate the potential legal complexities post-decision. In the meantime, the Council’s legal team is continuing to connect with philanthropic partners, legal experts, and other stakeholders to better understand the potential immediate and long-term impact for foundations and the nonprofit sector, as well as possible paths forward.   

We also know many of you are thinking about the implications for your grantmaking and other critical programs. As we await the decision, here’s what can you do now:  

  1. Share the questions and concerns you are wrestling with using the form below, so our team can work to address them in resources we develop post-decision.  
  2. Join our pop-up conversation at the Council’s Leading Locally conference in Denver: June 13 at 10:45am (MT).  
  3. Get counsel from someone on our team or give us your suggestions for resources by contacting us at  
  4. Stay tuned for a post-decision Council webinar with legal experts and additional resources.  

Submit your questions about the Supreme Court's Affirmative Action ruling

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