Foundation Demographics: Is philanthropy keeping up with our society?

Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 3:58 pm
Niki Jagpal

The Council on Foundations (COF) recently released the 2011 Grantmakers Salary and Benefits Report. The sample includes 910 total foundations of which 544 are COF members. As Rick Cohen notes on his piece about the survey, the survey suffers from the limitations of self-reporting, as do most all of our sector’s data. That said, there are some important trends in the makeup of foundation demographics and compensation that are worth noting:

  • Foundation staff are not young. Only 10 percent of the staff at responding foundations were less than 30 years old, compared to 26.6 percent of the U.S. population that is between the ages of 25 and 44. In addition, Only one of the surveyed foundations reported having a CEO younger than 30.
  • Women remain underrepresented at foundations with assets of more than $750 million. While women have made some gains in their representation among foundation staff, accounting for three-fourths of program officers and 55 percent of CEOs or chief grantmaking officers (CGOs), they comprise only 28.9 percent of CEOs and CGOs at these larger foundations compared to just above 50 percent for foundations with assets between $100 and $250 million and more than three-fourths of these positions at foundations with assets less than $5 million.This is disturbing considering that women account for 50.9 percent of our population according to the 2010 Census.

Foundations seem to reflect the some of the changing demographics of our society. Here are some key facts:

  • Of the survey respondents, 76 percent of full time staff were white, compared to 63.7 percent of U.S. citizens reporting “white alone” as their race in 2010.
  • African Americans comprise 11 percent of full-time staff compared to 12.3 percent of our population.
  • Six percent of foundation staff are Hispanic compared to 12.5 percent in the country.
  • Asians account for four percent of surveyed foundation staff compared to 3.6 percent of our total population.
  • American Indian, Pacific Islander/Hawaiian, biracial, multiracial and “other” races are two percent of foundation staff compared to 8 percent of our national population.

Some races are reflected proportionate to their share of the U.S. population while others lag behind significantly. Moreover, the positions held by non-white foundation staff reflect some disparities: only 9.2 percent of CEOs are people of color while a disproportionate number of accountants, computer and IT professionals and human resources professionals appear to be people of color.

Foundation boards remain largely homogenous, with only 6 percent of trustees being between the ages of 30 and 39. They remain disproportionately male with women accounting for only 38 percent of trustees. And racially, they are mostly white with fully 85 percent of trustees being non-Hispanic whites and only seven percent being African American, four percent Latino, two percent Asian/Pacific Islander and one percent American Indian.

Should foundations reflect exactly the demographic profile of our country? Not necessarily, but the lack of diversity and persistent homogeneity run counter to data that support diversity and dissent as directly associated with effectiveness and better decision-making. Especially at the trustee level, this is incredibly important if a foundation wants to make sound decisions about its grant allocations.

Do you think foundations need to focus on diversifying their ethnic and racial composition, as well as address the gender imbalances in decision-making positions?

Niki Jagpal is research and policy director at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP). This article is also posted at NCRP’s blog, keeping a close eye…

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