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Racial Equity Commitment

Addressing structural racism and creating more equitable opportunities for health

For a person to attain a level of good health, they must first have a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This is known as health equity. Unfortunately, for so many living in North Carolina, this fair and just opportunity has been limited, and for some even denied. The reason: the color of their skin.

Structural racism is the result of generations of public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other social norms creating and reinforcing inequities among racial and ethnic groups.

In 2020, we initiated a process to deepen our commitment to addressing structural racism and more specifically supporting racial equity, which is achieved when racial identity no longer predicts how a person fares in life.

Our work began with developing a greater understanding of the ways in which racism drives inequities in the areas of our work and then identifying potential avenues for our Foundation to focus. This process was informed most substantially by external feedback – involving grantees, peer funders, community stakeholders, and subject-matter experts – and complemented conversations with our board, along with an ongoing internal equity learning and discovery process.


Our Commitment

This work culminated in our commitment to supporting racial equity, focused specifically on:

  • Deepening racial equity within our topical focus areas
  • Investing in capacity building to promote equity
  • Supporting leaders of color and increasing funding of people of color-led organizations
  • Creating a more equitable grantmaking process

Living out this commitment is prioritized in who we fund, what we fund, and how we fund, in addition to how we function as an organization.


Who And What We Fund:
Achieving Equity In Grantmaking

As a foundation, our grantmaking is one of the most significant means by which we can impact racial equity, both in who and in what we fund. This includes our investing in racial equity-focused grants and initiatives, as well as grants specifically supporting leaders of color and people of color-led organizations.

Driving Principles
Our work is both driven and guided by two concepts, health equity and racial equity.  Achieving health equity requires removing obstacles to good health – such as poverty, discrimination, and geography – and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to fair paying jobs, quality education, housing, safe environments, and health care.

Health equity is also the through line that connects our grantmaking, with nearly all grants approved by our foundation addressing one or more of its aspects.

Racial equity is a dimension of health equity, one that we have prioritized as a distinct aspect of our approach. Racial equity is achieved when racial identity no longer predicts, in a statistical sense, how one fares in life; it includes work to address the root causes of inequities, not just their symptoms. Therefore, racial equity is both a process and an outcome.

Investing in Racial Equity
As we operationalize our approach, we have been intentional about defining racial equity within the context of grantmaking. For us this means support of issue areas that are explicit about racial disparities and inequitable impacts on communities of color (e.g., Black maternal health or the racial bias in pre-school suspensions and expulsions); supporting place-based initiatives in historically underserved geographies and communities of color as with our Community-Centered Health approach; and investing in population specific coalitions and initiatives such as the North Carolina Collaborative for Strong Latinx Communities and the North Carolina Black Alliance.

Investing in People of Color-led Organizations 
Specific, and direct, funding of Black, Latino, American Indian, and other people of color-led organizations is also a critical and distinct aspect of our racial equity work. Within our funding context, people of color led refers to an organization’s leadership and governance.


Benchmarking
As we have set out to benchmark our work, we have also been intentional about a high level of self-interrogation and using data as a tool to assess where we were with our funding, where we are making progress, and where we can grow and improve. Foundational to our approach is the understanding that achieving equity in funding amounts is just as important as the number of grants made.

This started with a Portfolio Analysis of all our grants dating back to 2019, providing a level of historical context about where our money was going in relation to racial equity. This was complemented with a comprehensive Survey of Recipients of Foundation Funding seeking demographic information on the organizations we have supported, their leadership and boards, and the audiences they serve.

Combined, these two initiatives yielded some important insights, detailed in the graphics below.

A few things to note about the graphics:

The data break out our grantmaking into two categories:

  • Grants focused on racial equity, and
  • Grants directly supporting Black, Latino, American Indian, and other people of color-led organizations.

The data represent the distinction between:

  • Total number of grants approved, and
  • Total dollar amount of grants approved, an important equity indicator.

The data presented represent:

  • Grantmaking that includes our COVID-19 relief funding, and
  • Grantmaking that excludes our COVID-19 relief funding.

Our COVID-19 response very intentionally centered racial equity by investing in Black, Latino, American Indian, and other people of color-led organizations and communities to help stem COVID's negative short- and long-term health and social impacts on these disproportionately impacted populations. However, separating out these grants is a more accurate portrayal of historical funding patterns connected to our existing strategies and focus areas.

 


Goals

This benchmarking created the foundation from which long-term goals could be established. These targets will have significant impact on our grantmaking strategy and programmatic approach for years to come.

  • By 2024, at least 60 percent of our grant funding will prioritize racial equity.
  • By 2026, at least 60 percent of our grant funding will support people of color-led entities.


Funding Opportunities
Achieving these goals will require us to ensure these commitments continue to be integrated and elevated into our existing strategies in addition to the development of new funding opportunities that are explicitly focused on funding people of color-led organizations and racial equity focused programs and initiatives. The following are some of the grantmaking opportunities designed to support our efforts to prioritize racial equity in who and what we fund.

Previous  

Upcoming

  • Connecting Latino Communities to Advance Health Equity and to Develop State-Level Latino Health Priorities
    This initiative is designed to support a coalition of networked, Latino-led and serving organizations with a shared policy agenda to improve health in the communities they serve.
  • Enhancing Data Capacity in Communities as a Tool for Social Change to Achieve Racial Equity
    This emerging body of work is aimed at cultivating community capacity to use data to identify actionable strategies for policy and systems change connected to racial and health equity.
  • Models for Addressing Racial Inequities in Preschool Suspensions and Expulsions
    These grants will test and evaluate promising models that address the causes and conditions that lead to preschool suspensions and expulsions and to build statewide leadership capacity on the issues.
  • Supporting Leadership Development for People of Color in the Nonprofit Sector
    This multi-year leadership program, supported in partnership with other funders, is designed to establish a supportive ecosystem for shared learning by leaders of color in North and South Carolina and will promote increased investments in leaders and organizations led by people of color in both states.

We encourage you to sign up to be notified of upcoming grantmaking opportunities and other news from the Foundation and to review our Frequently Asked Questions for specific details about our grant process.


How We Fund

Evolving how we fund is as important as our approach to who and what we fund. For us this means a more concerted focus on equitable access to funding and fostering a positive applicant experience. While this work continues to take shape, a few examples of this in practice include:

  • Developing more open funding opportunities
  • Expanding the reach of funding opportunities
  • Prioritizing language-access for native Spanish-speakers
  • Integrating individuals with lived experience into the grantmaking decision process
  • Reducing documentation, and streamlining the application process, for new grants
A More Equitable Approach to Grantmaking

In 2021 we implemented a redesigned application process for an early childhood funding opportunity aimed at supporting grassroots organizations led by Black, Latino, American Indian, and other people of color. The objective: a more equitable, streamlined, and transparent approach to grantmaking.

Changes included engaging community partners in the development of the opportunity, grassroots outreach to potential grantees, and review of applications; translating materials into Spanish and providing real-time interpretation for information sessions; and streamlining the application process to reduce the overall time burden on prospective grantees.

We engaged in a formal evaluation of this initiative to capture lessons learned as an opportunity to both inform our work moving forward and to support others interested in advancing equity and improving applicant experience through their grantmaking practices.

How We Function as an Organization 

While we have a dedicated infrastructure to support and guide our efforts, we believe racial equity belongs to everyone – from those recommending grant funding and setting our strategy to those developing the processes that guide our work.  A few ways we facilitate and support this includes:

  • Learning, Evaluating, Adapting: By leveraging our organization’s learning and evaluation function, we are able to assess our racial equity-focused work, take corrective action, and share our learnings with the field.
  • Equity Guides: A sub-committee of team members, representing various parts of the organization, who provide guidance on understanding and operationalizing equity in both our public-facing and internal work, including establishing a framework for accountability.
  • Organizational Racial Equity Assessment: This was the culmination of more than two years of equity-based education and exploration, assessing and modifying many aspects of our organization from team dynamics and decision-making structure to the policies and processes that undergird our work.     
  • Training and Professional Development: Providing for, and supporting, training and development opportunities is an ongoing organizational priority to support individual and team member growth.

Staying Connected

The ideas and insights of our community partners are key drivers of our work and we value the opportunity to be in conversation with our grantees, partners, and the community at large. We welcome you to share your feedback and inquiries about our commitment to racial equity with Shelia Reich, Director of Racial Equity and Healthy Communities, at shelia.reich@bcbsncfoundation.org.