From diversity to representation – a road map for foundations 

Jenny Oppenheimer

There are at least two good reasons why foundation boards and senior management should be representative[1] of the communities they serve. First, they will naturally produce a greater variety of viewpoints and a wider range of experience, which arguably improves decision-making and problem-solving. Second, philanthropic organizations usually champion principles such as equality and fairness, but the reputation of the sector in which they operate will surely be weakened if these values are not reflected in the organizations that espouse them.

If the case for representative boards in the philanthropic sector seems clear, where do we go from here? The first point to make is that the needle has begun to shift on this issue and there is a growing momentum to take this forward.

Some excellent work has already been done by the likes of D5 in the US and by the European Foundation Centre’s Diversity, Migration and Integration Interest Group (the DMIIG), while in the UK the Ariadne community is currently looking at representation on the trustee boards and senior management of UK grantmaking organizations with a view to developing an initiative with interested foundations to take the issue forward. 

Progress, however, has been slow, and the road not always smooth. For one thing, conventional foundation legacies and practices can be significant barriers to representative selection.

Next Special feature to read

The class ceiling 

Jake Hayman