Key Points

Lessons from the events of this historic time — from a national reckoning with systemic racism to a global pandemic and its economic and social fallout — have deep implications for philanthropy that go beyond grantmaking and include fundamental questions about the sector’s role, power, and influence in advancing equity and social change. Confronting those questions requires a look inward at the practices, policies, structures, mindsets, and cultural norms that govern how foundations operate.

The experience of The California Endowment and The James Irvine Foundation shows what can be learned from this period of crisis and disruption. Through specific examples from both funders, this article illustrates how the iconic iceberg model can be used as a tool to move beyond surface-level responses to explore eight tangible, equity-focused shifts in the way they practice philanthropy.

This article also shares reflections on what it really takes to shift norms, structures, and power in ways that lead to equitable outcomes and embed equity throughout an organization — and what gets in the way.

Open Access