Key Points

Community foundations across the United States hold a powerful role in leading meaningful social change toward an equitable future. Despite their unique leadership role at the intersection of place, race, wealth, and inequality, we understand little about how these foundations understand and implement efforts that are responsive to issues in their communities, especially those that have been historically marginalized.

This article examines how community foundations within an aligned-action network are engaging in philanthropic efforts through their shared commitment to advancing social and economic mobility. Using data from interviews with foundation staff, network meeting observations, and network documents over the course of a year, we sought to answer three research questions: how community foundations define equity; what structures, processes, and activities were perceived as supporting their equity-related work; and how membership in Network for Equity + Opportunity Nationwide can help highlight these efforts. Findings illuminate a model of philanthropic efforts along two dimensions: foundation focus (internal and external) and expression type (implicit and explicit).

This article unfolds the process within collaborative efforts among community foundations and offers insights for other foundations to better understand expectations and prepare for the conditions necessary to meaningfully engage in social equity and justice efforts with internal and external community stakeholders.

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