By Howie Schaffer, Bonanza Communications
Can greater cultural competency help funders better align their resources with needs? Despite notable accomplishments and donors who care a great deal about serving historically underserved populations, philanthropy continues to struggle to achieve social change for the communities and populations that need it most.
Even the most thoughtful and productive philanthropists—including those who aim to serve, and do serve, highly diverse constituencies—may innocently overlook one component when assembling their boards or advisors: cultural competency, the ability to interact effectively with people from different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds.
“Donors may inadvertently apply their own cultural lens in defining the needs of communities and populations, and in researching and offering solutions to these needs,” according to D5, a 5-year coalition to increase philanthropy’s diversity, equity, and inclusiveness, “or they may assume that there are no real differences across communities.”
Set the Stage
Board members are typically chosen for their commitment to the foundation’s mission, level of involvement in the community, field knowledge, proficiency in financial management, legal expertise, or other specialized skills.
“When foundations achieve more diverse and inclusive boards,” says D5 Director Kelly Brown, “that factor can go a very long way toward engendering greater cultural competency throughout the organization, no matter the size.”