A little over a year ago, the Tower Foundation began to use a racial equity lens to reflect on our work: How can we be a more equitable grantmaker? (You can read more about this journey here.) While we focus on young people living with intellectual disabilities, substance use disorders, learning disabilities, and mental health challenges, we have not had an explicit focus on the implications of race and other dimensions of identity that intersect with our longstanding focus areas.
It is clear to us that we need better data about our grant partners and the people they serve if we want to lift up equity and inclusion. We have taken an initial step toward closing these information gaps by rolling out a new diversity form that will accompany all of our grant applications. (You can find a sample of this form.) By collecting this data we hope to explore a number of questions:
- Do our grants help decrease disparities and/or advance equity?
- Do our grant partners reach segments of the community that are systematically underserved due to stigma, bias, and racism?
- Do the organizations we fund reflect the diverse communities in which they work?
- Do we support organizations that are led by people of color and people with disabilities?
- Whose perspectives are missing from our pool of applicants?
Tracking this information will inform our internal work on diversity, equity, and inclusion and help us shift a higher proportion of Foundation grants to organizations serving and led by people of color or people with disabilities.
The form is a first step for us in gathering this type of data and making more equity-informed decisions about our grants. In creating this form, we borrowed from diversity forms built by other funders. We made a choice to focus primarily on race and ethnicity as key dimensions of diversity, and also included a question about leaders of color and, given our focus areas, leaders with a disability. We also included an open-ended question so that applicants can describe other dimensions of diversity that may be important to their organization and their work.
We plan to ask all of our 2021 applicants to complete this form, but are open to modifications to the form, based on input that we receive. If you have feedback on ways that we can make this form stronger or more user-friendly, we welcome your suggestions. You can email me directly at email@example.com with your comments.