The Tower Foundation envisions equitable communities where all young people are included, accepted, and valued; and are confident in themselves.

There are four focus areas at the center of the Tower Foundation’s grantmaking: mental health, substance use disorders, intellectual disabilities, and learning disabilities. The recent, intensified national conversation about structural racism pushes us to look at the intersectional realities that our young people face. Racism and other “isms” used to divide and marginalize groups, when combined with our focus areas, complicate the needs of the young people in our communities and can throw into question the appropriateness of traditional responses to them. Equitable grantmaking brings with it a new set of questions. Are services really reaching underserved communities? Are they delivered in culturally appropriate ways? How does stigma affect communities in differing ways?

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Goals

In 2021, the Tower Foundation’s Board and staff established a set of aspirational equity goals that continue to drive our equity work.

  • We conduct our grantmaking with an equity perspective. Paying attention to systemic inequities that intersect with our four focus areas, makes us a more intentional and just funder.
  • We advocate for equitable systems. We are explicit about advancing systemic equity for the populations we focus on, and we examine and experiment with ways to improve unjust systems.
  • We closely resemble the communities that we fund. Our staff and board, and our culture of belonging, show that we value diverse voices.
  • We meaningfully engage communities in our work. The Foundation engages and co-creates with community in convenings, feedback, and decision making.
  • We prioritize learning about diversity, inclusion, and equity and apply what we learn. We are committed to learning and growing at the individual, interpersonal, organizational, and systemic levels to promote a culture of belonging internally and externally. We are data-informed and use our communications platform to advance racial equity.

For more information about these goals, including the steps we envision taking to make progress, click here

Equity-Related Programming

As we learn more about equity, we are committed to growing alongside our grant partners and sharing what we learn with the community. Two bodies of work reflect this commitment: our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Learning Network; and intersectionality webinar series.

DEI Learning Networks

Continued learning about diversity, equity, and inclusion is a priority for the Foundation both in our day-to-day operations and in our work with grant partners. In this spirit, the Foundation has convened two cohorts of a DEI Learning Network over the last two years, bringing together nonprofit leaders who are working to champion equity at their organizations. Foundation staff members convene these networks, but the goals and activities are co-designed by all participants.

The DEI Learning Network fosters peer support and peer-driven learning on equity issues across organizations. The network also serves as a critical touchpoint, keeping the Foundation informed of equity work taking place at the organizations and across the communities that we fund.

Intersectionality Webinar Series

Every person’s self-image, worldviews, and life experiences are defined by a handful of identities, some of which put people at a disadvantage. At the Tower Foundation, we especially pay attention to four such identities: learning disabilities, mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities, and substance use disorders.

As described by Kimberlé Crenshaw, the concept of “intersectionality” helps us understand that people are often disadvantaged by multiple sources of oppression at once. The intersectionality framework acknowledges that when multiple disadvantaged identities come together, even more disadvantage occurs. For example, a young person with a learning disability who is also Black is likely to encounter greater disadvantage accessing the support they need due to the intersection of ableism and racism.

The Foundation highlights key intersections through an Intersectionality Webinar Series. Webinar topics have included the intersection of incarceration and substance use, and the intersection of school suspensions, race, and the Tower Foundation focus areas.


For more information about the DEI focus at the Tower Foundation, contact Chuck Colston or Megan MacDavey or take a look at some of our most recent blog posts:

A few of our favorite resources that have inspired us over the years: