Progress Made + the Path Forward: Handy L. Lindsey Jr.’s Eponymous Lecture on Inclusiveness in Philanthropy

Monday, April 22, 2013

Handy L. Lindsey Jr.As the 2013 recipient of an award established in his name ten years ago by Chicago African Americans in Philanthropy, Handy L. Lindsey Jr. delivered a lecture on diversity and inclusiveness on April 4, 2013. Chicago African Americans in Philanthropy (CAAIP) champions diversity in grantmaking institutions, organizes strategic partnerships, and recognizes and celebrates innovative philanthropic leadership.

Mr. Lindsey is the recently retired President of the Cameron Foundation in Virginia, with more than 30 years of experience in the philanthropic and nonprofit sector, much of it in Chicago. Before joining the Cameron Foundation in 2004, he was President of The Field Foundation in Chicago. At the April 2013 lecture, he offered a concise overview of the progress of diversity and inclusion efforts within the field, provided data about the current need for more work in this area, and proposed a focused path for future efforts.    

Mr. Lindsey began by defining terms: “Diversity is about bringing a wide array of people and their differences to the table. It is about presence and numbers [within grantmaking organizations]. Inclusiveness is about giving equal power to diverse voices and valuing those differences in perspective and experience. Inclusiveness allows those who are different from the majority culture to be comfortable bringing their entire selves into the workplace. Inclusiveness gives diverse individuals the opportunity to participate fully as decisionmakers

In celebrating progress in inclusiveness in philanthropy, Mr. Lindsey noted that “a host of community foundations endeavor to demonstrate what the word ‘community’ means in their names by reaching out to communities of color, not only as beneficiaries, but at potential sources of donors as well. Corporate grantmakers, through market-driven adoption of specific internal programming and setting discrete goals, have moved steadily forward on the inclusiveness agenda. There are many other individual acts of deliberation and courage. They are truly too numerous to mention.”    

Despite some recent increases in minority representation within foundation staff and leadership, Mr. Lindsey highlighted the continued need for intentional hiring policies, and mentioned data that reveals a continued disparity between minority and non-minority-focused grant awards. He noted that organizational change and challenges to the status quo are difficult, and that many in philanthropy hold the illusion that philanthropic inclusion (and indeed, a post-racial nation) have already been achieved. He said that if change is not championed, challenges to minority communities still struggling within an economic “recovery” will simply multiply and expand, and existing philanthropic efforts will be rendered “more ineffective, even irrelevant.”   

Among the numerous approaches for increasing diversity and inclusion within the philanthropy field, Mr. Lindsey mentioned the importance of top-down action, the recognition that every position within the field has a transformative role to play, and his conviction that those concerned with inclusion need to “share the work of educating colleagues about the compelling reasons for achieving inclusiveness.” He continued by urging minority philanthropy professionals to “assume there is good will within our institutions, rather than prejudice. Be willing to be the interpreter within our institutions for the community programs which may not present an articulate spokesperson, [and] never forget your responsibility to reach back.”

In closing, Mr. Lindsey went on to encourage grantmaking organizations to think inclusively by seeking “ways to mitigate the imbalance of power between funder and beneficiary. Working with disadvantaged communities requires going beyond the usual approaches. Be mindful that the community often has its own theory of change. These are informed points of view that need to be acknowledged and respected.” 

Find a video of the lecture here.

Find a written copy of it here.

 ~ Chistine Holt, Communications and Development Volunteer, Donors Forum