JULY 2019

Across the philanthropy landscape, the outlook is evolving and there is a greater awareness that bootstrap funding strategies are not enough. We can no longer pretend that volatility, crushing debt and massive gender and racial wealth gaps are about individual choice and effort.

As one funder noted at AFN’s conference, “We are simply not going to coach our way to equitable outcomes.”  Or as I would note, the popular TV financial pundits are wrong: no one will become a millionaire by foregoing avocado toast or coffee.

Funders are instead leaning in to the interrelated strategies of equity, inclusive economic systems, and intentionality.  To do this, funders, their Boards and potential grantees are engaging their communities and talking more openly to better understand the systemic foundations of wealth, the constraints on individual opportunity, and where the systemic supports and advantages have been built on intentional acts and policies reflecting racism, xenophobia, and sexism which created and sustain economic advantages today.

Funders acknowledge the results of systemic machinations that have created the gaps including:

  • White households have 10 – 13 times the wealth of Black or Hispanic households
  • White millennial men have 162% higher median wealth than single millennial women
  • Less than 15% of capital from financial institutions and angel investors support women entrepreneurs or of those color to establish or grow their business.

As a result, funders understand that these racial and gender wealth gaps are real and a serious drag on the economy. Moreover, it’s clear that you can’t achieve equity, if building only on the structures that led to or continue to reflect the deep inequity.

Thus, AFN members at all levels are embracing the challenge of investing in strategies that intentionally target the legacies and overlay of gender and race discrimination.  There are many diverse, creative and impressive angles that reflect this movement.

While not every one comes at it from the same place, we see increased trends to intentionally:

  • Foster systemic change to achieve a more inclusive economy— both in private (medical, predatory lenders, economic development, capital, employers) and public (fees and fines, public post-secondary, legal enforcement of protections, UBI/tax reform) systems to simultaneously reduce wealth stripping and support equitable opportunity and wealth building.
  • Build stronger consumer (or employee) engagement reflecting strength-based and cultural-empowering strategies that ensure persons in community have a meaningful voice to inform and advise practitioners as they test and scale innovation, new products and systemic policy reforms/reinventions.
  • Engage intended populations (gender, race, ethnicity, generation, disability, or LGBTQ) to understand desired impact.

What funders have in common is the desire to pursue and develop systems that catalyze and foster closing the wealth gaps.  They understand that systems, often hidden from the individual, work in conjunction with individual efforts. These funders have and continue to connect-the-dots.

There is an exciting appetite among leading financial institutions, family and private foundations, health and community foundations to invest in intentional, explicitly targeted equitable strategies that correct racial, ethnic and gender wealth inequities.  To support this shift, it is imperative that we continue sharing new ideas and financial tools as well as successful foundations and frameworks of equitable systemic interventions.

AFN provides you with the necessary platform to increase your network, find the information, share the latest strategies, and make the connections required to influence and build the movement for equitable wealth building opportunities across communities. Join us!


Excerpted from the July 2019 Newsletter