July 30, 2019
A Letter from the President
To all the grantee organizations that have excellent diversity represented on your board and senior staff, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation wishes to express our respect and appreciation for your commitment to diversity, equity and highly effective services for the diverse communities of Chicago.
I attended this year’s Center for Effective Philanthropy conference. At one of the sessions, someone presented findings from CEP’s report on Nonprofit Diversity Efforts. It reported that “only 21% of nonprofit CEOs report that their foundation funders explain how they use the demographic information that they collect.”
I was surprised at how low that number was. And I was initially a little self-satisfied because I thought the Fry Foundation was part of that 21%. As you all know, the Foundation collects demographic information on 1) the people served by the programs that the Foundation funds, 2) the makeup of senior staff, and 3) the makeup of the board of directors of grantee organizations. Program officers discuss the demographics of the people served during proposal reviews. Through those discussions, you know how the Foundation uses that information. The demographics of senior staff and boards goes to the Fry Foundation board of directors with every recommendation for support. When the Fry Foundation board discusses concern about lack of diversity at the leadership of grantee organizations, I telephone the leadership of those organizations to let them know about that discussion. It was because I make those telephone calls that I counted the Fry Foundation in that group of 21%. And then I realized, I make telephone calls to only a small number of the Foundation’s grantees. The vast majority of our grantees have excellent diversity represented on their boards and senior staff. I do not regularly make telephone calls to those groups, and many of them may not know that their data goes to our board of directors and is reviewed at every board meeting at which support for them is under consideration. The vast majority of our grantees would count us as one of their funders who never tells them what we do with their demographic data!
I also realized I was making the classic communications mistake – I focused discussion only on the organizations that raised concerns; and I neglected to expressly recognize those organizations that were doing the best work. It is our highest performing grantees that have the strongest diversity in their leadership. They run the programs that are the most effective. We believe it is the diversity of the insights, perspectives and life experiences of their leadership that leads to highly strategic, thoughtful, and responsive programming for the diverse communities of Chicago.
It is in this letter today that I want to rectify that mistake. On behalf of the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, please let me convey our admiration, respect, and appreciation for your commitment to diversity, equity, and high quality services in Chicago.