A Case Study on Social Justice Philanthropy: Racial Equity in Minneapolis

posted on: January 31, 2013

By Owen Dunn

The philanthropic world is buzzing about defining success and measuring impact. Bill Gates recently lauded these methods in his plan to fix the world’s biggest problems, and NCRP’s latest report, Real Results, tied these strategies to social justice philanthropy.

As we ask ourselves how we can maximize our impact in the communities we serve, Karen Kelley-Ariwoola provides an instructive example based on her experience at the Minneapolis Foundation. In “Responsive Philanthropy in Black Communities,” an excerpt from the James A. Joseph Lecture she delivered during the Association of Black Foundation Executives in April 2012, she described the work with community groups to address the “dirty little secret” that divides Minneapolis into two cities: “one where many people (primarily white) thrive and another where primarily low-income people of color suffer from disparities on every indicator.”

Her story is as much a call to action for the philanthropic world as it is a case study of her experience in Minneapolis. With the following list of facts, Kelley-Ariwoola sets the stage for a sobering discussion of the challenges she faced while tackling the equity gap:

  • “Just 67 percent of black kids are ready for kindergarten versus 94 percent of white kids.
  • “Only 39 percent of black kids are reading-proficient at third grade compared to 88 percent of white kids – that is a 50-point gap at third grade – one of the highest black/white achievement gaps in the country.
  • “Only one in three black Minneapolis high schoolers graduate on time compared with seven in 10 white students.
  • “More than half of all black children (some 11,000 children) in Minneapolis live in poverty.
  • “While only 60 percent of Minneapolis residents are white, they hold 83 percent of the jobs – leaving a 25 percent employment gap between white and U.S.-born blacks (one of the largest gaps in the country).”

What follows is a discussion of the many tools available to grantmakers beyond basic financing, such as community knowledge, relationships with donors, convening, communications, public information strategies, policy, advocacy, social networking and the oft-neglected reputational capital.

Read the full version of her compelling narrative in “Responsive Philanthropy in Black Communities.”

Owen Dunn is communications & development assistant at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP).