Minority-Led California Charities Anticipate Expanded Foundation Support

More money should flow to California charities led by minorities now that an unprecedented agreement has been signed by ten of the state's wealthiest private foundations, the Ventura County Star reports.

Announced in June, the agreement effectively killed a bill sponsored by state assemblyman Joe Coto (D-San Jose) that would have required foundations with assets of $250 million or more to post the racial and gender makeup of their boards and staffs and to report annually the amount of funding given to organizations in which at least half the board and staff were minorities. According to Coto's legislative director, Mike Welch, the bill was intended to focus attention on the foundations' leadership and giving patterns in California.

Supporters of the bill argued that small minority-led nonprofits don't get their fair share of foundation grant dollars because they lack connections to funders that large nonprofits typically have, while others blamed the apparent disparity on lack of training, shoestring budgets, and understaffing. "A funder may look at a minority-led organization much more carefully because they don't have the stamp of approval," said Luann Rocha, executive director of El Centrito Family Learning Centers in Oxnard. "They haven't been around for fifty years."

In the months leading up to the agreement, many foundations in the state fought the proposed legislation's reporting requirements, calling them an unwarranted intrusion into the private decisions of foundation boards and donors. Eventually, however, leaders of the ten foundations that signed the agreement — including the California Endowment and the Ahmanson, Annenberg, Irvine, California Wellness foundations — recognized they could do more to address the needs of small and medium-size nonprofits serving poor and minority communities.

"Many of our foundations are already doing work in this area," said Jim Canales, CEO of the Irvine Foundation, which awards $80 million annually to causes in California. "We would prefer to devote our energies to figure out how to build on that work."

Kathleen Wilson. "Foundations to Help Minority Charities." Ventura County Star 08/08/2008.