Skip to content

More Green Funders Than Ever Shared Diversity Data in 2022, but Most Still Avoiding the Sunlight

December 13, 2022

December 13, 2022

Green 2.0 Team

By Michael Kavate. Read at Inside Philanthropy.

You can count 2022 as a step toward the sunlight for environmental philanthropy’s transparency on diversity, yet most of the field still prefers the shadows.

A record number of green funders participated this year in the nation’s leading tracker of racial and ethnic representation at environmental organizations, with 20 foundations sharing staff demographic data, many for the first time.

Yet avoidance remained the most common response from grantmakers, just as in past years, with 30 foundations declining invitations to participate in Green 2.0’s sixth annual transparency report card, which was published today.

“In the year 2022, we should be having 100% participation. There’s no excuse,” said Andres Jimenez, executive director of Green 2.0. “Yet some organizations and foundations still believe that it’s not their problem, it’s not something that they’re there to do and they refuse to give the data.”

Jimenez was nonetheless excited about the record response by foundations, saying the sector is “moving in the right direction,” albeit much more slowly than hoped. Participation was boosted both by continued outreach and by opening this year’s call to medium- and small-sized funders.

Grantmakers still have a long way to go to catch up to their grantees. Among nonprofits, 64 of the 80 nonprofits asked to participate — including virtually all of the field’s largest and most well-known grantees — participated in the report, and an additional four organizations contacted Green 2.0 on their own initiative to participate.

What do the diversity numbers show? Based on those funders who shared their data, environmental grantmakers tend to have far more diversity among their low-level employees than their decision-makers. People of color account for 43% of rank-and-file staff and 35% of senior staff at funders, while representing only 20% of leaders and 24% of board members. Nonwhite people, incidentally, account for 41% of the U.S. population, according to Census data.

“The higher up you go, the less diversity there is,” said Jimenez. “We need to make sure that foundations understand that, yes, it’s great that you’re diversifying, but you also need to make sure that you’re diversifying at all levels.”

Certain ethnicities totally absent

It’s risky to draw conclusions from such a small sample size — the survey gathered data on just 20 heads of philanthropic organizations, while the other categories represented 96 senior staff, 172 board members and 754 general staffers. But the report suggests that many ethnic groups are completely absent from the leadership ranks of environmental philanthropy. Based on the categories used by Green 2.0, not a single foundation head, senior staff person or board member was an American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or Middle Eastern or North African during the period covered.

Granted, the first two categories account for small shares of the U.S. population, representing 1.3% and 0.3%, respectively, according to the Census, while the latter group is recommended in tracking by Green 2.0, but not currently included in the Census. But those figures understate the importance of such minority groups’ representation within environmental work, considering that habitat degradation, air and water quality, and climate impacts take a disproportionate toll on their communities.

Nonprofits, by contrast, did have some representation among these groups. For instance, American Indian or Alaska Natives accounted for 4.2% of all organization heads (though none from the other groups); boards included representation from all groups.

Gender was not included in the report. Green 2.0 indicated it attempted to collect such data, including for gender-nonconforming staff and by race and ethnicity, but that what it received “was incredibly inconsistent and could not be effectively analyzed,” according to the report.

First-time participants

Each of the 20 foundations who participated in the report card — which are listed at the end of this piece, along with a few nonprofit intermediaries — deserve praise for making public what most of their peers choose to hide. Several had never made their data public before.

The Walton Family Foundation had not previously shared any data with the organization — that changed this year. “We know it’s had historically low participation by foundations in the past, and as part of our broader commitment to diversity, we were happy to participate,” wrote a spokesperson in a statement to IP.

“WFF believes that the kind of work that Green 2.0 is doing is critical to the field’s ability to meet challenges that we are all collectively trying to meet so that we can have a more diverse, equitable and inclusive movement,” the statement added.

Another new participant is Heising-Simons Foundation. While its entry in this year’s report shows only a response of “do not have data” for all categories, that was due to a lack of 2021 information, according to a spokesperson. The grantmaker has since developed a page on its website with detailed 2022 internal demographic statistics, going beyond Green 2.0’s scope and covering both its staff and grantees.

The coming “accountability factor”

As it has done in past years, Green 2.0 named all the nonprofits that did not participate in the report card. It did not do the same for foundations. Next year, however, it will likely name names, Jimenez said. “We are striving to diversify the environmental sector; it is not a gotcha moment,” he said. “But at some point, there needs to be that accountability factor.”

In the meantime, the goal is to build relationships to grow foundation participation further. Jimenez will continue to try to woo holdouts by inviting them to join events, moderate panels and submit guest blogs. While his time is limited, the case for disclosure is certainly not limited to Green 2.0’s outreach.

“As time goes by, the organizations and foundations that don’t participate are not only letting the environment sector down, but they’re going to be left behind,” he said. “Their staff, members, volunteers … are going to start asking questions: Why aren’t they being transparent? Why are their diversity numbers so low?”

Participating Foundations

  • Barr Foundation
  • Bullitt Foundation
  • Energy Foundation
  • Heising-Simons Foundation
  • Julian Grace Foundation
  • Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies
  • Marisla Foundation
  • NorthLight Foundation
  • Patagonia
  • Pisces Foundation
  • Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation
  • David and Lucile Packard Foundation
  • Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment
  • Kresge Foundation
  • Libra Foundation
  • Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • Solutions Project
  • William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
  • Walton Family Foundation
  • Wilburforce Foundation

Notable Grantmaking Intermediaries Among the Nonprofits

  • ClimateWorks Foundation
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • Resources Legacy Fund