Seven Ways to Rethink Equitable Grantmaking

In the opening plenary of the 2021 virtual National Humanities Conference on November 3, “Equity in Humanities Grantmaking,” speakers Courtenay A. Barton (Cleveland Foundation), Phillip Harper (Mellon Foundation), and Shariq Siddiqui (Lilly Family School of Philanthropy) joined moderator Aiko Yamashiro (Hawai’i Council for the Humanities) in rethinking the relationship between equity and philanthropy. How do we define equity? How do we measure equity? How can we effect change? Here are seven takeaways from their conversation. If you’re a registered NHC participant, you can access the recorded conversation on the NHC app!

  1. “One of the things that philanthropy does too often is shift the burden for equity to grantees and not look at what we are doing.” — Barton 
  2. “There are Indigenous methods of making sure that our work and our actions of social good means something right.” –Siddiqui
  3. “When it comes to evaluation and the objective of equity, what’s most important for me is to see that the project that we have funded, because we are a project funder, has resulted either in the creation or the expansion of a network.” –Harper
  4. “I have this word in my mind–trust…There’s so much about when we apply for a grant that we have to prove ourselves, prove ourselves, prove ourselves, and the relationship is not about trust.” –Yamashiro
  5. “If we are thinking about reaching communities and organizations that we have not reached before with funding, they’re not going to look like organizations we are used to funding.” –Barton
  6. “Equity is about the idea of who’s around the table, and what’s the shape of the table.” –Siddiqui
  7. “What’s most exciting for me about the intersection of humanities and philanthropy is that at their best, neither one pretends to be an exact science. They entail the exercise of thoughtful judgement…falling short of the mark and trying again.” –Harper