Racial equity in the civil legal system is essential to LFW’s vision of “justice for all.” As a foundation, we play a unique role in advancing this work forward. The system of philanthropy and grantmaking has power to resource communities or deepen inequities with their decisions. This is why LFW is committed to applying a race equity lens to all of our practices, grant analysis, and allocation of resources. We have been building our race equity analysis over several years and are committed to long-term improvements —and we realize we still have a lot of work to do.
Some areas we have focused on so far include: increasing investments in communities impacted most by systemic racism; analyzing demographics of poverty populations to shed light on funding disparities; creating channels for increased community input, including by those directly impacted by poverty and oppression; supporting compensation equity; and building a Race Equity Grant program guided by community member input.
Actions we’ve taken in the last year include:
- Prioritizing multi-year grants and general operating funding to increase the stability of resources and ability for programs to plan and grow. Providing multi-year general operating funding is a hallmark of equitable practices according to many leaders in the sector, including the National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy and the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project. In 2022, both LFW’s Partnership Grant and Race Equity Grants programs were expanded to two-year grant terms and we strive to provide flexible, general operating funds whenever possible.
- Improving our data collection metrics to include BIPOC leadership as part of organizational demographics. BIPOC-led nonprofits have been disproportionately under-resourced by funders for decades impeding their long-term growth, stability, and capacity to drive change. As part of our standard application, we now ask applicants to self-report:
Does 50% or more of your senior leadership identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color)? We define senior leadership as those with decision making power over the actions and budget of your organization.
With this new data, we can see that 58% of LFW’s 2021 funds went to BIPOC-led organizations:
When we analyze by grant type, it is clear that the percentage varies considerably across the opportunities. For example, the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction Defense Grants offered in partnership with the Office of Civil Legal Aid did not fund any BIPOC-led organizations. We plan to continue to track this data each year and use the information to ensure our funding strategies align with our commitments to anti-racism, equity, and inclusion.
- Removing barriers to potential grantees by offering grant applications and reporting in languages other than English. In spring 2021, we conducted our first virtual video application with live interpretation between Spanish and English. We also started offering an oral reporting option to our Race Equity Grants.
- Increasing transparency about our funding opportunities, reporting requirements, and expectations. We added user-friendly instructions to each application and offer a pre-application webinar for every grant process to answer questions and provide guidance. The webinars are recorded and shared publicly on LFW’s website. We’ve also started posting the full application questions on our website, with no login required.
Our next goal is to increase transparency around our decision-making processes for grants. For example, in evaluating 2022-2023 Partnership Grant applications, LFW’s board considered the two-year scope of awards and employed several layers of equity analysis, including:
- An examination of clients served by each program, demographics of those clients, and areas for growth.
- A comparison of funding levels to client need and demographics in each geographic region.
- An assessment of the race equity approach of each program: Are programs using a race equity lens to develop and implement programs? Do they apply this lens to their policies, practices and leadership? What changes have they made since the beginning of the State Plan? Is there BIPOC leadership and what role do impacted communities play in their decision-making? Are they identifying the root causes of inequities?
- We also asked the overarching questions: How will our decisions impact BIPOC communities in WA? Who benefits and who is harmed?
For Partnership Grants, the board aims to provide stable funding for the statewide network of civil legal aid providers and maximize systemic impact. The funding for these grants is tied to our limited resources, including state-funding, and considers previous awards, other funding sources, Alliance goals, statewide legal aid coverage, and the impact of decisions on all programs.
A similar analysis is applied to all grant review processes. We are working to improve and refine this work in collaboration with our Alliance partners and to be more transparent about our methods.
These are some of the key resources that continue to inform our grantmaking practices:
State Plan for the Coordinated Delivery of Civil Legal Aid to Low-Income People
Washington Race Equity & Justice Initiative (REJI)
Grantmaking with a Racial Justice Lens
Trust-Based Philanthropy Project
Vu Le and RVC Seattle’s Equitable Grantmaking Continuum
Racial Equity and Philanthropy: Disparities in Funding for Leaders of Color Leave Impact on the Table
BIPOC ED Coalition of Washington State
Power Moves- National Committee for Responsive Grantmaking
Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best