How to embed DEI into your grant-making cycle

A practical guide to becoming a diverse, equitable, and inclusive funder

Philanthropy has done much to tackle injustice and inequality, seeking to improve the lives of those affected by layers of structural disadvantage. However, philanthropy is by its nature unequal, with philanthropic giving often drawing from wealth accrued through unequal labour and power structures.

The power dynamics in grantmaking are often imbalanced. Diverse, equitable, and inclusive grantmaking is therefore about who makes the decisions, where we get our evidence, and who is missing from the conversation.

The starting point is to reframe our approach to risk to think much more about the risk of impact missed if we fail to give to charities doing great work, but whose structures may not be suited to our existing criteria.

Our guide covers:

  • Understanding what DEI means to you
  • Understanding why DEI is important to your work
  • Planning your goals and focus areas
  • Planning your approach
  • Sourcing partners and opportunities
  • Sourcing charities through how you assess organisations
  • Strengthening charities through trust and support
  • Strengthening the sector through learning and sharing

We at NPC have not been as strong on these issues as we should have, both internally and in the advice we give to clients and the sector. We are working to change that and we’ve been trying to incorporate DEI principles into our work with funder clients. If grantmaking is not diverse, equitable, or inclusive we risk perpetuating a system which favours those with the most wealth and power.

This practical guide has been informed by research conducted by Civil Society Consulting, a values-driven non-profit with a mission to support, catalyse, and empower civil society organisations. We commissioned CSC to investigate the challenges and opportunities for making grant-making processes more equitable and inclusive, particularly in the area of due diligence, leveraging their first-hand experience providing free hands-on support to organisations led by and for marginalised communities during and since the pandemic.

Organisations led by and for marginalised communities have historically been underfunded. Unless we change our grantmaking practices, they are likely to remain underfunded, and civil society will lose out because of it.


Listen: How can grant-makers make funding fairer?

Listen to Sarah Denselow, NPC’s Principal for Effective Philanthropy, discuss this work on the Third Sector Podcast with Third Sector’s Lucinda Rouse and Russ Hargraves, and Yvonne Field, Chief Executive of the Ubele Initiative:

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