Private foundations would benefit by having diverse leadership

“Male, pale and stale.” Is this the fate of the foundations that give out billions to Canadians?

This summer, Britain’s Association of Charitable Foundations revealed the race, age and gender of the board members of the nation’s 300 biggest private foundations. (Private foundations are the ones set up by families and companies vs. by governments.)

What percentage of these board members are white? Ninety-nine per cent.

Almost as shocking, 97 per cent of board members are 45 years old and older. So much for reflecting the people and organizations they donate money to.

In the U.S., things are a bit less unbalanced, according to industry tracker BoardSource: 85 per cent of foundation directors are white, (with 40 per cent of boards being all white), 55 per cent are male and 69 per cent are 50 years and older.

Given the shift in foundation giving throughout the world to “underserved communities,” it’s not just ironic and unfair that the giving decisions are overseen by members of the world’s smallest and overserved communities, it’s inefficient.

The arguments for diversity are now backed up by all kinds of data that not only show more diverse decision-making bodies make better decisions, but that involving the people affected by those decisions gives their efforts a much better chance of working.

What a decade ago was “Huh”? is now “Duh.”

This astounding lack of diversity in British and American foundation leadership got me to thinking: “How diverse are Canada’s private foundation boards?

So I did some research and came up with the following numbers. They’re not scientific, but they are indicative, and I doubt a more rigorous study would reveal much different numbers.

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