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“Despite important efforts by many leading foundations, funding overall has gotten less equitable. Cultural philanthropy is not effectively – or equitably – supporting the dynamic pluralism of our evolving cultural landscape.” This quote from the discerning 2017 report, Not Just Money: Equity Issues in Cultural Philanthropy, by Helicon Collaborative was a call to action for many funders across the U.S. National leaders in the field such as Grantmakers in the Arts and Chicago’s own The Joyce Foundation had been trailblazers in this regard for some time. Many others, the Driehaus Foundation among them, had been learning and thinking, but had not yet taken resolute action.

That changed for us in 2018. We were without comprehensive, empirical – as opposed to anecdotal or observational – data about the Foundation’s grantmaking, so our equity journey began in earnest there. We developed a definition for what racial and cultural equity (RCE) means to the Foundation. That definition* was the result of research, workshopping with numerous other cultural funders at Grantmakers in the Arts’ annual conference, and feedback from three outside specialists on grantmaking from an RCE lens.

In late 2018, the Foundation introduced our RCE definition to grantees and grantseekers. We spent 2019 compiling a baseline dataset and, as importantly, working on concrete strategies to better represent the demographics of Chicago’s population in our grantmaking. Concrete strategies were imperative due to the baseline data. Only 22% of the total grants awarded by the Driehaus Arts and Culture program in 2019 (the first year we had a complete, empirical dataset) were made to organizations and programs that met our RCE definition.

Our most important strategies were research on, outreach to, and proactive cultivation of potential grantees that were doing outstanding work and better represented the actual demographics of the city of Chicago. This was not at the expense of existing grantees. The Foundation’s budget for Arts and Culture grants has grown steadily since 2019, allowing us to welcome more new grantees than ever before as well as increase grant award amounts to RCE initiatives and more broadly as well.

One of the newer grantees is Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project. The Joyce and Doris Duke foundations were lead funders for the initiative’s first phase with significant in-kind support from the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts. Shortly after announcing it would continue with a second phase, the Driehaus Foundation initiated a conversation with Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project’s leadership team about support. That ultimately resulted in a first-time grant of $40,000 in 2022. Numerous other new grantees have come into the Driehaus Arts and Culture funding program as well.

Between 2019 and 2022, the Arts and Culture program went from 22% of total grant funds awarded to RCE organizations, programs, and projects to 49%. We are proud of this progress, but there is still much work to be done. Our aim is to reach 55% to 60% by the end of 2023. Later this year, our Arts and Culture team will set a 2024 target for further RCE growth.

Holding ourselves accountable has also been an important part of our grantmaking from an RCE lens. Amongst the Arts and Culture team, we track and report progress quarterly. We do the same for the Driehaus Foundation board of directors twice a year.

Our Built Environment and Investigative Journalism programs have been on paths similar to Arts and Culture. City Bureau’s Civic Reporting Fellowship and Urban Growers Collective (general operating support) are examples of recent grants in those two programs. And like with Arts and Culture, Built Environment and Investigative Journalism have made progress with RCE representation but also still have much work to do.

RCE at the Foundation also involves more than our grantmaking practices. From ongoing, deep and rich professional development for our staff to vendor selection and much more, we are investing wherever and however we can in the Foundation’s racial and cultural equity journey.


* The Driehaus Foundation defines an RCE organization as a group that is one or more of the following:
• Focused PRIMARILY on programming rooted in the traditions of people of  African, Asian, Pacific Islander, Latinx, Middle Eastern, or Native American descent
• Led by individuals who are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, or people of color (BILPOC)
• Majority of individuals who have decision-making authority and agency within the organization are BILPOC
• Serves people of color as a PRIMARY part of its mission
• Serves low-income communities as a PRIMARY part of its mission
• Based in a low-income community
• Primarily LGBTQ+ focused
• Primarily women-focused
• Focused on people who are disabled
We have a complementary definition for an RCE program or project.


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