Overview of The Denver Foundation's Inclusiveness Project

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Through its conversations with leaders in Metro Denver's nonprofit sector, The Denver Foundation discovered a widespread interest in developing a deeper understanding of how diverse voices and experiences enhance and expand the work of nonprofits.

"Back in 2000 and 2001, our program officers were coming back from site visits with a common refrain," says Rich Lopez, 2008 chair of the Foundation's Board of Trustees and 2007 chair of the Expanding Nonprofit Inclusiveness Initiative (ENII). "Organizations wanted to be more diverse and inclusive, but they didn't know how." So in 2001, The Denver Foundation Board of Trustees established the Expanding Nonprofit Inclusiveness Initiative. From its inception, ENII was led by a steering committee of volunteer leaders. "We needed advice and counsel from people who work every day to address these issues," says Lauren Casteel, Vice President of Philanthropic Partnerships and staff liaison to ENII. "The steering committee set the tone and course for ENII from the beginning."

One of the steering committee's first decisions was to focus ENII's work on helping nonprofits become more inclusive of people of color. "The Denver Foundation is actively committed to inclusiveness of people from all backgrounds," explains Lauren. "The committee felt strongly that they needed to focus ENII's limited resources on issues of race - an issue nonprofits report to be the most challenging to address."

ENII began its work by conducting research to determine how inclusive the nonprofit sector in Metro Denver was, and what the best practices and barriers were to building inclusiveness. In the fall of 2002, ENII surveyed 210 nonprofits about their inclusiveness practices, and conducted in-depth case studies of 11 organizations. In 2006, ENII collected the reflections of more than 150 emerging and established leaders from communities of color regarding their involvement with nonprofits.
Tools for Building Inclusiveness
The results of this research enabled ENII to develop numerous tools to help nonprofits become more inclusive. These tools include:
  • A speakers' bureau with presentations about building inclusiveness (more than 2,500 people have been reached through presentations)
  • A workbook titled Inclusiveness at Work, which outlines the process for creating a tailored plan for building inclusiveness
  • Inside Inclusiveness: Race Ethnicity, and Nonprofit Organizations - a research report on nonprofit organizations in Metro Denver, including best practices for and barriers to building inclusiveness
  • A Report from the Pipeline - reflections of more than 150 emerging and established community leaders of color, including their perceptions of facilitators and barriers to getting involved in the nonprofit sector
  • Get Involved - a toolkit for individuals of color connecting to the nonprofit sector
  • Grants to help nonprofits on the journey to becoming more inclusive
  • A series of workshops, in association with the Community Resource Center, focused on helping nonprofits address specific issues such as recruitment, marketing, and fundraising in communities of color The Denver Foundation
  • Two conferences, in 2005 and 2007, which brought together hundreds of nonprofit leaders to share their experiences and to learn more about inclusiveness

Over the course of ENII's history, numerous local and national funders joined The Denver Foundation in supporting this important work. Those include the Kellogg Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Gay and Lesbian Fund of Colorado, Western Union Foundation, and the Colorado Health Foundation.

Launching the Inclusiveness Project
In 2007, The Denver Foundation's Board of Trustees made a decision it had only made once before - to turn a time-limited initiative into an ongoing program. Like Strengthening Neighborhoods before it, the Expanding Nonprofit Inclusiveness Initiative had unearthed an urgent need in the community for a long-term, committed focus on a cause.

Thus, the Board established the Inclusiveness Project with a stream of dedicated funding to sustain the program over time. "We hope that the Inclusiveness Project will give Metro Denver nonprofits the tools and support they need to make inclusiveness an ongoing part of their efforts," says Pamela Kenney Basey, a member of the Foundation's Board of Trustees and the Inclusiveness Project's 2008 chair. "Inclusiveness helps transform how people connect with one another across the boundaries of culture. It is an honor to continue this work."

As of 2013, the Inclusiveness Project has one full-time staff member, five consultants, dedicated funding in the amount of 4 percent of the foundation's unrestricted grant dollars, and a committee of the board. In 2011, the project received the Critical Impact Award from the Council on Foundations in recognition of its success.

From its inception, the Inclusiveness Project has grown with oversight and input from leaders of color in the community, and its committee is comprised primarily of leaders from communities of color along with a small number of white allies. This follows the foundation's value of including and listening to the voices of those most affected by the various issues that the foundation addresses in designing, developing, and implementing its work. An important distinction between the Inclusiveness Project and its counterparts throughout the philanthropic and nonprofit sector is a focus on organizational development and leadership development as a theory of chnge related to inclusiveness. 



Please note - The Denver Foundation's Community Grants has new guidelines for 2013.  Click here to read more.

"Workbook Helps Charities Embrace Diversity," Chronicle of Philanthropy, September 29, 2005.

"Beyond Diversity: The Denver Foundation's Expanding Inclusiveness in Nonprofits Initiative is working to move past diversity to inclusiveness," Foundation News & Commentary, September/October 2005.