Making Equity Actionable

By Laura Bradley Davis - September 26, 2020

The work to create a truly diverse, inclusive, and equitable society is both urgent and long-term. At PFS, as part of our ongoing commitment to this imperative, we urge our community to read the thought-provoking essay on equity published on the National Center for Family Philanthropy website. Authored by nonprofit executive and thought leader Vu Le (and originally posted on his website NonprofitAF), Le challenges us to agree on a simple, universal definition of “equity.” Recognizing that equity is the oft repeated but variously interpreted word of the moment in nonprofit and philanthropic circles, Le posits a definition centered on funding, namely, on directing the most money to “communities most affected by injustice” so they might “lead in the fight to address that injustice.” Citing research from the early and mid-2000s, Vu notes that funding to minority-led organizations and grants directed to non-white populations has declined since the 1990s and hovers in the 10-12% range of total funding. Apropos of his uncompromising style, Vu adds the caveat that funders may have to “break the rules” to translate equity into action.

In a moment when the philanthropic field is grappling with different approaches to bring an equity lens to our work, Vu Le stands out as an unequivocal and humorous voice challenging us to “stop wasting time, expounding and intellectualizing” and instead express our intentions directly through the bottom line.

Equity is about ensuring the communities most affected by injustice get the most money to lead in the fight to address that injustice, and if that means we break the rules to make that happen, then that’s what we do.
Vu Le
Nonprofit Executive and Author of Nonprofit AF
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