The Bainum Family Foundation has spent the past several years focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), with the initial goals of promoting an equitable environment for our staff, understanding the impact of racism on the communities and families we serve, and prioritizing equity and inclusion in every facet of our work, ultimately to help all children and families thrive.

Since beginning our formal journey in 2017, we’ve learned numerous lessons, both individually and collectively, that have helped us move toward becoming a more diverse, equitable and inclusive organization. We recognized that any DEI journey — one done thoughtfully, authentically, and with growth and sustainability as the goals — requires a great deal of persistence.

In 2019, we took an intentional pause to more deeply reflect, gain a broader perspective on our aspirations and come together as a team to identify what we needed to support the next chapter of our DEI work. Through a staff-led search and interview process, we identified and engaged a consulting partner that proved to be a fantastic fit for pushing us further in our journey.

Before and throughout the pandemic, we have moved forward in our DEI journey, engaging a new consulting partner (above left and right) and initiating conversations with staff to reexamine how we embed equity and inclusion within our work.

See the memorial tribute to our colleague Marcus Gray (top photo), a leader in our DEI work, here.

Before the pandemic, we had prepared for a robust yearlong undertaking, which included the following components:

  1. Holding all Foundation leaders accountable to success, but also — for the first time in our history — creating an internal team with explicit accountability for leading and evaluating our efforts: Organizational Learning and Effectiveness (OLE).
  2. Establishing and actively seeking input from a staff-led DEI committee that comprises staff of all levels and backgrounds.
  3. Establishing our first DEI philosophy and long-term organizational goals (with corresponding short-term tactics and milestones) that will move us toward our long-term DEI philosophy, both internally and externally.

The triple crises of 2020 — health, racial justice and economic — have not only affirmed our need to embed DEI into our work, but also amplified the urgency and passion of our discussions. Across our entire organization — the staff, Board and Bainum family — we have engaged in deep reflection, coming to the realization that we must explicitly center racial equity and community to become an anti-racist organization. We built our capacity to have difficult conversations that would propel us forward. And we’re working to actively create vulnerable spaces, share challenges, push one another to go further and truly establish the roots of an anti-racist culture. By no means do we have this all figured out, but we’ve made substantial progress.

Our DEI commitment is now inseparable from our strategic conversations and planning. Our intention of being an anti-racist organization is now simply who we are and what we do, and it is a critical part of our efforts to drive systemic change.

Beyond our internal equity discussions, our OLE and program teams have been creating learning and coaching opportunities for our partners so that we can support them in their own equity and inclusion journeys. In the coming year, we will also be bringing together philanthropic organizations of varying sizes, backgrounds and focus areas so we can all have racial equity conversations — to learn, grow and make a collective impact as a field.

We know we cannot help all children thrive without acknowledging and addressing the structural and cultural inequities in our organization and society, so we will keep intentionally and systematically engaging in policies, practices and systems that promote justice and equity for our staff, partners and community. We know we have a lot more work ahead of us, but we’re committed to this learning journey because we know it is essential to truly experience growth and create sustainable change.