Leadership Grants program: Q&A with Darius Graham

This week, as part of its commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, the Foundation launched the Leadership Grants program. With grants of up to $20,000, the Foundation aims to support the development of leaders of color at grantee organizations and expand the pool of candidates for nonprofit executive leadership opportunities.

Darius Graham, who leads the Foundation’s grantmaking in Baltimore, talks more about this new opportunity.

Why did the Foundation create the Leadership Grants program?

The idea for this program resulted from many conversations internally and with grantees and other funders as we were looking for ways to provide additional support to our grantees and to further the Foundation’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

We created this program with two goals in mind. First, we wanted to honor the extraordinary leadership that we see among the staff of our grantees. Whether it’s a frontline staff member demonstrating leadership within a large organization or an individual who founded and leads a small and growing organization, we know it takes tremendous passion, time, and dedication to make an impact. So we wanted to honor these leaders by recognizing and investing in them.

Second, it is well-documented that people in executive leadership roles within the nonprofit sector do not typically reflect the demographics of the communities they serve. Our goal is to help provide promising leaders with resources to grow their leadership skills even more, to build a pipeline of candidates for executive leadership opportunities at our grantee organizations and within the sector.

What difference does the Foundation hope this program will make for leaders of color?

Primarily, we want to help ensure executive leadership within the sector includes people who better reflect the demographics and experiences of the communities served. We also hope growing and retaining such leaders will help our grantees deepen their impact.

Additionally, every day, our grantees take on the challenge of tackling systemic issues and providing direct services. While doing this work, we know it can be challenging to set aside time and resources for finding and participating in leadership development opportunities. We wanted to make that easier by providing this dedicated resource via a straightforward process. And especially coming out of the pandemic, burnout is top concern within the sector. We hope this program can help leaders recharge, recommit to this work, and see that they are valued and needed.

How can people apply for the grants?

A priority in designing this program was to make the process as straightforward as possible. Because we are offering this program to current or recent grantees, the process involves simply reaching out to your program officer and providing brief information on the leader and the opportunity.

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