Navigating What’s Next: Our Commitment

As so many of you have, our team at SDG has been channeling our profound anger and sadness over the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers – and the systematic oppression and violence against Black people it exemplifies – towards grieving, protesting, and resolving to ways we personally and as a philanthropic sector can affect change.

Our sector grants billions upon billions of dollars each year seeking solutions to pressing social issues. But from criminal justice; to policing; to banking; to health; to housing; to education; to food access, it is clear our social and economic systems are designed to fail Black people. They fail the nearly 45 percent of Black Americans who report experiencing racial discrimination when trying to rent or buy a home. They fail Black Californians, who are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than white people. They fail Black San Diegans, who are pulled over at 219% the rate of white people. As a philanthropic sector, our grant dollars fail to target the systemic changes needed to dismantle racism at scale.

San Diego Grantmakers’ authentic commitment to equity and actions taken in support of that commitment are what drew me to the CEO role. I am thankful for the work upon which we built over the past year and I am thankful for our board and staff who are not afraid to question entrenched approaches. But none of this is enough for this moment. And while I am deeply dedicated to this work, I don’t have the lived experience of a person of color. As a white woman committed to growing as an accomplice in racial justice, it is my steadfast commitment to show up and speak up constantly for just, equitable systems that benefit Black people and people of color.

I’ve spoken with a lot of members who are in a similar space of resolving to affect change. As funders, here are five actions you can take now:

  • Fund systemic change in our region through supporting Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance (MoGo), whose entire mission is to make our government more just and fully accountable to all people.
  • Flatten the economic disparity curve felt by Black-owned businesses disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 through supporting the newly launched Black Business Relief Fund of the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce to support San Diego County Black-owned businesses in economic recovery.
  • Stand with Black Womxn who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and routinely overlooked by government, hospital and large nonprofit relief efforts through the Black Womxn Deserve, a Mutual Aid fund launched by March for Black Womxn San Diego.
  • Realize a new era of public safety through supporting The Leadership Conference Education Fund who, through their Policing Campaign, are rethinking public safety to create a safe and stronger national for us all. While you are there, check out their comprehensive resources.
  • Grow your personal education: Attend What You Can Do to Support Black Communities: Calling Philanthropy Into Action a program by one of our Philanthropy CA alliance partners tomorrow, June 9 at 1PM and register yourself and your entire organization for Implicit Bias, a two-part training beginning Thursday, June 11 at 1PM.

This work needs us all. As your regional philanthropic-support organization, we’ve taken the following actions and resolve to these commitments:

Within our team:

  • We have an engaged equity committee with representation of staff at every level that guides our equity actions but we have not leveraged our board – more than half of whom self-identify as persons of color – to guide internal equity actions, including addressing whiteness and white supremacy. Moving forward we will increase our engagement with board leadership in equity work, as it is the most important work we do.
  • Staff and board have received specific training on race, racism and whiteness but we have not yet formalized a continued equity plan. This summer, an external consultant will lead us through a deep analysis of our organizational culture work to create an equity plan guided by board and staff. And as an all-white leadership team with a staff comprised 30 percent of people of color, the power dynamics this creates will be of highest priority to inform our actions.

With our members:

  • We will center equity in our programs and services, addressing the ways that traditional requests for proposals, evaluation, reporting requirements, and decision-making practices reinforce the power dynamics of patrimony.
  • We will bring opportunities to learn, plan and act in service of Black people and people of color.
  • We will seek local representation of Black, Indigenous, and people of color to speak at our learning events, compensating fairly for their time and expertise; and we will increase our direct involvement in community-led work to bring the power of our network to efforts that are built by, led by, and directly benefit communities of color.

Through each of these, we will own our actions and not burden individuals, organizations, or communities of color by expecting them to guide us on this path. It is within our power to channel our outrage and anguish into sustained action to achieve racially just systems. We are committed to this work and to serving as ongoing partners to and ardent supporters of the Black community and communities of color.

In solidarity,


Debbie McKeon, president & CEO, San Diego Grantmakers