Who rules philanthropy?
The Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, which consists of two foundations with assets of more than $7 billion, is based in Eden Prairie, MN, a well-to-do suburb of Minneapolis. When Minneapolis was shaken by protests after George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died at the hands of police, the Cargill Philanthropies, like so many others, felt a need to respond.
“The senseless killing of George Floyd is evidence of the underlying inequities and racism that continue to exist in our community and our country more broadly,” the philanthropies said.
Margaret Cargill Philanthropies promised to look at “equity and inclusion” in its grant-making and later directed more than $2 million to communities of color in the Twin Cities.
It did not, however, add any people of color to its all-white board of directors. The five board members are an insular group: An accountant, a financial advisor, an investment manager, a lawyer and an Episcopal bishop, most with ties to Margaret A. Cargill, an heiress whose wealth funded Cargill Philanthropies. Ms. Cargill died in 2006.
Cargill Philanthropies is by no means the only large foundation with an all-white board. Of the 40 biggest private, grant-making foundations, a dozen — that is, 30 percent — appear to have no BIPOC board members. [BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous and people of color.] It’s hard to be certain because no one collects data on the racial makeup of foundation directors, and most foundations approached for this story did not reply.
The problem starts at the very top with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is by far the largest private foundation in the US, with assets of $51.1 billion. “Our employees should reflect the rich diversity of the global populations we aim to serve — in race, ethnicity, gender, age, cultures and beliefs — and we support this diversity through all our employment practices,” the foundation says.
This diversity does not extend to the board. The foundation trustees are Bill Gates, his wife Melinda Gates and billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Gates’ longtime friend and a major donor to the foundation.
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) Foundation has an even smaller board. It is structured as…