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Kresge pilots program to support grantee leadership development with racial equity lens

Leadership and Infrastructure Funding Team

One of the many ways that The Kresge Foundation seeks to expand opportunity for low-income people in America’s cities is through offering training and other operational and management assistance to grantees. The goal is to enhance the effectiveness of grantee organizations and their individual leaders to better solve local problems and challenges in the cities in which nonprofit partners work.

Last summer Kresge teamed up with Community Wealth Partners (CWP) to survey and interview a number of Kresge grantees to learn about the challenges they face concerning talent and leadership development. Grantees reported a pressing need for talent and leadership development within their organizations. A quarter of respondents have had no talent and leadership development opportunities in the past two years, and 70 percent have not received any foundation support for this type of work. Nonprofits emphasized that they would like help in developing stronger senior teams, more robust mid-level talent and more racially and ethnically diverse talent within their organizations.

Feedback from Kresge grantees demonstrates that there is a demand for foundations to partner with their grantees to bolster nonprofit leadership development, especially with a racial equity lens. Seeking to address this need, Kresge collaborated with CWP to design a pilot Grantee Talent and Leadership Development Program for up to 150 of Kresge’s current grantees. Working together, Kresge and CWP used additional grantee feedback to design customized services from national service providers that address grantees’ specific needs. The six selected providers offer five-star leadership and organizational development training and consulting services in the social sector. Each provider heavily integrates a race and equity lens into their services with a goal of helping grantees improve their ability to pursue equity-minded talent and leadership development.

For this initial pilot program, 150 grantee organizations from around the country were invited to participate with 80 percent accepting the invitation and being matched with their top-ranked service provider. Over the next year, nearly 300 mid- and senior-level leaders and managers from 120 organizations will participate in the program, taking part in either trainings or cohort-based consulting services between March 2017 and March 2018.

So far nonprofit enthusiasm for the program is extremely positive. In the words of one grantee participant, “the service would enable us to address an urgent organizational priority and would supplement our internal capacity to secure diverse, senior-level program staff. This would be a godsend.” Another organization explains, “given our work, we are focused on bringing together a deeply diverse and committed team…[these services] would be a major boost to the organization.”

The first leadership development offering began a couple of weeks ago with Commongood Careers conducting a virtual training on senior-level recruitment services and diversity recruitment training for six nonprofit organizations from around the country. The second training launched this week as an in-person cohort-based program in Boston, Mass. run by the Interaction Institute for Social Change, working with 25 Kresge grantees.

“Kresge is very excited to launch this program and gratified that the initial response from grantees has been so affirming. We heard feedback from our grantees that they would like Kresge to be more resourceful and creative in how we provide support beyond the grant check. This program is a direct result of that feedback, and is grounded in one of Kresge’s core values: a commitment to racial equity,” explains Caroline Altman Smith, deputy director of The Kresge Foundation’s Education Program and leader of the cross-departmental team that designed and is implementing this initiative.

Ultimately, Kresge believes the program will lead to better results in our cities and communities by enabling individuals and organizations to more effectively tackle the complex problems of the twenty-first century.


To learn more about the program, please read CWP’s recent blog about its work with The Kresge Foundation in developing the initiative.