Racial Equity

Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo: Building racial equity inside and out


Whether the experience involves an individual, organization or community, lasting transformation takes place from the inside out. For the next several weeks, we’re pulling lessons from our new Racial Equity Spotlight series. This set of three publications gives an insider’s view to a wide variety of WKKF grantee partners who are committed to transforming their internal practices and ways of being to strengthen their work in support of children and families.

In Brief

Since 1919, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo has been dedicated to helping people, families, and groups fulfill their public-spirited dreams. They currently serve over 400 active clients and uphold the legacies of 500 more, managing over $800 million in charitable assets. They offer personalized support, expert guidance, and a deep understanding of the Western New York community to help clients make a lasting impact through their giving, whether they have clear goals or need assistance in shaping their charitable legacy.

In 2006, the Community Foundation board received data that named the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area as one of the worst regions in the United States for economic inequality and racial segregation. The board knew it was time to act and identified advancing racial equity as a priority for the foundation. Across the foundation, members committed themselves to a process not only of advancing racial equity in and around Greater Buffalo but also of expanding the foundation’s internal racial equity journey. 

Why This Matters

As their internal racial equity work unfolded, the foundation’s board identified common pitfalls. Racial equity goals can easily grow to a highly aspirational level, leaving the day-to-day work feeling overwhelming. Without intentional and recurring training, with clearly assigned stewards, the enormity of the task can get out of hand. 

Staff and board members worked together to identify racial equity goals that were both aspirational and achievable, along with creating a work plan for progress and accountability and assigning internal stewards to keep the work moving forward.

In addition to institutional changes, the organization was also clear about the necessity for individual work. Noted Felicia Beard, the foundation’s senior director of Racial Equity Initiatives,

“If you change your policies, practices and procedures, and you don’t work with the individuals that are within your organization at the same time, you just have a structure that people still function in as the way they were. We are doing the two things simultaneously so that people understand the importance, why we’re doing this, what we’re trying to achieve.”

The Opportunity

If your organization is looking to take a similar journey, but is unsure where to begin, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo’s process and current-day practices might provide some first steps. Read about the Community Foundation’s work with Racial Equity Impact Analysis Training (REIAT), the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), and Racial Healing Circles.

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