Racial Equity

Kalamazoo Community Foundation: Bringing the outside in


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 1930, the Kalamazoo Community Foundation (KZCF) has been a vital force in supporting underserved children’s access to education through grants for essentials like food and clothing. Nearly a century after its founding, KZCF is in the midst of an ongoing evolution to champion racial, social and economic justice, striving to make Kalamazoo the most equitable place to live.

KZCF’s racial equity journey started in 2000, with the adoption of its first “diversity policy.” Staff and board members began regularly participating in multiday anti-racism workshops, with an official adoption of an anti-racist organizational identity in 2010. KZCF remains committed to racial equity work within its organization, seeing it as a key component of its work within the city. In 2017, the organization went beyond an internal-only DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) committee to building a team of people from both within and outside the organization.

Why This Matters

The Anti-Racism Transformation Team (ARTT) is a 24-member advisory and decision-making body with internal and external representatives whose direct purpose is to “dismantle racist practices, policies and procedures” within KZCF. Explained Sandy Barry-Loken, vice president of community impact and investment:

“Sometimes in spaces when we’re examining a policy, practice, decision, [it] is easier for an external person to raise questions without the concern of power dynamics than an internal staff member to do so.”

ARTT’s work is integrated into all major organizational decisions, activities, and policy changes – said former President and CEO Carrie Picket-Erway, there’s “literally nothing they haven’t touched.”

The Opportunity

If your organization is looking to advance or expand its internal work, consider Kalamazoo Community Foundation’s openness to hearing external voices. You can read more about how the ARTT impacted their board recruitment process, how they advocated for a DEI Director position, how they facilitated direct input into hiring and promotions, and incorporated anti-racism practices into KZCF’s strategic planning.


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