Valley Community Foundation Report Examines Diversity, Equity, Inclusion in the Region

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Valley Community Foundation issues report on diversity, equity, inclusion.Shutterstock image

In a report recently released by The Valley Community Foundation (VCF) that included a compilation of comments and perceptions of 32 Valley stakeholders surveyed earlier this year, those participating indicated that “the biggest barrier keeping communities of color in the Valley from reaching success is systemic racism,” noting a “lack of affordable, safe housing options,” “extremely limited” public transportation, a lack of childcare options, and food insecurity. Respondents also shared that “a lack of bilingual staff is keeping nonprofits from effectively serving the growing Latinx community.”

The report, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) Landscape of the Valley highlights interviews conducted this spring, which included observations that “nonprofit leadership and upper management is mostly White,” and that while “many organizations have intentions to diversify their Boards, most have not had success or have even started trying.”

The VCF website points out that “While only scratching the surface on the topic, the data will be used as a starting point for future Board discussions about where VCF’s work on DE&I issues should be directed, what priorities to fund, and where to provide capacity building assistance.”

Sharon Closius, VCF President & CEO, said, “We have embarked on a listening journey because the more that we know about the Valley’s needs and opportunities, the better we will be able to work with our community partners to nurture an equitable and inclusive Valley. The VCF Board of Directors is committed to supporting difficult but necessary conversations and examining what strategies can be implemented in our community.”

The report also noted that “For every respondent that believes there is a lack of qualified applications from minorities, there is another respondent that stresses the importance of changing hiring methodologies in order to reach the abundance of qualified candidates.” Those surveyed shared ideas for improving diversity efforts, including marketing job opportunities to local churches and organizations, and “removing potentially unnecessary requirements such as higher education degrees, and making a concerted effort to learn about and face unconscious bias head-on.”

The VCF Board is exploring how a DE&I lens could impact the Foundation’s work and its role in the Valley region. As part of its five-year strategic plan (2019-2023), one of VCF’s goals is to build a DE&I awareness and education plan for Board, staff, and nonprofit organizations serving the Valley, officials point out.

VCF is coordinating efforts in 2021 and beyond with its partner The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven (TCF), in a commitment called Stepping Forward, to help the Valley recover from COVID-19 and to expand equitable opportunities. An integrated plan is evolving as community needs change in response to the changing dynamics of COVID-19 and racial equity, according to VCF officials, with strategies being created to help close existing equity gaps by being more inclusive of people of color and individuals from other under-represented groups.

The report suggests that “In order to gain trust in communities of color, it is important that those going into the communities to represent nonprofits are also people of color or, at the very least, understand cultural differences enough to gain their trust. One of the biggest needs is bilingual volunteers.”

Those participating in the survey “believe that The Valley Community Foundation is well-positioned to be a catalyst for change. As a funder, VCF can help promote necessary actions steps in order to keep the positive discussion moving forward,” and the report highlighted a series of suggestions to do so, ranging from offering capacity support to local, Black-led community organizations to funding programs that work holistically with families to address barriers and to smaller grassroots and community-led organizations.

Established in 2004, the Valley Community Foundation distributes over $1.9 million in grants each year to support the local nonprofit sector and the people it serves. In addition to grantmaking, VCF works in strong partnership with The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven (TCF), to promote philanthropy in Ansonia, Derby, Oxford, Seymour and Shelton and receives funding from The Gates Fund and other preference funds at TCF that benefit the Valley. For more information, visit www.valleyfoundation.org.

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