Communities of Color Lead: The Equity Initiative

The Equity Initiative is a partnership between leaders of color and Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation to inspire and mobilize participatory philanthropy: grantmaking with, by, and for communities of color to advance goals identified by the communities themselves.

The initiative’s goals and structure were shaped by outreach activities, research, and program development led by Gwendolyn VanSant, executive director of BRIDGE, who was a strategic partner with BTCF. BRIDGE was integral to the planning process as it engaged its activist network, anti-racism partners, and donors in the outreach activities and program design. Gwendolyn designed and implemented a series of focus groups and conducted a survey to test assumptions underlying the initiative’s goals as well as perceptions of BTCF as a credible partner.

The Equity Initiative’s key components include the establishment of a permanent Leadership Advisory Committee, a donor Learning and Giving Circle, and the Equity Fund to build philanthropic resources.

The Equity Fund

BTCF works in collaboration with the Leadership Advisory Committee and donor Learning and Giving Circle to secure philanthropic resources to support the growth of the Equity Fund.

The Equity Fund will provide grantmaking resources to support new and established leaders and BIPOC-led organizations. A key goal of this effort is to empower underserved communities to be at the forefront of decision-making and grantmaking, with long-term commitments from BTCF to lift up and support the Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) partners who lead this effort. When using the term BIPOC, we are including the region’s growing immigrant community.

The BTCF board has seeded the Equity Fund with the largest commitment of discretionary resources made by the Foundation, which has been leveraged with gifts from other donors and funders. 

Please visit this page if you wish to donate to the Equity Fund.

Leadership Advisory Committee

The Leadership Advisory Committee, consisting of leaders from the region’s communities of color, will identify priority issues, work with BTCF staff and others to develop programmatic and grantmaking strategies, connect BTCF to community stakeholders, and make decisions on the use of philanthropic funds. Committee members will also provide input and guidance on other facets of BTCF’s program strategy. A priority of the Leadership Advisory Committee is to oversee the development of a leadership academy where emerging leaders will have a community of support and collaboration.

Learning and Giving Circle

The donor Learning and Giving Circle is committed to shared learning and collective action to advance racial equity and inclusion through philanthropy. To date, the learning process led by Tuti Scott at Changemaker Strategies and Gwendolyn VanSant has focused on fostering a deeper understanding of equity, inclusion, systemic racism, and the implications on philanthropic practice, as well as implicit bias and how it affects donors’ philanthropic decision-making.

Apply for a Grant from the Equity Fund