As a grantee of the Barr Foundation, The Funders Network participated in an organizational racial equity self-assessment commissioned by Barr to help nonprofits working in the climate space reflect on their racial equity efforts and benchmark their progress. In this post, originally shared on the Barr Foundation’s site, Climate Director Mariella Puerto shares insights on the self-assessment tool, process and key findings.

BY Mariella Puerto, Barr Foundation

Self-assessment helps organizations evaluate and benchmark efforts to change culture and ways of working; and helps funders better understand partners’ efforts and how to target resources.

In my previous blog post, I discussed the steps we are taking on the Climate Program team to assess how our work can better reflect Barr’s core value to center racial equity.

Open conversations and honest feedback from our grantees have been critical—both in terms of what Barr can change and how we can best support our partners’ related efforts. That’s why we commissioned an organizational racial equity self-assessment tool.

In the fall of 2021, we engaged Maricela Piña and Nayeli Bernal at Community Centered Evaluation and Research (CCER) to develop a self-assessment for organizations to reflect on their racial equity efforts and to help them benchmark progress over time.

In this post, I’ll be sharing information about our process, the tool, and key findings. While we recognize that the self-assessment is just one way to obtain a snapshot of racial equity practices, it is our hope that organizations in the climate movement (including philanthropic organizations) will consider taking concrete steps to examine their own organizational practices and culture. It is also our hope that other funders will dedicate resources to help their grantees align their expressed intentions with their actions. We believe that lasting change will result when organizations in our field are willing to engage in uncomfortable conversations, execute plans to strengthen areas they have identified, and learn from and support each other.

The Process

The tool CCER developed drew upon the contributions of many experts in the racial equity field. As we worked with CCER to design the organizational self-assessment for our grantees, we prioritized creating space for our grantees to shape the tool that they would be using. We formed a compensated advisory team, comprising grantees from across the program to help steer and inform each phase of the process. We also tried to be clear in our expectations: this is a self-assessment, not a test. Honest self-reflection is essential, and organizations will only get out what they put in. Recognizing that people would have questions and concerns, we organized an informational webinar and made ourselves and our consultants available for conversation about the self-assessment.

The Tool

What CCER created was a self-assessment that offered an opportunity for organizations to reflect on their internal and external work to advance racial equity.

We aimed to be comprehensive and gathered information about:

  • Respondents’ demographic information, including position, tenure, and experiences at the organization
  • Organizations’ internal efforts, such as learning activities, communications, and operations – for staff, board, and committees
  • Organizations’ external efforts, such as the organization’s competencies on community engagement and inclusion, as well as power and systems analyses
  • Organizations’ previous history, including successes, challenges, and opportunities to work on (including places where additional support would be welcome)

In creating a tool to gather all this information confidentially, we ended up with three slightly different versions tailored to the respondent’s role: Leadership, Staff, and Board.

After receiving the completed self-assessments, CCER created an Organization Profile for each grantee which provided a score for various dimensions of their internal and external work, as well as reflection questions to prompt discussion among staff, leadership, and board members.

To learn more about key findings and to explore the assessment, read the full post by Mariella Puerto here. 


Photo by bertvthul is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA