Tuesday, February 5, 2008
A California bill captioned "Foundations: Diversity" passed out of the House on Jan. 29 and is now being considered by the Senate. Assembly Bill 624 as introduced applied to private foundations and has been amended to apply to "private, corporate, or private operating foundations."
The legislative counsel's digest describes the bill as follows:
- This bill would require a private, corporate, or public operating foundation with assets over $250,000,000 to collect specified ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation data pertaining to its governance and grantmaking. The bill would require this information to include, but not be limited to, the following: the racial, gender, and sexual orientation composition of the board of directors or trustees and members of the foundation, the number of grants awarded to specified organizations serving serving ethnic minority communities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities, and the percentage of grant dollars awarded to specified organizations where 50% or more of the board members are ethnic minorities or are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
The information collected is to be reported on the foundation's website, if available, under the heading "Diversity."
The purpose behind the bill is unclear, although making information about diversity public suggests that someone will review this information and draw conclusions from it. One type of information refers to the grants made to organizations serving ethnic minority communities and LGBT communities. That type of information seems useful if the goal is to learn about the amount of grantmaking to organizations that fit that definition.
The other types of information being gathered seems odd, not very useful, and intrusive.
One type of diversity being tracked is gender diversity. Is the goal to have an equal number of men and women on boards? Is the goal to increase the number of women on foundation boards? The number of transgendered persons on boards? In terms of grants, should a foundation give a preference to grantees run by women? Should a charity with lots of women members on the board get a preference over a charity with a majority of men? What if the charity with female board members runs an after-school program directed at boys and the charity with male board members runs an after-school program that targets girls? Why does the gender of board composition matter?
What about racial information? The bill itself states that information should be collected based on the following categories: African-American, Asian-American, Pacific Islander, Caucasian, Latino, Native American, and Alaskan Native. Is the goal to increase the representation of people of color on boards? To balance the racial composition of boards among various racial and ethnic groups? Will a board with all African-American members be treated in one way and a board with a mix of Latino, Asian, and African-American members be treated another? What about a board with Latino, American Indian, and Caucasian members?
The requirement to provide information about sexual orientation seems intrusive. Presumably private foundations will require that grant requests include information about the sexual orientation of each board member of the requesting organization? What if board members do not wish to make that information public? Will boards ask for that information when recruiting new board members?
This bill is troubling in many respects. It would be interesting to know more about its origins and purposes.