Cracks in the Foundation: Equity and Grantmaking in Virginia Community Foundations

March 2022

This report examines the distribution of community foundation grants in the Virginia Beach, Richmond, and Northern Virginia Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) in the state of Virginia, by using the Opportunity Atlas Data Tool to map grantees’ locations over income mobility outcomes. The atlas relies on 1970-2010 Census data and tax information to estimate the earning potential of residents based on neighborhood location, race, and gender. The results demonstrate that foundations–specifically the Richmond Foundation, The Northern Virginia Foundation, and the Hampton Road Foundation–did not focus on funding non-profits located in neighborhoods with the worst socioeconomic outcomes. Additionally, the funding disparities often correlated along racial lines, as neighborhoods with a higher fraction of non-white residents were less likely to receive funding. Based on these observations and the larger body of nonprofit and foundation research, funding mechanisms for local non-profits need to be rethought to ensure that funds are being directed to the neighborhoods that need them the most to improve residential outcomes. Potential solutions to reduce philanthropic inequities include foundation lifespan restrictions, changes in tax law to incentivize foundation spending, and boosts to government Community Development Block Grant and Community Service Block Grant programs, as well as further research and analysis of foundation giving.