Introducing The Skillman Visionary Awards

Our journey toward racially equitable grantmaking

What does it mean to be an equitable grantmaker?  And a racially equitable grantmaker?  We’re figuring it out day by day, learning from others and trying out our own new ideas and approaches. Our latest learning exchange was at the PEAK Grantmaking conference, which I had the pleasure of attending.

Our President & CEO, Angelique Power, joined a keynote panel about reimagining leadership. In it, she shared highlights of what we’re learning, changing, or still struggling with when it comes to leading change toward more equitable grantmaking.

My colleague, Tara Cooper, and I humbly offer these insights to you.

Things We’ve Learned 

  • Change takes persistence. Although the work is urgent, change can take a long time. We must hold firm to our values of racial equity and equitable grantmaking despite challenges or pushback. It helps to enlist allies, keep your eyes squarely on the goal, and be strategic about what you tackle and when.
  • Change takes trust. Letting go of long-held practices can be scary. Our Grants Management team has worked hard to strengthen relationships with our Foundation colleagues and grant partners, so that we are trusted as strategic partners who are animated not by rule-following but by our shared mission.
  • Change takes humility. Moving towards racially equitable grantmaking requires you to understand how your practices may have been inequitable in the past. The only way to begin shifting power is to honestly examine how you work, ask the hard questions, and then be open to trying something new.

Things We’ve Changed

  • Since our 2022 Racial Equity Audit, we have nearly doubled the percentage of grants and grant dollars that land at BIPOC-led organizations.
  • We embraced participatory grantmaking by giving our President’s Youth Council a grants budget. We follow their lead on how and to whom they want to make grants.
  • We have dramatically increased our general operating support. Over 70% percent of grant dollars committed so far this year are GOS, the majority of which are multi-year grants.
  • We significantly streamlined our grant application and cut down reporting requirements. Asking much less from our partners allows us to be a more responsive and efficient grantmaker.

We are only just beginning this journey. We remain committed to our values and are eager to continue learning and growing toward being a racially equitable grantmaker. 

Jessica Brown

Jessica Brown serves as the Foundation’s grants manager, ensuring compliance with legal, auditing, and Foundation standards.

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  • The work that you all are doing at the skillman foundation is remarkable. You are provide so many opportunities to the communities of Detroit Michigan and it’s grassroot organizations. On behalf of The Better Men Outreach Program I would like to say thank you.

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