Chesapeake Bay Trust committed to diversity and inclusion

| December 6, 2017
Rams Head

The Chesapeake Bay Trust, a regional non-profit grant-making organization, has been guided by a Diversity and Inclusion Initiative since 2008, one of the oldest among environmental funders in the region.  Of particular emphasis for the Trust has been engaging under-engaged audiences.  The Trust believes that all residents of the region benefit from healthy natural resources, and, in turn, all residents can help improve natural resources.  As a result, the Trust’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee has identified three audiences of particular interest:  communities of color, communities of faith, and communities in the human health sector.

Over the past 10 years, the Trust has significantly increased its grant-making to communities of color: In 2008, 10% of its awards engaged people of color.  In 2017, 59% of the K-12 students engaged by its grants were students of color, slightly higher than the percentage of students of color in Maryland (57%).   Thirty-one percent of teachers engaged by Trust grants were people of color, while only 18% of the region’s teachers are of color.  Forty-nine percent  of volunteers engaged in Trust grants were people of color, compared to the demographics of Maryland indicating that 41% of Marylanders are people of color.

In 2017, close to 10% of all grants (33 awards) were made directly to the faith-based community or for work on the property of faith-based groups, representing 13 different religions.

“I am proud to have been one of the lead architects of the Trust’s original Diversity and Inclusion Policy back when environmental groups were just beginning to appreciate the importance of engaging communities of color in Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts,” said former Chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Trust Board Midgett Parker, an attorney at the law firm of Linowes and Blocher LLP and board member from 1999-2007 who remains involved with the organization as part of its esteemed Trustees Council.  “The Trust has come a long way since then, and now is a leader in outreach and environmental grant-making to communities of color.”

Significant demand exists for Trust grant programs, with the average number of requests three times the amount of available funding.  Grant programs in multiple realms support awards that are often specifically oriented to communities of color and other under-engaged audiences, including: the Trust’s K-12 environmental education programs, the Mini Grant Community Engagement and Restoration Program (which is open only to new applicants to encourage under-engaged audiences to apply), the Outreach and Restoration Grant Program, and county-based partnerships (including the Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program).

In the Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program, which is four years old, 139 applications have been received, 71 grants have been awarded for $5.8 million, and 68 were declined.  Of those grants (list attached below):

–          48% (34 grants) were made to organizations/projects predominantly led by people of color.

–          66% (47 grants) were made to projects serving predominantly people of color.

–          39% of the funds ($2,297,72016) were distributed to organizations/projects predominantly led by people of color.

–          60% of the funds ($3,530,366) were distributed to projects serving predominantly people of color.

The Trust has pursued several strategies to engage communities of color:

–          Transforming one grant program away from repeat grantees to be only accessible to new applicants in an attempt to engage more diverse communities.

–          Hiring “connector” groups to relay opportunities to key communities.  In 2016, two connector groups were hired to engage predominantly African-American groups and one that focused on the faith community.  In 2017, groups were hired to reach Latino audiences, faith communities, and organizations working on human health.

–          Providing incentives for more experienced grantees to serve as mentors to new applicants.

–          Implementing a procurement policy for our non-grant work requiring outreach to disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) firms that is more stringent than that of the federal government.

–          Leading 8 other members of the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network to embark on a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion effort to survey environmental funders and watershed organizations in the region to assess commitment to diversity issues.

–          Incorporating diversity on Technical Review Committees: Every grant proposal submitted to the Trust over $5,000 is sent for external peer review to members of a Technical Review Committee. All Technical Review Committees must include people of color.   Proposals are reviewed and scored quantitatively by at least three external peer reviewers as part of a Technical Review Committee composed of experts in their fields.  These reviewers provide not only funding recommendations but feedback on any proposal’s drawbacks and comments on how to improve it.   Every applicant is offered the opportunity to receive reviewer feedback.

The Trust has been and remains committed to diversity and inclusion.

Severn Bank

Category: Local News, NEWS

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