The focus of the March 25 front-page article “Big environmental groups come up short on diversity” was too narrow. The problem is so much greater.
This marks my 35th year of work with grass-roots environmental groups since my evacuation from Love Canal in Niagara Falls. I know from experience that a diverse staff and board will not change much unless it is accompanied by a radical shift in mission, goals and resource allocations.
In a report last year, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) detailed how environmental funders mainly support large, professionalized environmental organizations instead of the grass-roots, community-based groups that are most heavily affected by environmental harm. Organizations with annual budgets greater than $5 million make up only 2 percent of all environmental groups, yet they receive more than 50 percent of all grants and donations. The report makes a profound argument that the current funding strategy is not working and that, without targeting philanthropy at the community level, the movement will continue to fail.