Kresge Foundation: Advancing racial equity through capacity building

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The Kresge Foundation: Advancing racial equity through capacity building


Strengthen grantees’ leadership capacity with a racial equity lens


A leadership capacity-building program designed with grantee input, tailored to meet grantees’ needs, and helping grantees advance toward racial equity to achieve their goals


As The Kresge Foundation seeks to expand opportunities in cities, it partners with a range of nonprofits working to create more equitable outcomes. Recognizing these nonprofits would benefit from support to advance their own leadership and racial equity capacity, the foundation partnered with Community Wealth Partners to design and implement a capacity-building program.

Kresge’s FUEL Program (Fostering Urban Equitable Leadership) was designed to reach a broad swath of grantees across the foundation’s six program and practice areas. Because participants have diverse needs, the program works with a network of providers to offer a range of services related to racial equity and matches participants with the services most suited to meet their needs.

The program has a dual focus on investing in both grantees and the participating service providers . The goals of the program for grantees are 1) stronger senior teams, 2) stronger mid-level staff, 3) more diverse talent, and 4) more equitable practices. For service providers, the program aims to strengthen their collective work across the social sector through means such as deepening awareness of one another’s work and expertise to be able to make referrals and trying to make language and definitions more consistent across the field to aid the field’s understanding of racial equity and its components.

Community Wealth Partners led a five-phase process, in partnership with the Kresge Foundation, that included the following elements:

  1. Strategy and Design – Engaging grantees to understand their needs, vetting service providers, seeking input from grantees and service providers to inform program design, and developing the program’s goals and theory of change
  2. Planning and Stakeholder Engagement – Nominating, inviting, and selecting grantees and matching grantees to services
  3. Program Launch – Announcing acceptance and matches to grantees and kicking off work with service providers
  4. Implementation and Service Delivery – Supporting grantees and service providers during service delivery as needed and planning and facilitating convenings for the cohort of service providers to share insights and lessons learned
  5. Learning and Evaluation – Gathering and analyzing data from participants, facilitating meaning-making conversations with foundation staff and service providers, and developing recommendations for future programs

The first round of the program reached 10 percent of Kresge’s grantees: 286 individuals from 115 grantee organizations. 

Investing in both grantees

and service providers


Evaluation data showed outcomes related to all four of the program goals, such as strengthening board systems, structure, and approach; mastering general management skills; modeling best practices that advance equity; effectively recruiting, hiring, and retaining diverse talent; and increasing awareness of racism and equity within organizations. At the close of the program, some grantees noted early outcomes in making their organizations more diverse and, as a result, more effective at creating impact in their communities. Grantees also raised suggestions for improvement, such as allowing more time for grantees to learn about the program and consider whether they want to apply and providing more guidance to help grantees determine which service among the offerings is the best fit for them.

In response to these strong early results and the extent to which grantees saw value in the FUEL program, Kresge has decided to invest in a second phase. We partnered with Kresge to run the program, adapting it based on pilot program learnings and grantees’ suggestions for improvement. We also partnered with Kresge to run a similar program focused on building racial equity capacity with grantees in its environment program.

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