How does the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) advance our mission and lead in a time of division, when too many people in the United States and around the world are suffering? When people feel not just discouraged, but invisible?
As a philanthropic leader, WKKF’s opportunity is to meaningfully adapt and respond to the calls for healing and support; to the optimistic, promising ideas for making positive change in education, health, employment and equity; and to the contagious energy of so many leaders who want to make a difference for all children, families and communities.
Our board of trustees and staff are, as always, guided and inspired by Will Keith Kellogg’s confidence and belief in people, in his sense of fairness and in his vision. He charged us with promoting “… the welfare, comfort, health, education, feeding, clothing, sheltering and safeguarding of children and youth, directly or indirectly, without regard to sex, race, creed or nationality …”
Today, as the Kellogg Foundation delivers on our founder’s vision, we work alongside local leaders and residents, collaborating on plans for stronger, more vibrant and equitable communities that support all children’s futures.
A new policy governance model is helping our board of trustees set the course for the foundation’s work. It’s helping us clarify the respective roles of board and staff and define the ends we wish to achieve, as well as the ways in which we’ll measure progress. From here, we’re redoubling our commitment to children and that requires our board and staff to represent and understand the communities where we work, especially as the U.S. becomes more diverse every day.
WKKF has made steady progress in diversifying our board. Sixty percent of our current board composition is from racially diverse backgrounds, which makes us unique among the country’s largest private foundations. In fact, our board is more diverse than those of most Fortune 100 companies. Progress has also been made among our workforce. In the past decade, the foundation has more than doubled the number of professionals of color on our talented team – from 22 percent in 2005 to 45 percent in 2016. And, the majority of our executive team is also racially diverse.
We recognize that to be relevant to those we serve, our grantmaking must continue to adapt and connect with all members of a community, including its newest arrivals. We must change as communities are changing.
Along with the rest of philanthropy, WKKF is held accountable for creating measurable outcomes. Our work is reaching vulnerable children from all communities – Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Arab Americans and Pacific Islanders. And, we are fully aware of the struggles and inequities in white, low-income communities, where children often face the same kinds of challenges as those in communities of color; they also need to be supported, heard and offered opportunities to grow, develop and thrive.
Hand-in-hand with our work in communities is understanding the histories and truths of communities, and the root causes of inequities that are barriers to opportunities. The U.S. has been dealing with these issues from the day it was formed and continues to struggle. We have a distance to travel in changing hearts and minds so that we can all see one another’s common humanity.
Our Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) enterprise is poised to become one of the most comprehensive and effective efforts in the country to confront racism and promote racial healing in communities. Race-related issues have moved far beyond just a Black and White dynamic. Experience has taught us that all communities, sectors, races, ethnicities, abilities, backgrounds, genders and ages must be involved in creating the solutions to move us forward.
As our years of place-based work in the U.S., Mexico and Haiti demonstrate, we seek community change that is long-term and sustainable. Our approach is two-fold: bring fresh ideas and resources to communities, and train new and nontraditional leaders who can help shape programs to work in their communities. Strong leaders can create the infrastructure to sustain innovative ideas and programs, as well as be powerful advocates and champions for equity in communities, giving voice to the powerless.
WKKF has been a major contributor and coordinator of leadership development efforts for nearly nine decades. On a recent board trip to Latin America, a place where the foundation has significantly invested in leadership, I was especially pleased to see several former Kellogg Foundation leadership fellows at two universities. These leaders are paying it forward by developing the next generation of leaders in Honduras, Costa Rica, Mexico, Haiti, Belize, South Africa and other parts of the world. It is exciting to see how the values of the Kellogg Foundation and Mr. Kellogg will be shared with them and guide them as leaders in their communities in the years ahead.
Additionally, we are looking forward to our current class of WKKF Community Leadership Network fellows completing their three-year fellowship this spring.
As the Kellogg Foundation looks to the future, we are well-positioned to lead with courage and intention – especially through the governance of our board of trustees, the guidance of our President and CEO La June Montgomery Tabron, the talents of our staff, and the exceptional grantees, partners and leaders who work with us each day.
When we join together, we can heal divides. We can see one another more fully. We can create more equitable communities – and ultimately, achieve real change for children.