Equity Framework for The Indianapolis Foundation

In recognition of its equity-driven mission, The Indianapolis Foundation will preference funding organizations and programs that:

  • Focus on root causes and not symptoms of racial inequity
  • Support efforts that address and seek to eliminate disparities
  • Focus on addressing systems-level reforms rather than ‘one-off’ programs
  • Serve high percentages of under-appreciated, marginalized populations with quality, comprehensive programming with a sharpened focus on outcomes
  • Are designed with and endorsed by community stakeholders, including residents and/or those being served by project
  • Include a feedback mechanism for residents and/or populations served to inform programming design and delivery
  • Possess organizational and board leadership that are representative and incorporative of populations served

These values reflect CICF’s approach to promoting and advancing equity across grantmaking practices. This is by no means an exhaustive list but rather a framework our community leadership officers will benchmark against when assessing competitive grant requests to be funded through The Indianapolis Foundation. This equity lens will also focus on how race impacts experiences and access to opportunities, outcomes, and power, to eliminate inequities and narrow achievement gaps.

Frequently Asked Questions

No. The Equity Framework will support all responsive grantmaking rounds for The Indianapolis Foundation. It provides new criteria related to mission-alignment and funding priorities that will inform The Indianapolis Foundation Board’s community investment activities into the future.

In April of 2019, CICF adopted a new mission and strategic plan that—above all—is focused on promoting racial equity in Central Indiana. We have taken steps internally to provide professional development for our staff to best learn how to be agents of change and have structured our community leadership initiatives to align with the mission. This step is to develop a grantmaking framework that ensures our limited and discretionary resources are targeting opportunities and organizations that align and support a more racially equitable Central Indiana.

We know that unrestricted grants give not-for-profits the flexibility to allocate funds where they are needed most, making them stronger and more sustainable, and freeing them from bending programs to funder desires. There has been a sector shift toward unrestricted grantmaking as more funders tackle the hard work of equity and anti-racism, and work to respond to the lasting effects of the COVID pandemic. While national funders (Ford Foundation) and large community foundations (San Francisco) have adopted mission-aligned unrestricted/general operating support, there are still few opportunities in Indianapolis for organizations to seek and receive this type of funding.

All responsive grants made in 2021 will align with the Equity Framework and be benchmarked against it as staff conducts due diligence on each application.

The Indianapolis Foundation will continue to make proactive grants in support of our strategic plan and the focus on family stability, economic mobility, neighborhood empowerment, criminal justice reform, and dismantling systemic racism.

In an effort to be most helpful to our most closely-aligned community partners that are committed to promoting racial equity through their work, we are creating access to unrestricted funds—up to $50,000—for highly-mission-aligned organizations in 2021 (beginning with the Nov. 2020 grant round).

In an effort to remain both as objective and equitable as possible, we will not be meeting with organizations to discuss potential alignment with The Indianapolis Foundation’s Equity Framework.

Should your organization submit an application, our staff will follow up with questions and/or next steps related to your request.

The Indianapolis Foundation will not award grants above $50,000 through the responsive pool in 2021.

We aim to increase our impact and our support of highly mission-aligned organizations by making responsive grants in larger amounts than the recent average of $23,000.

The Equity Framework helps narrow in on organizations that share a commitment to our mission to make this a community where all individuals have equitable opportunity to reach their full potential—no matter place, race or identity.

Organizations that share this commitment to actively working towards true equity—not just celebrating it—are what we consider highly-mission-aligned.

The Equity Framework places less emphasis on the identity or number of individuals served and more on how those individuals are being served.

If your organization is focused on racial equity through learning and living out how to be anti-racist, identifying barriers to equity and developing solutions to those barriers with the support and feedback of residents, and you are identifying and attacking racial disparities in terms of life outcomes—then you should consider applying. We are interested in building rich and authentic relationships with residents of color to create better life outcomes, instead of transactional, one-off programming.

We will benchmark against the progress of your organization and assess the efforts taking place to ensure diversity among staff/board leadership.

Representation is of critical importance to us. Not only to ensure services are relevant and human-centered, but also to identify Black & Brown-led organizations in communities and provide an opportunity to address the significant disparities in their funding.


Read more from The Bridgespan Group’s ‘Racial Equity and Philanthropy Report’ and The Stanford Social Innovation Review’s post on ‘Overcoming Racial Bias in Philanthropic Funding’.

While we have specific goals related to grantmaking and the application of The Equity Framework, we also acknowledge that our own organization is striving to do better in these very areas. We cannot hold external partners accountable for things in which we cannot achieve ourselves.

We will evaluate your organization and application on whether or not you satisfy the criteria listed, but also on whether or not you are making progress in these areas and have shown a commitment to do so.

Should you have any additional questions, please reach out to your community leadership officer or Hector Morales Hernandez, grants coordinator, at HectorMH@cicf.org or at 317.634.2423 x138.