The Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) put out a call-to-action that would benefit African American’s and women. Detroit’s hometown hero, The Kresge Foundation, was the first private foundation to answer that call. Kresge introduced its ”25% by ’25” initiative to place 25% of its U.S. assets, by the year 2025, with women- or diverse-owned asset management firms. [with asset management firms owned by women or blacks or other minorities]. ABFE aims to secure similar pledges from 50 foundations by the end of 2021, coinciding with its 50th anniversary.
By signing ABFE’s “Diversity in Foundation Asset Management Pledge” during its annual conference in Detroit last week, Kresge committed to supporting diverse- and women-owned investment firms to encourage philanthropic and institutional endowments and expand gender and racial diversity within the field. “We are talking about state pension plans, foundations, endowments and universities, and those corporate managers that control wealth in this country,” said Rip Rapson during ABFE’s conference, which was held at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center. Kresge’s president and chief executive officer Rapson also noted, “About 15 percent of Kresge’s $1.85 billion in domestic assets is already invested with the type of firms it has pledged to support. A boost to 25% would mean a total of $462.5 million.”
ABFE President and Chief Executive Officer Susan Taylor Batten shared her thoughts that “Kresge had taken an important step to not only look inward but to serve as a model for other institutions that manage large endowments.” Headquartered in Troy, Michigan, with offices in Detroit, The Kresge Foundation was founded in 1924 to promote human progress.
Today, Kresge fulfills that mission by building and strengthening opportunity pathways for low-income people in America’s cities as well as dismantling structural and systemic barriers to equality and justice. Utilizing a full array of grant, loan and other investment tools, Kresge invests more than $160 million annually to foster economic and social change. “The foundation has also restructured its recruiting and hiring practices to remove implicit bias to ensure that it is attracting a more diverse and talented candidate pool and is supporting efforts to build a pipeline of young people who are interested in and prepared for careers in the investment industry,” panelist Robert J. Manilla, Kresge vice president and chief investment officer, told the crowd at the conference.
He went on to say, “We recognized the pipeline and networks to these careers – that have been traditionally white, male-dominated – must be diversified early. [In addition,] curriculums at local high schools and colleges [have been launched] to create pathways for careers in investing.” Kresge is currently partnering with the Pontiac Schools system, Oakland University and Wayne State University on the investment curriculum initiative.
The 2019 ABFE conference was aptly titled, “Harambee: Let’s All Pull Together” after the Kenyan Harambee tradition of community self-help, fundraising and development. Its literal translation in Swahili is “all pull together.” ABFE’s Batten expressed, “It was only natural to convene the nation’s largest gathering of Black professionals in philanthropy for networking and learning strategizes [in order] to increase public and private investments in Black communities.
Detroit, which is ripe with history and current day realities, served as a great context for our conference. As part of the Great Migration, many of our families traveled “up-south” to Detroit for the promise of a better future. Black Americans found good jobs and a good way of life… away from the oppression of the hyper-racist south. People found freedom in Detroit and enjoyed the cultural strengths and assets that would soon birth a global soundtrack inspiring people from all walks of life.”