Racial Equity Impact Assessment: A Tool for Funders

By Yanique Redwood
President and CEO, Consumer Health Foundation

Consumer Health Foundation (CHF) is no stranger to racial equity. The foundation was born from Group Health Association, a healthcare cooperative founded in the 1930s to provide pre-paid healthcare to its members in racially integrated settings. Our institutional predecessor was acting on racial equity at a time when Jim Crow was still alive and well. This legacy compels us to continue pushing the envelope to ensure that our investments are truly impacting communities of color.

For the first time in our history, CHF now requires that potential grantee partners use a racial equity impact assessment (REIA) tool when applying for a grant. According to Race Forward, REIA is a systematic examination of how different racial and ethnic groups will likely be affected by a proposed action or decision. REIAs are used to minimize unanticipated adverse consequences in a variety of contexts, including the analysis of proposed policies, institutional practices, programs, plans and budgetary decisions. The REIA can be a vital tool for preventing racism and for identifying new options to remedy long-standing inequities.

In partnership with Western States Center and borrowing from existing tools, CHF has developed an REIA tool that can be found here. We trained our nonprofit partners to use the tool and then embedded the tool in our request for proposals. For the top three policy changes at the center of our partners’ advocacy efforts, we asked that they use the tool to aid in their racial equity analysis and discuss how their work might shift as a result of their intentional focus on racism.

We have gotten feedback from nonprofit organizations that have used the tool. Here is a sampling of what we have learned:

Using the tool required greater staff participation. Completing the proposal required the participation and interaction of program staff, executive directors and board members. Development staff could not complete the proposal alone. One organization hopes to engage its constituents in using the REIA tool moving forward.

The tool affirmed values. The tool helped organizations to put in writing what was in their heads and hearts. For one organization, the REIA tool helped their leadership to lift up, make visible and be explicit about its commitment to racial equity.

The tool was useful. The REIA tool provided an opportunity to examine the bigger picture and helped organizations to further develop their policy recommendations and define data needs. Some organizations reported slowing down, stepping back and looking at their work in new ways.

Using the tool was challenging. Many of the organizations said that it was challenging to use the tool. It was time consuming and, at times, daunting. Some were not sure how deep or how broad the responses should be.

The tool helped shift the focus to affected communities and root causes. Some questions provoked staff to think more about the communities that could be adversely affected by their policy recommendations. They also considered how they could assist communities in better understanding systems of power. The tool also pushed organizations to reflect deeply on root causes.

In addition, some organizations not only used the REIA tool in developing their proposals, they also shared it with their affiliates, partner organizations, board members and coalition members.

From this feedback, we gather that tools like these are pivotal in helping organizations to make the shift toward operationalizing racial equity. We will continue to refine the tool and make it less cumbersome and thus easier to use. We will also provide more opportunities for nonprofit organizations to practice using the tool. For funders interested in adapting the tool in their own grantmaking, CHF is available to help.