The equity frame continuum

The following working typology was created by the Equitable Evaluation Project Team to learn about and characterize how philanthropies are incorporating equity into their overall institutional approach. Our analysis was based on the external ways in which foundations referenced equity and the explicit ways equity was connected to various dimensions of their work, from operations to grantmaking. We observed that this a continuum, ranging from no active equity framing, to investment in an equity frame, to deeper structural integration of an equity frame.

Where do you fit?







Conducts professional work in absence of recognition or consideration of need to address inequities





Knows that inequities exist, but does not know how to incorporate into strategic actions.

What this looks like



Do not accept that equity attainment is a part of their mandate.






Know that inequities exist and are truly concerned. However, they may hold back and wait for structured guidance on how to approach equity within their programs.


Chooses selectively which population or inequity to address as sole programmatic focus, e.g, income inequality but not racial inequities; Latinas but not African Americans


Focusses on improving systems of care for improved outcomes, with the expectation that improved systems will automatically impact all population groups


Includes people of color in defined aspects of funding decisions.


Funds needed services in traditional ways, targeted specifically to people of color, usually delivered by people of different ethnicity than population served


Focuses on developing, implementing, and disseminating approaches that match, reflect, integrate historical, cultural, and social needs and desires of populations of color


Funding recognizes the problems of structural racism and systemic structural barriers with a focus on transformative, systems level change.

May focus on any of the characteristic approaches that are described, but a decision is made to limit the focus of intervention to one group or one dimension of equity.


The conflation of equality and equity. Equality often focuses on funding to ensure programs and services that are delivered in the same way to all population groups. Generally, the “equal interventions” are designed based on the needs of more privileged groups and, even if delivered equally, do not make up for the deficits in resources and opportunity experienced by historically and contemporarily oppressed populations.Equality approaches may “raise all boats” equally, while maintaining existing disparities.


Default to a reliance on achieving “minority representation” also referred to as diversity, as their main equity intervention. There may be a limited understanding that the diversity must go hand in hand with power sharing and a flexibility to shift paradigms of action. One without the other is mere tokenism.


This approach funds needed services in traditional ways, targeted specifically to people of color, with services usually delivered by people of different ethnicity than the population served. Funding fills basic needs for some services in communities with limited resources, but could be strengthened into a cultural-matching approach by simultaneously developing a community-based pipeline to leadership of these programs.


Focus on funding community-based programs led by people of color and demonstration projects that develop and implement culturally appropriate methods, usually focused on behavioral interventions rather than policy or structural intervention. These models are then used to disseminate cultural learnings to a broader range of stakeholders to deepen their understanding of and improve their cultural responsiveness. Approach focuses on trust and matching intervention approaches to the norms and needs of a community.


With a focus on significant impact that specifically addresses structural racism and systemic structural for communities of color via systems change approaches, investment includes groups deeply rooted in communities of color, providing flexible and multi-year funding to allow organizations to adapt to on the ground realities. With a focus on systems-level changes that that advance equity, funding that includes advocacy, organizing and civic engagement is likely part of this approach.


Engages in post-hoc decisions and actions to graft equity considerations and approaches onto existing (usually non-equity supporting) institutional framework.


Builds institutional structure from outset or restructures organization to consider equity in all policies, practices, procedures internally and externally


Attach post hoc equity considerations as an “add-on” to existing institutional structure and processes.They change existing structures, policies, and procedures, and investments from the traditional and conventional ways of operating, to ways that respect diversity, anti-racism, etc.


Foundation structures (or restructures) aspects of their operation, from Board and Staff composition to communications, partnerships, and investments to reflect principles of equity in policies, practices, and procedures.