Values and Vision

We understand that the structure and institution of philanthropy have contributed to systemic inequities. To achieve equity in our regions, we strive to use our resources to shift power to those most impacted, including – but not limited to – Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities; the LGBTQIA+ community; people with disabilities; women; and people from under-resourced communities.

Join Us

Because inequity is systemic, the work must be as well. Our equity work is embedded into every area of the Foundation – program, finance, and governance. In sharing the evolution of our ongoing equity practice, we call upon other funders – especially family foundations – to join us in this work. Every journey is different. We are not experts. We offer our experiences to give others ideas on how to begin applying an equity lens to philanthropic work with the aim of building capacity, increasing access, and uplifting underrepresented narratives.

The Journey


From the inception of their foundation in 1952, Gaylord and Dorothy invited community members and experts in their fields to serve on the foundation board alongside family members. Community service is a long-standing value for the Donnelley family. Dorothy was a long-time volunteer and board member at the Rehab Institute and has a research lab named for her in what is now the Ryan Ability Lab. This tradition of service continues to this day with board members actively engaged in numerous civic and cultural organizations.


We began this work as a staff in 2016, under the name of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). A staff/board committee was created to guide initial work, and a staff lead was appointed to DEI initiatives. Board and staff completed a full-day antiracism workshop in 2017 and have continued with supplemental training each year, including membership in Enrich Chicago. DEI was added to all committee charters and is a topic at all committee, board, and staff meetings. The foundation began underwriting antiracism workshops for nonprofit leaders in 2019 and continue that support.

All areas of the Foundation are touched by this work – program, finance, governance. More on how we have operationalized equity in each of these areas is below.


In our program areas, we proactively seek groups that are led by and serve those communities most impacted by inequitable philanthropy. Our newest strategies – Broadening Narratives in Collections and both of our Land Conservation strategies – were updated specifically to codify the equity lens. Given the nature of the arts, those portfolios have lent themselves to more risk and experimentation, but each of those strategies will be evaluated and the equity lens codified in 2022.

Supporting Antiracism Work

We have been sponsoring antiracism workshops for grantees for several years now, currently through ArtEquity, Hollaback, CROAR, and consultant Angela Park (links below). We will continue offering those workshops, to account for leadership transitions and staff turnover, as well as shifting language. In Chicago we support the work of Enrich Chicago and the League of Chicago Theaters as each are working to build an antiracist Chicago arts sector. We are now exploring how to support organizations in their next phase of equity and antiracism journeys.

Capacity Building for BIPOC Organizations

As a next step, we began supporting BIPOC (Black, Brown, and Indigenous People of Color) leaders through two peer-leadership cohorts in 2021, on which we’ll report in early 2022. We want to extend support to BIPOC leaders both at BIPOC-focused organizations, as well as at predominantly white-led organizations and are planning to expand the cohort model in the coming year. In the Lowcountry, following a group workshop sponsored by the SC Arts Commission, the consultancy Red Olive worked with two BIPOC-led arts organizations – a Gullah-focused group and a Latinx-focused group. In Chicago, the cohort consists of ten arts leaders, working in two groups of five with facilitator Kimberly Dixon-Mays. In both circumstances, GDDF is not present, ensuring a convening space where leaders can share resources and seek advice on challenges in full confidentiality.

GDDF has launched a Lowcountry BIPOC-Led Arts Capacity Building Pool to help support and strengthen BIPOC/BIPOC-led organizations. The pool will be available over the next three years (2023-2025) to GDDF’s BIPOC arts grantees in the form of grants and technical assistance. For more information, please contact Ame Holcombe, Lowcountry Program Associate, at


Along with several other Chicago foundations, we recently reaffirmed our ongoing commitment to diversity and equity in stewarding our endowment, from managers to investments. We welcome continued dialogue with others on investment opportunities.

Diversity mission-aligned investments
After including a diversity lens on our investment policy, we began identifying new diverse managers to add to our endowment portfolio. In 2021 we made the following:

  • We made an eight-figure investment in Matis US Equity Index Strategy, owned and managed by Machel Allen, an African-American woman.
  • In the private investment space, we approved a multi-million dollar allocation to Base 10 HBCU Advancement Initiative, a venture capital firm in the technology space that has developed an innovative structure to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities as part of its operating model.

Administration and Operations

When selecting vendors – from catering to communications – we choose local businesses or independent contractors whenever possible and give preference to those led and/or owned by those from the Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, and/or LGBTQIA+ communities, people with disabilities, and/or women. We choose B Corp certified when possible.

We have intentionally recruited for board and staff positions in communities underrepresented in philanthropy.

In choosing locations for meetings, we ensure the space is accessible to those with mobility issues and offer CART and ASL upon request.


Disability Pledge

Recognizing that ableism is a core barrier to equity and inclusion, we are a signatory of the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy’s Disability Inclusion Pledge. JOIN US as with 50+ other funders in our commitment to engage in a learning journey with each other from now through 2023 (and beyond).

Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium (CCAC) 

In this hybrid world, we hosted three workshops with CCAC for arts organizations, though the lessons could be applied across any area. The recordings are on our YouTube channel: Disability Awareness, Accessible Virtual Events, and Building Accessible Events and Programs.

Connecting with Indigenous Communities

Land Acknowledgement

This is preliminary language which we will continue to build on as we learn more from our regions’ Native communities.

Chicago is located on the ancestral homelands of the Council of Three Fires – the Potawatomi, the Ojibwe, and the Odawa. As an important land and water crossroads, many other Native communities lived and traded here and called it home.

Chicago was one of the original five cities designated in The Indian Relocation Act of 1956, and today the region is home to the 3rd largest urban Native American population in the U.S., with members representing numerous tribal communities.


Prior to European colonization, South Carolina’s coast was home to numerous native tribes.

From the Georgia state line through the southern half of Charleston County was the Muskogean Nation, made up of the tribes of the Ashepoo, Bohicket, Cofitachiqui, Combahee, Coosa, Cusabo, Cusso, Edisto, Escamacu, Etiwan, Kiawah, Kusso-Natchez, Stono, Wando, Wimbee, and Yamassee.

The northern half of Charleston to the North Carolina border consisted of the Siouan tribes of Chicora, Pee Dee, Sampit, Santee, Sewee, Waccamaw, and Winyah.

Today, the Catawba, Edisto, Wassamasaw, Santee, and Waccamaw are federal- and/or state-recognized tribes in the region, among many other communities.

[source: UNC Greensboro –]

Building New Relationships

Despite Native Americans accounting for nearly 2% (5.4 million) of the U.S. population, philanthropic funding for these communities remains less than 0.5 % of annual foundation grant dollars. Beyond acknowledging the past and present indigenous communities in our regions, we will begin working in 2022 to convene local indigenous leaders to help us to build connections in the community. We will center and promote indigenous voices in our mission areas and identify ways for us singly and with partners to support Native communities with partnerships, grants, and other resources.

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