In January 2021, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation announced that it would pilot a demographic survey through the New & Experimental Works (NEW) Program application process. The Arts Program views collecting demographic data as an important step in advancing equity to ensure a diverse group of visionary Bay Area artists are thriving. In this blog, I am sharing our approach, key survey results and our earliest observations.
How We Got Here
When we committed to collecting demographic data, we first sought the insights of applicants through a survey in 2019. Their feedback was valuable in shaping this pilot and surfacing challenges around data collection, the burden of reporting to multiple funders, and external expertise and tools needed to collect and analyze data. Many of these challenges reflected our own.
In developing our pilot survey, we also spoke to funder colleagues. These conversations confirmed that there isn’t a widely adopted, shared platform or standard for reporting this data. So, we did our best to align our efforts with existing ones and considered how to right-size the scale of our survey.
“Our goal for the pilot was to gather baseline data to examine trends among applicants and grantees, surface results that might indicate bias in our funding, identify gaps in outreach and support, and make improvements to our processes.”
Designing The Survey
Our goal for the pilot was to gather baseline data to examine trends among applicants and grantees, surface results that might indicate bias in our funding, identify gaps in outreach and support, and make improvements to our processes. The Arts team worked with the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project (QWOCMAP) to design survey questions that focused on race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and disability information. We did our best to select categories in which community members would see themselves reflected, as well as allow for analyzing the data across other data sets. We acknowledge that demographic categories are problematic and rarely keep pace with the unique ways communities self-identify.
“We used a two-thirds majority because we felt it would show significant and meaningful representation.”
To right-size the survey and the time required to complete it, we structured the survey as a series of 16 yes/no questions. These questions assessed if there was two-thirds majority within their Board of Directors, leadership teams, staff and artistic project teams across four demographic categories. We used a two-thirds majority (versus a simple majority) because we felt it would show significant and meaningful representation.
The survey was an optional part of the 2021 NEW Program application process and not used to make individual grant decisions. Of the 102 small and mid-size dance, theater or multidisciplinary organizations that applied, 91 chose to respond for a response rate of 89%. Eleven percent of applicants did not participate.
What we know about the 2021 NEW Program grantees who participated in the survey:
- Race and Ethnicity: 85% of the artistic project teams, 65% of staff and 50% of leadership and boards of directors had a two-thirds majority that were Black, Native American or People of Color (BIPOC).
- Sexual Orientation: 50% of the artistic project teams, 35% percent of staff, 23% percent of leadership and 19% percent of boards of directors had a two-thirds majority that were Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer and/or Two Spirit.
- Gender: 19% of the artistic project teams, 8% of staff, 12% of leadership and 0% of boards of directors had a two-thirds majority that were Transgender, Nonbinary, Gender-nonconforming and/or Two Spirit.
- Disability: 0% of the artistic project teams, staff and boards of directors and 8% of leadership had a two-thirds majority that were Sick and Disabled.
2021 NEW Program Demographic Survey Results
Below we dive deeper into our early observations across applicant and grantee pools. But first, some notes about these observations:
- “Majority” means that survey respondents selected yes to having two-thirds or more people within their Board of Directors, leadership teams, staff and artistic project teams across the four demographic categories we collected data on.
- “Groups” refers to Board of Directors, leadership teams, staff and artistic project teams.
- Percentages below exclude applicants and grantees that did not participate in the survey.
Where we saw strong representation
- Race and ethnicity: Our applicant pool had high representation of majority BIPOC individuals across groups. Of note, 69% of the artistic project teams were two-thirds or more BIPOC. This was reflected in our grantee pool, with at least half of the respondents responding “yes” across all groups. Of note, 85% of grantee artistic project teams are majority BIPOC.
- Sexual Orientation: At least 30% of leadership, staff and the artistic project teams in the applicant pool were majority Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer and/or Two Spirit people, the greatest representation being from artistic project teams at 41%. This was mirrored among our grantee pool; however, majority representation did go down by 12% at the organization leadership level.
- Artistic Project Teams: In both the applicant and grantee pools, the artistic project teams reported higher majority representation in race and ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation demographic categories than the other groups.
Where we saw the least representation
- Gender: Fewer than 30% of applicant respondents reported having majority representation from Transgender, Nonbinary, Gender nonconforming and/or Two Spirit people among boards, leadership and staff. This was mirrored closely in our grantee pool.
- Disability: Fewer than 30% of applicant respondents reported having a majority Sick and Disabled representation across all four groups. None of our grantees had majority representation of Sick and Disabled people at the board, staff or artistic project team level.
Where we did and didn’t see gaps in data collection
- Race and ethnicity: Under 10% of applicants reported “unknown” or “don’t collect” across groups, suggesting that many applicants are in the practice of collecting this data.
- Gender: We saw a significant data gap in gender identity information among our applicant pool across groups. This gap was largest for artistic project teams with 28% of respondents selecting “unknown” and “don’t collect,” followed by boards (20%) and staff (18%).
- Sexual Orientation: A quarter of applicant respondents selected “unknown” and “don’t collect” across artistic project teams and staff and board groups. Among our grantee pool, “unknown” and “don’t collect” responses to this question went down or stayed the same across groups, except at the board level.
- Disability: Approximately 20% of applicant respondents selected “unknown” and “don’t collect” across groups. Among our grantee pool, approximately 26% of respondents selected “unknown” and “don’t collect” across groups.
What We Learned About Data Collection
This work was complex and required careful consideration at every stage of the process. It was important to create a feedback loop. In this pilot year, in addition to the yes/no survey, we asked applicants who were invited to the final round to fill out a second survey with more detailed demographic data. Applicants gave us feedback about how to communicate better, ask clearer questions and right-size the data collection to be less burdensome. As a result, we retired that second, more detailed survey until we learn more and build our capacity to collect this more nuanced data better.
“Applicants gave us feedback about how to communicate better, ask clearer questions and right-size the data collection to be less burdensome.”
The other important learning was that the more data you collect, the more you have to analyze. And you also need resources and expertise to analyze and contextualize the data in meaningful ways. By asking a series of yes or no questions about majority representation across demographic categories, we streamlined the survey for both the Foundation to analyze responses and participants to provide data. However, this means that we don’t have detailed information on our applicant pool or whom our grant dollars are supporting. For example, rather than asking applicants to provide race and ethnicity data on each board member, our survey asks applicants to state whether their board has a two-thirds majority representation of BIPOC people.
Where We’re Going
This pilot survey represents a beginning in our journey to understand who our grants serve and where we have gaps in our support. We are continuing to collect demographic data as part of our NEW Program grant application, which has the highest volume of applicants across our programs. We hope to deepen our equity practice by using what we learn to address bias and barriers in our processes, develop targeted outreach strategies and adapt our grantmaking to better serve specific communities.
“This pilot survey represents a beginning in our journey to understand who our grants serve and where we have gaps in our support.”
We are exploring how to coordinate efforts with our funding partners in service of reducing the burden on applicants and grantees. We remain committed to sharing what we’re learning, listening carefully to learn how we can improve and centering equity in our approach. We are grateful to everyone who responded and shared feedback along the way. We invite you to share your thoughts with us in the comments below, or through our contact us form.