On the Turning Away – June 2021


Until last year, our charitable work focused on supporting disadvantaged and underserved entrepreneurs internationally (and much of it still does). But over the years, people often asked us why we don’t do the same here in the US? We would mostly respond: the need is so much greater and our scarce dollars go so much farther. While this is true on many levels, that answer avoids addressing the social and economic disenfranchisement of African-Americans and other people of color here at home. With limited resources, we are not able to be everywhere or help out on every important issue.

Our international work with underserved grassroots small businesses serves a critical niche avoided by most funders and remains core to our identity. But the pandemic illuminated some hard truths about the disparities in opportunity for people of color here in the U.S. that too many, including us, have turned away from for too long. We say turned away from because the situation is clearly evident when one cares enough to look. It is visible on so many levels, including the investment world, where 98.7% of the trillions in investment capital is controlled by white men.  Predictably, 97% of that capital in turn flows to other white men, with only 3% going to women and about 1% to people of color.

We are a tiny player in the financial world, and even among foundations, so we are not going to resolve this disparity alone. However, with increased resources from a recent bequest to our endowment by our late founder, we have an opportunity to start contributing to solutions and not look away. SK2 will now contribute to bridging the racial divide in economic opportunities in this country by prioritizing investment in funds and businesses led by women and people of color, for the benefit of women and people of color. This includes examining the management profile of prospective investment funds, and not just their social / environmental impact thesis. We will also encourage peers to amend their own investment strategies by looking through these lenses.

Charitable foundations like ours, who collectively control many billions in their endowments, can play a catalytic role influencing where investment capital should be re-directed—but only if we walk the talk and invest more in alignment with our professed values.

Don’t accept that what’s happening
is just a case of others’ suffering
Or you’ll find that you’re joining in
the turning away

“On the Turning Away,” by Pink Floyd, 1987