Michele Kumi Baer

Philanthropy Project Director
Race Forward

A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Michele Kumi Baer is an advocate for racial justice working in philanthropy and the larger nonprofit sector. As Race Forward’s new Philanthropy Project Director, she works nationally with foundations, donor collaboratives, and affinity groups to strengthen philanthropy’s ability to advance racial equity, both within individual institutions and throughout the sector. Michele is skilled at conducting research and building consensus with diverse stakeholders to extend thought leadership, propel new program development, and strategically enable nonprofits, collectives, and corporations to create and embody more equitable practices.

Michele was previously at The New York Community Trust, where she was instrumental in the foundation’s internal work on racial equity. She provided a racial equity perspective in proposal review processes; initiated two internal racial equity committees; helped organize two staff retreats on racial equity; and conducted the first-ever assessment of The Trust’s grantmaking with regards to race, based on the demographics of grantees’ staff, board, and communities served.

Michele is also a trained dancer in African disaporic traditions from Brazil, Haiti, and West Africa (Guinea and Mali), and her dance practice is core to her social justice work. Michele is a proud Yonsei (fourth generation Japanese American). She has a Bachelors from Brown University and a Masters from Columbia University.

Presentations from Facing Race 2018

Beyond Lip Service: Aligning Racial Equity Frameworks and Impact in Philanthropy

Racial equity has been en vogue in philanthropy for several years. However, recent research shows that the philanthropic landscape continues to be inequitable, with less dollars flowing to African/Black, Latinx, Asian/Pacific Islander, Arab/Middle Eastern, and Native American-led, community-based organizations than to White-led, Eurocentric institutions. Knowing that systemic change is neither quick nor easy, how can both grantmakers and grantseekers better understand the entrenched inequities in the philanthropic sector, and make commitments to help course correct in our current cultural moment? This interactive workshop will provide attendees with the opportunity to workshop solutions with philanthropic practitioners. Questions to be explored include: How is it that philanthropy is talking so much about racial equity (e.g. recent “ALAANA” and “DEI” initiatives) while the funding landscape is actually getting more inequitable? What strategies exist to address how philanthropic frameworks (and their resulting practices) perpetuate racial inequities within/through philanthropy? Grantmakers and grantseekers alike will leave this session with an understanding of current racial equity initiatives in philanthropy, barriers to and opportunities for change, and skills and strategies for interrupting inequitable practices and promoting equity in/through philanthropy.

Speakers: Michele Kumi Baer, Keecha Harris