Our Commitment to Racial Justice
We believe the diversity of our county is a fundamental strength. Our mission is best fulfilled when we embrace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) not only as core values but as intentional actions.
We maintain that achieving diversity requires an intentional commitment to equity and inclusion that is foundational to our organizational culture, values, norms, policies and practices. Throughout our work internally and externally, we support diversity in all its forms, encompassing but not limited to, age, ability, immigration status, economic circumstance, ethnicity, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression .
Leading by example, we aspire to make diversity, equity and inclusion core values and are committed to approaching our work with a DEI lens.
Lake County is home to many diverse and dynamic communities. We believe this diversity makes us a stronger and more resilient county. However, Lake County is also home to many stark and deeply inequitable disparities among our neighbors and communities. Since our inception, we have been committed to investing in communities of color. Yet, we recognize more intentional and strategic action is required. We understand the only way to work towards rectifying hundreds of years of slavery, segregation, culture and policy that has enabled systemic racism, is by forging deep relationships with communities of color to build trust and inform our priorities, creating opportunities for meaningful and long-term investment and building pathways for diverse leadership. We are dedicated to the mission of intentional, equitable investment in Lake County and commit to bringing this conversation to the forefront with our fellow funders, partners and neighbors. This is our plan to move that work forward:
While we continue to serve a variety of communities in Lake County through our community investment and leadership strategy, we see a tremendous need for intentional investment, education and strategy to foster racial equity. In Lake County (and across the U.S.), race and ethnicity are indicators for several social disparities. In Lake County, the disparities between neighboring cities are stark and deeply inequitable. The COVID-19 crisis only magnified these inequities that have plagued our county for generations.
• The average life expectancy of residents in North Chicago is 14 years less than Lake Forest, two communities less than 5 miles apart. The Lake County Health Department, 2019
• Black adults are 8.5 times more likely than white adults to be admitted to Lake County Jail. The Lake County Sherriff’s Office, 2018.
• Lake Bluff’s median income is $162,000, compared to Waukegan at $49,000. U.S. Census Bureau, 2019
• Although students from Highland Park and Highwood share a high school, students living in Highwood are 2.5 times less likely to graduate than their Highland Park classmates. Illinois Report Card, 2019
• 88% of Lake Forest High School students go on to enroll in post-secondary education, compared to 50% of North Chicago students. Illinois Report Card, 2019
We know that dismantling systemic racism will benefit everyone in Lake County regardless of race or ethnicity. As a community foundation, we have a responsibility to communities to ensure everyone has access, resource and opportunity starting with those who have been impacted the most. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”
First, Commitment. We are committed to racial equity for the long-term. We have hundreds of years of oppression and racism to make right. We are committed to being more than “not racist” – we are committed to being anti-racist. We will use a racial equity lens and will be clear about our values in our culture, practices, procedures, policies, partnerships and programs.
• Organization-Wide Equity Audit – We acknowledge we can be more intentional in our commitment to fostering an equity-forward organization and community. This requires the willingness to examine internal policies, investments and practices. In 2021, we will complete an organization-wide equity audit to inform our learning and guide the actions we take moving forward. We will publish the strategy and goals to ensure we are accountable.
• Transparency – We will be transparent in communicating our growth opportunities as an organization and will commit to working in partnership with community members and partners to create a more equity forward organization.
Second, Investment. The Lake County Community Foundation will be intentional about investing in communities of color in Lake County. In 2020, we began a new Investment Advisor relationship to better meet the Foundation’s portfolio management and wealth planning needs, while prioritizing social responsibility in alignment with this mission. We will actively support and learn with fellow funders by providing education, identifying transformational opportunities and using our platform to amplify the voices of those who have historically been excluded.
•Lake County Small Business Growth Initiative (SBGI) – The Small Business Growth Initiative is designed to collaboratively support small businesses owned by people of color in priority communities within Lake County through the infusion of financial, relational and human capital. We take a data-driven and individualized approach to working alongside small business owners to help them meet their specific growth goals while enriching the small business ecosystem with intention to close the racial wealth gap in Lake County.
•Investing in Leaders of Color – We are committed to creating pipelines of leadership and entrepreneurship in communities of color and increasing investment to Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC)-led organizations. Grantmaking to health and human service agencies led by People of Color: We will track and intentionally invest in organizations led by People of Color, making sure we are connecting with grassroots organizations in and serving communities of color.
o Leadership Development Pipeline: Through our Leadership Development grant making priority area, we will invest in organizations and projects that are building a pipeline of emerging leaders of color to ensure that the county’s future nonprofit leadership reflects the communities they are serving.
Third, Continued Learning. As our county’s community foundation, we recognize the urgency to shift our philanthropic power to communities of color, building a Lake County where everyone loves to live – a Lake County with access, resources and opportunity for all. This requires our board, staff and volunteers to honor a written, collective commitment to continued learning and accountability to uphold our equity value.
• In 2020, we formally launched and continue to evolve our Racial Equity Program. This work serves as the foundation for our values, practices, community leadership efforts and investments. It requires both a tailored and inclusive community-based approach. As such, we are committed to:
o Doing the internal work – our staff holds weekly learning sessions to increase our knowledge and understanding around critical topics that impact our community and our work. We hold quarterly learning sessions for our board, volunteers and interested stakeholders to support collective understanding by creating safe and welcoming spaces for meaningful individual learning.
- Supporting the external work – the onset of the COVID pandemic further amplified the inequity throughout all of Lake County. Our staff is committed to leveraging LCCF’s convening power to regularly gather Lake County funders to provide opportunities for education, action and investment through an equitable lens.