Power Moves at 1 year: Biggest obstacles and next steps

Written by: Lisa Ranghelli

Date: June 12, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a 2-part reflection on the 1st year of NCRP’s Power Moves toolkit. Read part 1 here.

In part 1 of our reflection of the 1st year of Power Moves, we discussed our first 2 lessons: 1. Interest in the guide is a blessing and a challenge; and 2. High-touch engagement is key in motivating use of the guide.

In part 2, we’re taking a look a lessons 3 and 4, and discussing the next steps for Power Moves:

3. The biggest obstacle to using Power Moves is lack of staff capacity and resources.

A bar chart showing obstacles to using Power Moves.

Not surprisingly, many who would like to use the guide have not yet been able to, for reasons cited in the chart (respondents were asked to check all that apply; “too little time” and “competing/too many resources” were recategorized from “other” responses).

Insufficient resources or staff capacity was the biggest barrier, followed by feeling overwhelmed or unsure where to begin. One respondent captured many of the sentiments expressed in the data on obstacles,

“I appreciate the approach of ‘toolifying’ resources, but will confess I’m a bit overwhelmed by the amount of documents, components. Frankly, we’re moving quickly on a lot of fronts and I want to find the time to sit down and think about how our team could carve out time to engage with the resources, and how to do that in the most time efficient way.”

NCRP experienced a steady demand for referrals to consultants that can help funders address diversity, equity and inclusion issues, whether through Power Moves or otherwise.

Survey responses and 1-on-1 outreach also confirmed that many foundation professionals struggle with getting buy-in from trustees or senior staff leadership — who demographically are most often white and wealthy — to address race, privilege and power issues within their institution. As one respondent wrote,

“[It’s] very hard to confront structural racism in a ‘do-gooder’ organization staffed by a lot of highly privileged people who have no idea that they have this level of entitlement and can’t just overcome it without seeing things through a new lens, as well as giving up power.”

On the positive side, more than a quarter of respondents said they encountered no obstacles. At least 29 respondents expressed their intent to use the guide in 2019.

Despite the proliferation of many sector tools, less than 4% listed competing resources or lack of relevance as a reason they had not used it.

To get past feeling overwhelmed, digging into 1 section of the guide has been a productive approach for many users.

The Sharing Power section has consistently garnered the most interest across survey respondents and participants in webinars and in-person presentations, followed by Building Power and then Wielding Power.

Beyond the 3 dimensions of power, the Readiness Assessment and Glossary of Terms have been the most useful parts of the guide to inform thinking and practice.

4. Despite the obstacles, funders are finding creative ways to use the guide, and some are already making changes as a result.

Early evidence indicates that the guide is helping funders, and to a lesser extent philanthropy-serving organizations and consultants, have fruitful conversations that are leading to greater internal alignment, and advances in thinking and action, related to power and equity.

Among survey respondents who took action individually or institutionally, they most frequently used the guide to spur discussions.

Steps taken with Power Moves

Institutional actions

Used Power Moves to discuss the role of power, privilege and risk in advancing equity. 22.7%
Used the glossary of terms to foster conversations about key concepts in the guide. 15.7%
Used the internal questions to help board of staff reflect on 1 or more dimensions of power. 12.4%
Used the discussion guides to foster conversations about power. 12%
Answered the readiness assessment questions. 11.6%
Used the external questions to get feedback from stakeholders on 1 or more dimensions of power. 4.6%


Individual actions

Discussed the guide informally with others. 56.2%
Used Power Moves to spur discussions on the role of power in advancing equity. 27.3%
Used Power Moves to affirm or support recent strategic planning or learning and evaluation. 19.8%
Formally presented about Power Moves to others. 4.1%

Power Moves has helped staff or boards get on the same page about what they really mean when they talk about equity and power:

“Discussed with my [foundation] board. … My board was appreciative of defining how we do use power in our current strategies, and why we need to garner more to address inequities.”  

“[W]ith members who come from a range of frameworks and comfort levels with power, it has been a challenge for us as staff to help move the needle collectively. So we used the document as the backbone of our strategic plan and reworded some concepts to make them easier to translate to our membership.”

 “For us, it was a really good teambuilding opportunity to use words we don’t typically use. I wanted it to inform the power-structures in grantmaking and, I’m happy to say it did spark some important conversations about NOT dictating how nonprofits should do their work with our funding.”

Beyond conversations, a handful of funders have changed funding guidelines or application forms, or shifted grantmaking priorities and strategies as a result of using the guide.

In some cases, consultants have been able to use Power Moves with clients, such as this survey respondent: “Two funders have taken it up as a part of their orientation to staff and board and incorporated it into their thinking and planning.”  

Yet many consultants have been challenged with how to integrate it into existing client contracts and relationships, especially when internal diversity, equity and inclusion processes are already underway at a foundation, or the grantmaker has not invited the consultant’s help to explicitly delve into power and privilege.

Very few grantmakers appear to be undertaking a full self-assessment to inform action, and those who are are primarily members of our peer learning group for funders.

A key component of Power Moves is for grantmakers to solicit honest external feedback, yet only 11 survey respondents said they had “used the external questions to get feedback from stakeholders on one or more dimensions of power.”

The risk for others is that they will rely only on self-reflection without gaining candid outside perspectives, especially from their grant partners and intended beneficiaries.

This approach would just reinforce the echo chamber or isolation bubble that already exists in philanthropy — the exact opposite of Power Moves’ intent.

Next Steps for Power Moves

1. As we approach the end of our 12-month peer learning groups, we will gain feedback from participants and assess the value and impact of this type of high-touch contact, relative to other forms of close interaction, to inform our engagement plans for fall 2019 and beyond.

2. We will incentivize more funders to solicit feedback. For the peer groups we created a set of SurveyMonkey templates that funders and their consultants can use to gain internal and external perspectives on how they are doing on each dimension of power, which we will make available more broadly soon.

3. Grantmakers are clamoring for stories from their peers who have deeply explored power and equity issues and transformed their culture, grantmaking and/or operations. We will explore sector partnerships to help tell these stories in ways that motivate action and foster accountability, whether through use of Power Moves or other resources. Ultimately we want more grantmakers to grapple with power so they can effectively advance equity and justice, regardless of what tools they use to get there.

Stay tuned for more learning, reflection and strategy updates on Power Moves in the coming months!