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Pittsburgh Foundation unveils new strategic plan focusing on addressing racial inequalities

Lisa Schroeder, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation
Courtesy of The Pittsburgh Foundation
Courtesy Of The Pittsburgh Foundation
Lisa Schroeder, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation

The Pittsburgh Foundation has adopted a new strategic plan to guide its work for the next five years. According to foundation officials, the new roadmap will build on the foundation’s past work and emphasize creating a “vibrant, equitable and just Pittsburgh region.”

The foundation also has pledged $50 million to support the new projects it undertakes under the plan.

Inequities experienced by Pittsburgh residents, particularly people of color, are not new or unknown to nonprofit organizations and foundations in town, said Lisa Schroeder, the president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation.

“These are all long-standing issues that not only does our community face but that the nation really saw starkly revealed through the [COVID-19] pandemic,” she said.

Schroeder noted that Black and immigrant communities experienced a disproportionate amount of added poverty, illness and death.

She cited the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which reports that 12.8% of people in the U.S. live below the poverty line, but that the number climbs to 20.2% in Pittsburgh. And people of color are the most affected: more than a third of Pittsburgh’s Black and Latino residents and more than a quarter of its Asian residents lived below the poverty line last year.

“We are taking stock of what we all learned during the pandemic and during the period of racial reckoning in this country and determining what the best is that we can do about it,” Schroeder said.

“The plan’s overarching call to action is to achieve racial justice — to build a society in which race is no longer a determinant of who thrives and who gets held back,” the foundation said in a news release.

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The plan includes three “pillars:” promoting philanthropy, supporting community and catalyzing partnerships. Schroeder said the foundation will make additional efforts to engage current and potential donors and connect them to nonprofits and other organizations in need of the donors’ expertise and resources.

Schroeder said “catalyzing partnerships” means accelerating the foundation’s work with donors, corporations, government leaders, community activists, nonprofits and other foundations.

Enhanced relationships will enable them to work together to “find gaps, connect the dots and help us leverage investments that are made in the community,” she said. She said she hopes the plan will help improve complicated issues in Pittsburgh such as affordable housing and eviction.

The work will build on the foundation’s existing Community Conversations project, which brought together hundreds of nonprofit and community leaders from around Allegheny County to discuss the wants and needs of the organizations and the communities they serve.

During the conversation series, which began last summer, Schroeder said artists expressed their need for direct support and networks to connect them to established institutions. They also said they need money to move their work and communities forward.

The Pittsburgh Foundation plans to invest $50 million of its unrestricted grant-making pool during the next five years to advance racial equity and racial justice. According to the new plan, by 2027 at least half of the foundation’s unrestricted grants will benefit organizations led by and serving Black and Indigenous communities and people of color.

The grants will be focused on five issue areas: basic needs, equity and social justice, environmental action, economic mobility, and arts and culture.

The Pittsburgh Foundation will add a dashboard to its website in the next few months to track progress on the five-year plan.

“We know that we have to be open, that we have to monitor our experience, monitor what we're hearing and be flexible and fluid, but actually put the data and the numbers and the metrics out there,” Schroeder said.

She said the foundation hopes its plan to create more community connections will be a new model for organizations working to address racial inequalities.

“[W]e are setting the aspiration not just to provide grant-making support so that people stay in place, but to really look at what it means for everyone to thrive over the long term. And that means supporting nonprofits,” Schroeder said.

“It also means that looking at systems that are inequitable, that have been holding people back and determining what we can do to come together to … make sure that every child in this region has [the] opportunity to succeed regardless of race and identity and circumstance.”

Corrected: January 31, 2023 at 1:57 PM EST
Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at