Knight Diversity of Asset Managers Research Series: Philanthropy – Knight Foundation
Learning and Impact

Knight Diversity of Asset Managers Research Series: Philanthropy

Since 2020, we have completed three studies on diversity within asset management at prominent charitable foundations in the U.S.


In 2010, Knight Foundation leadership was asked about the portion of our endowment managed by diverse-owned firms. This inquiry prompted a reassessment of our investment practices, sparking an initiative to enhance transparency and promote diversity within the asset management industry. Read our story here. What we learned follows.

Starting with our first report in 2020, our research aimed to understand the extent to which the nation’s largest and most influential philanthropic organizations are using asset management firms owned by women and individuals from diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds to manage their endowments.

Key Findings

Investment with diverse-owned firms among study participants increased. 

  • Of the $78.86 billion in assets under management (AUM) with U.S.-based firms in 2022, 18.1% is invested with diverse-owned firms, up from 16.6% in 2021 and 16.2% in 2020.
  • As of 2022, women-owned firms account for 8.8% ($6.91 billion) of the AUM, and minority-owned firms make up 12.2% ($9.61 billion).

The number of participating foundations in the study has increased over time, but several foundations have not participated in any of the three studies. 

  • In 2022, 35 foundations participated in the study, up from 33 in 2021 and 26 in 2020.
  • In addition to greater overall participation, we also observe greater transparency: fully transparent foundations––i.e., foundations that identified their U.S.-based assets and provided manager rosters to Global Economics Group for analysis––increased from 12 in 2020, to 19 in 2021, to 21 in 2022. 
  • Conversely, passive participants––i.e., foundations that participated by disclosing a partial list of asset managers in their IRS Form 990/990-PF tax returns––declined from 14 in 2020, to 11 in 2021, to 8 in 2022.

Investment in diverse-owned firms varies across foundations.

  • In the 2022 study, 86% of the 29 foundations that fully participated in the study by providing their asset management rosters invest some portion of their U.S.-based assets with diverse-owned firms.
  • 62% of these foundations invest more than 10% of their assets with diverse-owned firms; 24% invest more than 30% of their assets with diverse-owned firms.

Watch: An Inclusive Recovery: How Philanthropy Can Impact Systematic Change

Presented by Florida Philanthropic Network, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Knight Foundation. Featuring Raphael Bostic, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Circle of Transparency

Our philanthropy research relies on participation from charitable foundations. We honor the participating institutions as members of the Circle of Transparency.

We hope the other invited foundations that chose not to participate in this study will reconsider their decision in the future*:

J. Paul Getty Trust
Ford Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
Chan Zuckerberg Foundation
Simons Foundation
Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund
The William Penn Foundation
Sergey Brin Family Foundation
Oregon Community Foundation
Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation
Maxcess Foundation Inc.
(Phil) Knight Foundation
Laura and John Arnold Foundation

(listed by total assets)

*The list excludes the following foundations because their assets are ineligible for analysis: Lilly Endowment Inc.; Foundation to Promote Open Society; Bloomberg Family Foundation, Inc.; Open Society Institute and Kimbell Art Foundation. See Appendix D in 2022 report for further information about ineligible foundations.