Ban The Box Philanthropy Challenge

Ban The Box Philanthropy Challenge


The EA led this first-of-its-kind effort, galvanizing funders to walk the talk by changing their internal hiring practices and joining the fair-chance-in-hiring movement aimed at eliminating  re-entry roadblocks.

The Story

Ban the Box is a national movement for full restoration of rights of the people who have conviction or arrest histories, especially those who have served time in prison. As the name implies, Ban the Box focuses on eliminating questions that require job seekers to disclose convictions or arrests when completing employment applications. These questions—which are often answered with check boxes—taint the hiring process with a focus on an applicant’s past mistakes rather than their skills and competency. With wildly disproportionate impact on people of color—and men of color in particular—this modern-day form of discrimination limits opportunities for re-entry into society and hurts families and communities.

EA member foundations and their grantee partners are pushing for change through the adoption of fair-chance hiring policies that eliminate or delay questions about conviction and arrest histories. Our collective work began when 27 foundation presidents wrote a letter urging President Barack Obama to ban the box in federal government hiring and the hiring processes of the 170,000 federal contractors that employ 25 percent of the nation’s workforce.

Next, the EA launched the Ban the Box Philanthropy Challenge. This first-of-its-kind effort galvanized funders to walk the talk, resulting in nearly 50 foundations making a commitment to adopt fair-chance hiring practices. Through the challenge, EA members also urged all foundations in the country to ban the box, establishing a new standard for the philanthropic sector.

To support this effort, we created a toolkit called Fair-Chance Hiring in Philanthropy: A Step-by-Step Guide. It offers technical assistance to foundations endeavoring to implement these hiring policies and helps those that are committed to this work to deepen their impact and results. The toolkit provides guidance for human resource professionals to ensure that people with records are free from discrimination during the hiring process. Among other recommendations, HR officers are encouraged to reconsider which questions about records are relevant, when to ask them, and how to evaluate the answers.

The toolkit was created in partnership with the leadership council of the Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People & Families Movement (FICPFM), which served as a formal consultant to and co-author of the project. The council’s participation helped ensure that the toolkit effectively targets and eliminates relevant employment barriers. This group’s direct and powerful leadership in creating this resource demonstrated the indispensable role that formerly incarcerated people must play in developing effective policies for preventing recidivism.

FICPFM leaders gave credit to EA staff for working in authentic partnership with directly impacted people and helping to position them to lead. “Ban the Box [was] birthed out of the formerly incarcerated community,” said FICPFM leader Daryl Atkinson, the inaugural Second Chance Fellow at the U.S. Department of Justice and himself a formerly incarcerated person. “For us, it made perfect sense that we would be brought in to give our expertise to make the most quality toolkit possible.”

The Fair-Chance Hiring in Philanthropy toolkit offers potential for two-fold impact. By engaging formerly incarcerated individuals, foundations can simultaneously inform their philanthropic work through firsthand employee experience of the justice system and offer valuable jobs to formerly incarcerated people. Additionally, the example set by philanthropy could extend to grantee networks, civil society, and even the private sector.