By Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
Years ago, I worked for a member of Congress. The pace was always hectic. Always. Many thought that we lived for the August recess. But for us, August was just as hectic, only in a different way. It was the time that we went home to the district and listened to the views of the citizens in our communities. It wasn’t a time for pressure from national leaders and paid lobbyists, but instead a time to focus on the real people who were affected by the issues before Congress.
Today, I urge my colleagues in the WRAG community to be those real people. I hope you will use this month to reach out directly to the member of Congress who represents you. As a leader in the region, not only are you are more than an average constituent. You are an incredibly informed constituent whose views on the issues would be valued and valuable to your delegate, representative, or senator. (District residents: Eleanor Homes Norton might not have a vote, but she certainly has an influential and respected voice on the Hill.)
Whether or not you believe Obamacare puts this country on the right path for health care, now is the time to tell your representatives what your views are and why. If you are a health funder, you have a wealth of knowledge that goes well beyond that of any member or his/her staff. They’re juggling a lot of issues. They simply can’t know as much as you do about what will be of benefit to this region.
Many believe that immigration will be a big issue in the fall. What are the issues facing immigrants in our region? Make sure that your representatives knows the hidden issues that may be unique to our region. If you know a lot about a particular immigrant community or the needs of this population, add your voice to theirs to make sure that the concerns and opportunities are shared.
And, lastly, don’t forget the issue that might affect our field immensely – the charitable tax deduction. Currently, the leaders of the Tax Reform Subcommittee are on a learning tour. Make sure that our delegation knows how important the philanthropic community is to maintaining civil society. If you need specific examples, point them to Beyond Dollars: Philanthropy and BIG CHANGE in the Greater Washington Region, 2013 Progress Report. They each received a copy in April.
Our region faces critical challenges in areas like education, affordable housing, race, social justice, and transportation. We need you to speak up about them. I hope you will use this month to raise your voice and share your views. You can make a difference.