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December 3, 2013 / Christian Clansky

Celebrating success as we strive to do more

By Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

At our annual meeting before Thanksgiving, keynote speaker Dr. Emmett Carson of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation issued a challenge to philanthropists to fully embrace their position as change agents. Dr. Carson suggested that many funders don’t realize their potential to change the world.

His talk was provocative – and he has a valid point. Societal challenges persist that philanthropy has tried to address for the past century, and an ever-changing world keeps creating new ones. As a whole, the philanthropic sector certainly can – and must – do more.

Let me add a clarification though. Philanthropy can do more in addition to the remarkable work that the sector is already doing.

Every day, the foundations and corporate giving programs in our region strive to improve the world. Last year, WRAG members reported investing $279M in the Greater Washington region. Over 60% of them reported supporting nonprofits through general operating support and 40% reported that they fund advocacy work to effect systems-level change. They make an incredible difference in our community, but their leadership, service, and commitment to the region are frequently unsung.

As we consider how to maximize the potential of our sector, let’s not forget to celebrate the impact made along the way.

Here’s a good example: Giving Tuesday. This day was envisioned by New York City’s 92nd Street Y as an opportunity to connect philanthropy to the post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping rush.

To support this vision, the U.N. Foundation, which is headquartered here in our region, stepped up to serve as a strategic communications partner. In 2012, its first year, nonprofits raised millions of dollars on Giving Tuesday, and one year later, Giving Tuesday is part of the national conversation. One must believe that the U.N. Foundation made a difference. Even the White House has taken note. That’s a truly impressive accomplishment, and just one timely example of philanthropy’s impact.

In 2014, I hope that we can all work to meet Dr. Carson’s challenge. But as we close out this year, let’s take a moment to celebrate the many successes that have been achieved because of philanthropy’s involvement.

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