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March 26, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Growing philanthropy in our region | A first quarter report to the community

by Tamara Copeland
President
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

“Why aren’t there more national funders investing in our region?”

“Who else is funding XXX?  I need to know so we can coordinate better.”

“I can’t be the primary funder forever.  YYY needs more funding partners.”

At WRAG, we hear these comments and others like them all of the time from our members. This quarter “growing philanthropy in the region” has become our focus.

Most of the time, at WRAG, we wear the hat of the convener, or the voice of philanthropy, or the information aggregator.  For the first quarter of 2015, we have elevated another aspect of our work – fund developer. I know that this isn’t a descriptor that you typically associate with WRAG, but it is central to our role. Even our mission statement says that in addition to promoting effective and responsible philanthropy, we are “to increase philanthropy in the region.”   So, we’ve taken a number of new steps this quarter to do just that.

In January, Dr. Sherece West-Scantlebury, CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Arkansas, spoke at WRAG’s CEO Coffee and Conversation series.  Why?  Because Sherece had done a phenomenal job of bringing national funders into Arkansas, a state that, like the Greater Washington region, was rarely the pilot site of any major national initiatives.  We wanted to learn how she and her colleagues had managed to bring in millions in new revenue to social profits located in Arkansas in a relatively short period of time.  We heard her message of bold, coordinated action. Now a group of WRAG members is exploring how we might move forward in a similar way in our backyard.

In February, we launched the Get on the Map campaign, an effort to gather data on who is giving to which social profits in our region. Why? On the surface, this may appear to be a simple data mapping project.  It is that, of course, but it is also a means of assessing where investments are not being made in the region, and of providing a platform that might lead to better coordination of giving — a service that the WRAG community has wanted for years.

This month, we announced a new WRAG initiative, a two-day workshop on the Fundamentals of Corporate Social Responsibility.  Why?  Because we know that every funder and every social profit organization – both grantor and grantee – wants to expand the funding pool.  Through this workshop, we hope to help the local social profit sector better understand the constraints and opportunities that rest in the corporate community.  This knowledge will lead to more focused, appropriate proposals and to better partnerships to address the overall needs of the region.

And, it doesn’t stop there. In May, WRAG will be shining a spotlight on the needs of Loudoun County, just as we did years ago on Prince George’s County. Why? To showcase a part of our region that needs  greater philanthropic investment.  Many believe that WRAG’s role made a difference in Prince George’s. Now we hope to do the same thing in Loudoun.

It’s springtime. The seeds are being planted.  You’ll know when they bear fruit!

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