by Tamara Lucas Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
In January, the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG) started an intensive exploration of racism called Putting Racism on the Table. Each month, for three hours, grantmakers have been immersed in a topic. Structural racism in January, white privilege in February, implicit bias in March, and this month the focus was on mass incarceration as a case study on how all three factors are operationalized in one system of government, the criminal justice system.
I think that several factors are remarkable about this work. First, eleven major funders in the Greater Washington region came together and said, “We aren’t ready to act. We want to learn.” This was powerful. It has seemed like a societal taboo to talk about the 800-pound gorilla of racism that sits in the middle of the room when discussing housing needs, educational needs, health care, or any of the multitude of community needs that philanthropy seeks to address. But these grantmakers were ready for the talk. Eighty percent of the attendees have come to two or more of the sessions. They have recognized that racism cannot be explored in sound bites. There is a depth and breadth to the topic that requires that you listen, reflect, talk with others, and then sit with the information for a while to make it your own. They are doing the hard work of truly understanding racism. After the sessions, many have been candid in revealing, despite their education and commitment to social justice, just how lacking their knowledge truly was about how pervasive and entrenched racism is in our society. Here’s an illustrative sampling of comments:
“After the session on structural racism, I realized how little I know about racism.”
“The systemic nature of racism is more pervasive than I had previously understood.”
“I think there are situations where white privilege is so ingrained that I am not even aware of the impact I am having just by being present or in casual conversation.”
“Having been through the session on implicit bias, I better understand the very strong and powerful way our subconscious influences our thinking and actions. What can we do?”
I am proud of the commitment that philanthropy has made to this learning journey. People who felt that they were sensitive to and understood racism have learned that it is far more nuanced, unconscious, and institutionalized than many would think. We have achieved the goal of knowledge gain. But, this isn’t learning just for the sake of learning.
Philanthropy has been referred to as society’s passing gear. Its position provides a platform for societal change that goes well beyond dollars. Consider the impact of the national Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on smoking reduction or that of the local Summit Fund on teenage pregnancy prevention. They both felt that they could make a difference and with a laser focus that commitment has led to deep and lasting improvements.
I have heard foundation CEOs talk about how this work is already translating into changes at their foundations. I have heard trustees who are business leaders share the impact that it is having on their thinking and on their actions. And, I have heard colleagues in other states discuss how WRAG’s work has opened the door for a discussion that they didn’t think they could have with funders. The needle is moving – slowly perhaps – but moving, and the momentum is building. Stay tuned.
By Jessica Finkel
Philanthropy Fellow at Kaiser Permanente
Jessica is a Master’s student at the University of Maryland. She is working toward an MPP degree focused on nonprofit management and leadership.
As I entered my final year of grad school, I knew that now was my opportunity to further my professional development in a way that only a fellowship experience would provide. Along came the amazing opportunity to serve as a Philanthropy Fellow with Kaiser Permanente, working with the Community Benefit department. Prior to my fellowship, I only knew Kaiser as a healthcare organization, but I have learned there is much more to the organization. Kaiser works on the ground, creating educational programming and funding opportunities to improve total health for the communities it serves. It strives to find innovative ways to eliminate health disparities among groups.
I can tell in the past 5 months of my fellowship how much I have grown professionally and intellectually. Not only have I worked with incredible people, but I have been able to explore my interests within the public health realm to see how public policy and public health work together. From day one, I became part of the team and have benefited from the passion and excitement each person brings to their work. As part of my fellowship, I have worked on the creation of the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) with a team of consultants and KP staff. Using primary and secondary data analysis, and data triangulation, together we created a thorough process to identify top priority needs within the Mid-Atlantic States. Just recently, we presented our methods and findings to the rest of the Community Benefit team, and the response was overwhelming. It has been extraordinary to see how the CHNA has transformed from conversations and brainstorming into something that Kaiser is going to use to move forward in their strategic refresh and community planning.
My fellowship has been one of the most invaluable experiences I have had during my Master’s program. Not only have I gained a rich understanding of various methods of data analysis, but I have also found my passion in policy and public health: how health disparities within minority populations impact individuals and communities. I have also seen how a truly effective team operates, and learned how vital it is to ensure that everyone is at the decision-making table. I have seen first-hand how collective decisions positively shape Kaiser’s grant making and impact in the community. Looking forward into my own career, this experience has provided new insight into how a large organization operates, strengthened my data analysis abilities, and taught me the importance of making organizational decisions collaboratively.
The Philanthropy Fellows program is WRAG’s signature partnership with the University of Maryland’s Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership. WRAG Members: Interested in hosting a Philanthropy Fellow? Contact Rebekah Seder to learn more about the program. Applications are due by May 13.
THIS WEEK AT WRAG
– We released the second video in the “Putting Racism on the Table” series, featuring Dr. Robin DiAngelo, former professor of education and author of What Does It Mean to be White?, speaking on white privilege. After viewing, we encourage you to share your thoughts on the series or on the specific topic via Twitter using the hashtag #PuttingRacismOnTheTable, or by commenting on WRAG’s Facebook page. We also suggest checking out the viewing guide and discussion guide to be used with the video. Both can be found on our website.
THIS WEEK IN PHILANTHROPY
– In an update to WRAG’s Beyond Dollars report originally published in 2009, former managing director Kristin Pauly of The Prince Charitable Trusts provided the latest on their efforts to help protect a cultural and environmental asset in Virginia, and presented a new documentary on the fight, When Mickey Came to Town. (Daily, 4/13)
– Opinion: Public Welfare Foundation president and WRAG Board member Mary McClymont shed light on the need for long overdue reforms to the civil justice system, and the need for more foundations to support civil legal aid for vulnerable citizens. (Chronicle, 4/8)
– Consumer Health Foundation (CHF) president and WRAG Board member Yanique Redwood, and administrative and communications assistant Kendra Allen, shared how CHF has used learning journeys to further connect with their grantees and view their work from a different perspective. (NCRP, 4/7)
THIS WEEK IN THE REGION
– Editorial: The Washington Post took a look at recent violent crime occurring in the District’s wards 7 and 8, and the importance of tackling social issues that are often factors in crime. (WaPo, 4/11)
WRAG’S COMMUNITY CALENDAR
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How did you know when you were officially an adult?
It’s all hands on deck for the Fundamentals of CSR tomorrow. The Daily will return on Friday!
For many students preparing to graduate from high school, figuring out how to pay for college can be challenging. For undocumented students, being ineligible for federal loans or grants can make those challenges seem insurmountable. (WaPo, 4/11)
It’s an uncertainty that many undocumented students confront during their senior year in high school as they are crossing over from one world to the next. They are moving from a childhood when they had a right to attend public school, where teachers promised that they could achieve anything with enough hard work, to an adulthood where their legal status stands directly in the way of opportunities, including not just federal student loans but also driver’s licenses, certain academic fellowships and jobs.
– Why Do Some Poor Kids Thrive? (Atlantic, 4/6)
COMMUNITY/WRAG/ENVIRONMENT | In an update to WRAG’s Beyond Dollars report originally published in 2009, former managing director Kristin Pauly of The Prince Charitable Trusts shares the latest on their efforts to help protect a cultural and environmental asset in Virginia, and presents a new documentary on the fight, When Mickey Came to Town. (Daily, 4/13)
– In their final annual report on the state of diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy, the D5 Coalition shares the voices of leaders in the field and their stories of progress in the struggle to create a more equitable sector. (D5, 4/12)
– Opinion: In light of the Council on Foundations’ 2016 annual conference addressing a lack of diversity and inclusion in philanthropy, Council president and CEO Vikki Spruill and Hispanics in Philanthropy president Diana Campoamor recommend strategies for addressing underrepresentation in the sector. (NPQ, 4/7)
– Opinion: Pablo Eisenberg, senior fellow at the Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership at Georgetown University, discusses why he believes that philanthropy further exacerbates wealth inequality in America, and what he sees as a “culture of silence” in the philanthropic community. (Chronicle, 4/11) – Audio
CHILDREN/DISTRICT | Who Pays the Price When Child Care Assistance Is Too Low? (CCN, 4/9)
VIRGINIA/ECONOMY | Why Virginia is shaking up its economic development strategy (WBJ, 4/12
Who better to review the best playgrounds in D.C. than an 8-year-old child?
In 2009, WRAG published Beyond Dollars: Investing in Big Change, presenting a series of case studies of the grantmaking initiatives in the region that were creating lasting impact through their ability to build partnerships, leverage key resources, and capitalize on timing and momentum. Later, in 2013 WRAG published a progress report, further exploring the impact that philanthropic investments make on the lives of people who live in our region. One of the report’s featured stories focused on how The Prince Charitable Trusts helped to protect a cultural and environmental asset in Virginia. Today, we bring you the latest update on those efforts from Kristin Pauly, former managing director of The Prince Charitable Trusts.
by Kristin Pauly
Former Managing Director, The Prince Charitable Trusts
This story begins in 1993, when The Walt Disney Company unveiled plans for a new theme park in Haymarket, Virginia near some of the most significant battlefields of the Civil War. Against a 75 percent public approval rating, a small team of philanthropists and local residents joined forces and mounted a campaign to convince Disney that siting their “American History” theme park in these rural and sacred lands was a bad idea.
Last month, the Environmental Film Festival premiered the documentary, When Mickey Came to Town. While the film documents the campaign in opposition to the Disney site, there is another, equally-inspiring story about the long-lasting impact that is possible when philanthropists go beyond dollars.
The Prince Charitable Trusts were by no means the central players in the campaign, yet the trustees and staff were active and engaged participants. They were inspired by the outcome and changed by the experience.
In the ensuing 22 years, the Trusts have continued to provide relatively small grants – often in the form of general operating support – to the organizations and initiatives that have committed themselves to protecting the very qualities that a Disney theme park threatened to destroy: a healthy environment, social equity, and celebrating and preserving a unique cultural legacy of this region. It has been a form of “engaged philanthropy” that has proven effective in a variety of ways.
All this has been made possible because the victory left people in the region with a sense of hope. As Chris Miller, executive director of the Piedmont Environmental Council, said on the 20-year anniversary of the fight, “It was a big fight and a good fight – a fight made possible by a long list of wonderful and talented people. Our coalition included some of the best organizations and thinkers in conservation, historic preservation, and sound land use planning – and we showed the entire nation that a grassroots movement is capable of taking on the Goliaths of the world, like The Walt Disney Company.”
Among the long-lasting impacts of the campaign are:
- The Piedmont Environmental Council itself has grown to become an effective community-based conservation organization. Its work has helped permanently protect more than 370,000 acres of land in the Virginia Piedmont.
- The launch of The Journey Through Hallowed Ground, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of the unparalleled American heritage found in the 180-mile long, 75-mile wide area stretching from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville. In 2008 Congress recognized the Journey Through Hallowed Ground as a National Heritage Area. The Journey was featured in WRAG’s 2009 publication, Beyond Dollars, as an example of “a visionary partnership” and an example of how any foundation can have an impact by becoming engaged in a cause and pursuing a vision.
- The impetus that catalyzed the smart growth movement in the D.C. metropolitan area, and the creation of The Coalition for Smarter Growth to promote reinvestment in existing communities and walkable neighborhoods connected by transit-oriented development.
In 1993, I was director of Urban and Metropolitan Programs at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. I played a small role in encouraging the Bay Foundation to take a stand on the campaign, and in the process came to know the staff of the Trusts. This led to my being hired as the managing director of The Prince Charitable Trusts two years later.
In the past 22 years The Prince Charitable Trusts have supported – and to some extent helped shape – a multitude of activities needed to permanently protect both the land and the culture that were in danger of being lost. It has taken a lot longer to shape this agenda than it did to defeat “Disney’s America,” and not all the battles were won. But I believe the result is impressive: a stronger sense of community, stronger leaders and institutions, and inspiring stories to share with future generations. And I believe that in this case, philanthropy has made a difference – both with dollars and beyond.