Homelessness rises unevenly across the region

HOMELESSNESS/REGION
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments recently shared the results of the Annual Point-in-Time Count of Persons Experiencing Homelessness. Overall in the region, the homeless population rose by five percent from 2015 to 2016, though not spread evenly across the area. The report urges more aggressive action to bring affordable housing to families in Greater Washington. (WAMU, 5/11)

According to the Annual Point-in-Time Count of Persons Experiencing Homelessness […] there were 12,215 people who were homeless across the nine local jurisdictions that participate in the yearly census, which took place on Jan. 28.

That’s up from the 11,623 homeless people in the region at the same time last year.

[…]

In D.C., the number of homeless people increased by 14 percent, while it went up by 12 percent in Frederick County. Things went in the opposite direction for the rest of the region, though. In Arlington County, Loudoun County and the City of Alexandria, the number of homeless people decreased by 27, 20 and 16 percent, respectively.

The full report can be accessed here.

– The number of homeless families in D.C. has risen by more than 30 percent in comparison with a year ago. Further, the District’s homeless children and their parents outnumbered homeless single adults for the first time since the annual census began in 2001. (WaPo, 5/11)

RACISM/COMMUNITY
–  In a letter to the editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, WRAG president Tamara Copeland calls on organizations to talk about racism, and reflects on how the topic of diversity is sometimes used to deflect deeper conversations about race and racism in society. (Chronicle, 5/12).

– In his most recent blog post adapted from a panel presentation at last week’s GEO conference, Rick Moyers, vice president for programs and communications at the Eugene & Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, summarizes Meyer’s experience with the 28 organizations they’ve supported in implementing the Benevon Model for increasing individual giving. His take away? “I wish we’d known at the outset that the goal was to change organizational culture.” (Meyer, 5/11)

Related: Rick is the first speaker in WRAG’s Nonprofit Summer Learning Series. Catch him on June 23 addressing The Dos & Don’ts of Working with Grantmakers!

ECONOMY/REGION | Region’s innovation economy needs boost or risks being ‘laggards’ (WBJ, 5/12)

MARYLAND | Study: Gaithersburg Is The Most Diverse City In America (DCist, 5/11)

HEALTH | A new study finds a 44 percent increase in hospitalizations for ischemic (the most common type) strokes among people ages 25 to 44, despite a 20 percent overall drop among all Americans. (WaPo, 5/11)


Conference calls, you’re the worst! Well…maybe not the worst, but honestly, does anyone actually enjoy them?

– Ciara

Friday roundup – January 19 through 22, 2016

THIS WEEK IN PHILANTHROPY
In an op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Tamara Lucas Copeland challenged the notion of a postracial America and explained why WRAG is working to foster a better understanding among funders about the dynamics of racism. (Chronicle, 1/21)

– The Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy partnered to release the Disaster Philanthropy Playbook, a comprehensive resource to help philanthropy respond to future disasters.

THIS WEEK IN EDUCATION
– Maryland saw a record high of close to 880,000 students this school year – a 5,000 student increase from the previous school year. Most of the surge in student enrollment was in Montgomery, Howard, Baltimore, Prince George’s, and Anne Arundel counties. (WaPo, 1/ 20)

 Recommendations to close or consolidate several schools in Prince George’s County have brought members of the community together to oppose the possible changes. (WaPo, 1/17)

THIS WEEK IN THE WRAG COMMUNITY
Do you want to celebrate the fact that you are already a part of the “IN” crowd and encourage others, too? You’re already a change agent in the region, right? Now let’s celebrate that. In keeping with the theme of WRAG’s 2015 Annual Meeting, “Philanthropy All In,” where we shared the ways we sought to INfluence, INnovate, and INspire in 2015, we’d like to see how you plan to carry on that theme in the new year and beyond. Take a selfie, group photo, or get creative showing off the buttons we gave out at the annual meeting. Be sure to share where you wore it and how others reacted. Tweet us @WRAGtweets and use the hashtag #theINcrowd to join us in celebrating each other’s work! Check out how WRAG’s staff is already getting IN on the action:

Don’t have a button, but want to get INvolved? Ask for one the next time you see a member of WRAG’s staff at a meeting or event!


 

WRAG’S COMMUNITY CALENDAR
Click the image below to access WRAG’S Community Calendar. To have your event included, please send basic information including event title, date/time, location, a brief description of the event, and a link for further details to: myers@washingtongrantmakers.org.


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Bei Bei recently made his first public appearance. See how much you know about pandas in honor of the occasion.

– Ciara

Op-Ed: Philanthropy Must Understand Racism Is Not Dead

On Monday, Americans from all walks of life joined together to celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday with volunteer projects and other commemorations reflecting his teachings. Today most Americans applaud Dr. King’s life and his legacy, but that, of course, was not always the case. In the past, the notion of celebrating his work with a national holiday was met with acrimony in many quarters.

That kind of reluctance to celebrate an African-American may seem part of America’s past. After all, this year a new National Museum of African-American History and Culture will open on the National Mall, fully recognizing black Americans’ struggles and accomplishments. Couple that with the King memorial that opened in Washington in 2011, not to mention the monumental election and re-election of President Obama, and it may seem to some that African-Americans have achieved Dr. King’s dream of being judged by the quality of our character, not by the color of our skin.

Most black Americans know that is not the case. There is no postracial America. The question is: does philanthropy know?

This question first arose for me five or six years ago when I heard a local philanthropist tell the late civil rights leader Julian Bond — who at the time was leading annual bus trips through the South, stopping at key landmarks of the movement — “Well, Julian, I guess you won’t have to do those civil rights tours anymore now that Mr. Obama is in the White House.”

Then, following the death of Trayvon Martin, several local philanthropists expressed surprise when I told them of my talks with my then-teenage son about walking-while-black, driving-while-black, shopping-while-black. “You still have to do that?” they said.

But the moment that really clinched it for me — that confirmed how unaware philanthropy is that we are nowhere near achieving a postracial America — came last fall, when I saw the puzzled looks on the faces of many white grant makers when they heard a presentation by David Williams, a professor of public health at Harvard University, at an event sponsored by the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers.

Most of the black attendees nodded knowingly at the facts Mr. Williams shared, but many of the whites in the audience seemed shocked when he noted that it took African-Americans 40 more years than whites to reach an average life expectancy of 69.1 years. Or that for every $1 in median household income a white family earned in 2013, a black family only brought home 59 cents. When the professor said this income disparity was the same as it had been in 1978, the room went silent.

Mr. Williams attributed these disparities to racism. He did not say “inequality” or “lack of diversity” — frequent buzzwords of philanthropy — but racism.

Perhaps most powerfully, he quoted a colleague, a Harvard economist, who said that if we could statistically eliminate the effects of racial segregation, we could eliminate the black-white difference in earnings, high school graduation rates, and unemployment. Shocking.

Philanthropy has worked for decades to help the disadvantaged. The Carnegie libraries emerged from Andrew Carnegie’s desire to provide free access to books to men, women, and children — like those who worked in his steel mills — who couldn’t afford their local libraries’ subscription fee. The Rosenwald schools, supported by the philanthropy of Julius Rosenwald, a longtime head of Sears, Roebuck and Company, provided educational opportunities to blacks in the rural South. In the early 1900s, Rockefeller philanthropy supported public health efforts in the South that helped to eradicate hookworm, a condition especially prevalent among the region’s poorest citizens.

And philanthropy’s commitment to aiding the poor continues today, through efforts to improve access to quality education, health care, and housing. Many donors and foundations consider work on such programs vital to attacking the root causes of inequity in America. They believe that if we keep focusing on financing ideas we know work, soon we will reduce the problems for both blacks and whites and eliminate all disparities.

But a growing number of grant makers in Washington have decided it’s important to challenge this notion, to recognize that the distinct, negative treatment of a group of people based solely on race is a major contributor to poverty and inequality in America. We believe that racism is rarely acknowledged or discussed by members of the public or within philanthropy. And we believe that until that silence ends, our region, and our country, won’t be able to take the steps needed to end racial inequities.

That’s why this month the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, which I head, is launching “Putting Racism on the Table,” a six-month lecture series for philanthropic leaders and foundation trustees on topics such as structural racism, unconscious bias, and white privilege.

Each month, nationally renowned thinkers and researchers will offer a one-hour lecture, followed by a two-hour discussion among attending grant makers about what they learned and its implications.

What’s most important about this approach is that we are going to gather the facts before we consider what philanthropy needs to do next. The format was inspired in part by the words of John Gardner, a founder of Common Cause and Independent Sector, who wrote, “The first step of leadership is not action: it is understanding.”

We hope these sessions will prompt grant makers to recognize the immense value of this kind of discussion and to support efforts to bring together others in our region — business leaders, government officials — for similar conversations.

Perhaps this work could lead foundations to reshape how they carry out their missions, and to make racial justice a key frame for their grant making, whatever their overall focus. For example, some might revise their grant process to ask whether and how applicants consider racial justice as they choose projects and approaches. Some might challenge organizations that believe they’re curbing racism solely because their target audience is largely black. They might finance tools to help their grantees better understand how committed their organizations truly are to racial justice.

When the lecture series is done, grant makers will likely have even more varied responses. But first, people who work in philanthropy must believe they need to act.

At the height of the civil rights movement, racism was reflected in concrete images: a water cannon pointed at peaceful demonstrators, or police violence on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Today’s racism is far less overt and more unconscious, but it is no less real.

Philanthropists must recognize that no matter how laudable many of their grants, they will not reduce disparities in employment or wealth if they do not grapple with the unconscious, culturally ingrained, bias and racism that undergirds our society.

Until philanthropy commits to learning about the injustices that plague our nation, it can’t play the role our citizens demand. Let’s all make 2016 the year we take the blinders off in philanthropy and grapple with the reality that racism is still one of America’s most urgent scourges.

The next “great entrepreneurial city”

REGION/ECONOMY
AOL co-founder Steve Case recently discussed what he predicts will be the “third wave” of the Internet, in which all areas of life will be more seamlessly connected, and how he thinks Greater Washington’s talent pool could shape the region into one of the great entrepreneurial hubs with better coordination between the business and tech communities. (WBJ, 1/12)

[…] the community must continue to build networks between the tech and business communities, drive more investment in big ideas and make sure to retain the talent that moves here, which Case described as “core issues.”

“If done right — and I think they can be done right — it really will position D.C. to rise as one of the great entrepreneurial cities in this next wave,” Case said.

PHILANTHROPY
– The Truth Initiative has long been a leader in the fight against teen smoking. The Chronicle of Philanthropy shares how they rebranded in order to further connect with youth and continue to crush the rates of teen smoking. (Chronicle, 1/7) – Subscription required

– Foundation Center president Brad Smith introduces a new online data dashboard, funding map, and report from Foundation Center and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy called Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy. The interactive dashboard offers a quick glimpse at disaster-related funding trends for 2015. (Philantopic, 1/12)

EDUCATION | Opinion: Natalie Wexler, education blogger/editor of Greater Greater Education and DC Eduphile, and trustee of the Omega Foundation, explores the rigors of D.C. high school diploma and diploma equivalency programs in her latest blog post. (GGE, 1/12)

RACIAL EQUITY/GENDER EQUITY | There is a racial wealth gap in the U.S. that persists well into retirement for most black and Latino citizens. For black women especially, studies find, the disadvantages that contribute to this wealth gap stretch far beyond that of their peers. (Oregon Live, 1/11)


Just for fun, check out your odds of winning the Powerball jackpot, according to this interactive simulator. Then, if the odds are in your favor, see what you could buy in the Greater Washington region with all that money.

– Ciara

 

Friday roundup – January 4 through January 8, 2016

THIS WEEK IN HOUSING
– WRAG and Enterprise Community Loan Fund made a major announcement about a new impact investing initiative to support affordable housing here in our region. Click here to read more about Our Region, Your Investment.

– For many millennial workers homeownership in the Greater Washington region is simply out of reach. (WaPo, 1/4)

THIS WEEK IN THE WRAG COMMUNITY 
– Ed Davies, Executive Director of the DC Trust, has announced that he will be stepping down from his post in order to pursue a new opportunity and continue working on behalf of children, youth, and families.

– The Eugene & Agnes E. Meyer Foundation has announced two new staff members, along with some other changes to their team. Julian A. Haynes and Amy Nakamoto will join Meyer as program officers on January 19.  Karen FitzGerald has been promoted from senior program officer to program director, and Maegan Scott has been promoted to serve as program officer for Meyer’s new Organizational Effectiveness Program and other capacity-building work.

THIS WEEK IN EDUCATION
The Rise of Urban Public Boarding Schools (Atlantic, 12/2015)

THIS WEEK IN PHILANTHROPY
The Chronicle of Philanthropy released this year’s list of 40 leaders under 40 who are working to solve entrenched problems with innovative solutions. (Chronicle, 1/5)

– A  first-of-its-kind philanthropy almanac, offering an abundance of data and facts about the field, is now available. (Chronicle, 1/6)

THIS WEEK IN THE ARTS 
– As millennial philanthropy grows, how can arts and cultural social profit organizations be sure they are attracting this next generation of donors? (Seattle Times, 12/2015)


WRAG’S COMMUNITY CALENDAR
Click the image below to access WRAG’S Community Calendar. To have your event included, please send basic information including event title, date/time, location, a brief description of the event, and a link for further details to: myers@washingtongrantmakers.org.


Calendar won’t display? Click here.


It may be too cold to visit the beach these days, but next time you go, you’ll know exactly what’s across the ocean from you in the horizon.

– Ciara

A response to Pablo Eisenberg

By Christian Clansky
Communications Director
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

To borrow a phrase from President Obama, let me be perfectly clear. What follows is my personal opinion, and I’d like to start with the concession that Pablo Eisenberg is an expert on philanthropy and a lot of other things. I am not.

That said, his recent piece in the Chronicle of PhilanthropyMisplaced Giving Priorities of America’s Wealthy – seemed to me to be almost completely wrong in its approach.

I could talk about Eisenberg’s implication that there must be a common value system for philanthropic giving. I could also talk about his idea that it is the media’s responsibility to hold philanthropists accountable for their giving. And I could certainly talk about Eisenberg’s harsh claim that “few, if any, of the nation’s wealthiest citizens seem to care” about those in need.

But instead, I want to talk about pandas and monuments.

To illustrate his point about “deeply disturbing…misplaced giving priorities,” Eisenberg picks on local billionaire and philanthropist David Rubenstein. In recent months, Rubenstein has made large gifts to support panda reproduction at the National Zoo and to help repair the severely damaged Washington Monument. Eisenberg doesn’t seem to find value in these gifts. He says:

Was a gift to pandas a matter of national interest that merited prominent treatment? Would the $7.5-million donation [to the Washington Monument] help solve a national societal problem?

One could argue that there is inherent value in the preservation of animal species. Organizations like the World Wildlife Fund certainly believe this to be true. There is also a very strong argument to be made about the importance of preserving historical structures.

Eisenberg, however, thinks that Rubenstein’s gifts aren’t valuable because they don’t address poverty. So I’ll approach from that angle.

The giant pandas at the National Zoo are one of the region’s most popular attractions. They rank with the monuments, the Capitol, and the cherry blossoms as symbols for our city’s tourism market. The pandas are even printed on Metro farecards.

By the same token, the Washington Monument almost single-handedly defines the District’s skyline. It is the literal centerpiece of the National Mall, which attracts millions of visitors a year.

Tourism is a major driver in our region’s economy. People buy tickets for planes and trains, and they fill up their cars with gas. They stay in our hotels, eat at our restaurants, and shop at our stores. They spend money on Metro, Marc, and VRE, visit the gift shops and cafeterias at our museums, and take back wonderful memories that encourage others to come here to visit.

How does this help fight poverty? According to data from last year, our tourism industry employs 61,000 local residents. It also generates more than $600 million in revenue for the city from taxes and fees.

That money funds our schools, supports job training, and provides essential services to those who need it most.

Without attractions like the Zoo and the Washington Monument, people wouldn’t be eager to visit. That would result in lost jobs, lost revenue, and lost services. Gifts like the ones that David Rubenstein has made in recent months promote the health of our region, which is essential for promoting the well-being of those who need support.

If he’s going to attack the giving practices of those who freely and generously choose to give away their own money, Pablo Eisenberg should more carefully consider the inter-connectivity of things. Yes, the gift to the pandas merits “prominent treatment.” Yes, fixing the Washington Monument can help contribute to the solution of a “societal problem.”

A final point. I’m not sure that Eisenberg actually believes this, but the emphasis he puts on Rubenstein’s gifts to the Zoo and Monument make it seem like he believes those things constitute the extent of the billionaire’s philanthropy. An article from the Chronicle in 2011 talks about Rubenstein’s signing of the Giving Pledge and the ways in which he was planning to give away more than half of his wealth – estimated now to be more than $2.6 billion. It also mentioned the $100 million that the philanthropist has given to arts, education, and children’s health.

At the very least, Eisenberg might consider revising his comment about Rubenstein’s giving being “miserly.” He might also rethink his assertion that the “Rubensteins of this world can easily give more generously to charitable organizations.”

After all, when asked about the future growth of his wealth, David Rubenstein replied, “If I make more money, then I will have more money to give away…And I’ll be happy to do it.”