By Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
A few years ago, there was a lot of talk in the social profit sector about moving from good to great. Some in that sector may be surprised to learn that folks in philanthropy have been having a similar conversation. What does it take to ensure effective philanthropy? How can we ensure that funds are being invested in the best way to truly improve the region?
So, for the second quarter of 2015, WRAG took “promoting effective philanthropy” as our focus:
WRAG’s “Fundamentals of CSR” seminar, held in April, aimed to promote effective partnerships between corporate funders and the region’s social profit community. Our belief was that corporate philanthropy’s impact would be strengthened by having community partners who better understood the unique philanthropic perspective of corporations. Over 50 members of the local social profit community participated in this very well-received workshop and told us that their knowledge about CSR improved from an average of 4.8 on a 1-10 scale before the seminar, to 7.9 by the end of the two-day seminar. Great. Now, we have to wait a bit to see if that knowledge gain makes a difference.
In May, Community Wealth Building took front and center as we hosted – along with the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, the Consumer Health Foundation, and City First Enterprises – the first community update on this initiative. The standing-room-only audience was eager to learn the status of the first business launched under the community wealth building umbrella, and to consider if they saw a place for themselves in this initiative. Many did! So, after several years of planning, community wealth building is taking off in our region. Great? I sure think so.
Next, affordable housing. We all know the current state of this as a crisis in our region. In May, WRAG and Enterprise Community Partners collaborated to present to the Federal City Council on a new funding pool that we are establishing for developers of affordable housing units. It will provide these developers with access to low interest bridge loans. This is exciting and innovative work for WRAG, and is creating buzz as we move into the impact investing arena. Stay tuned for an announcement next month about how you can be involved in this effort, too. It’s not just for institutional philanthropists. We can all play a role in enabling affordable housing in our region. Definitely a move from good (info gathering) –> to great (taking action and making a difference).
And, last, but definitely not least, what will it take to move the social profit sector in Loudoun County from good to great? More communication across sectors and more targeted and increased philanthropic investments. To get there, WRAG hosted our first philanthropy conference in Loudoun County. Over 100 people attended, including 40 funders, along with representatives of social profit organizations and local government. Now that interest in the county has been kindled, the next step is a meeting this summer to really talk about how to move from interest to action.
There will be no lazy, hazy days of summer at WRAG. Moving from good to great takes time, energy, and focus. We’re glad to play a part with philanthropy in our region. Happy summer everyone!
You can read Tamara’s first quarter report to the community about growing philanthropy in our region here.