By Rebekah Seder
Senior Program Manager
In the latest edition of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers’ Our Region, Our Giving report, we take a look at WRAG member giving in the Greater Washington region in 2016. Over the course of this past summer, we collected data from our members via surveys, as well as from WRAG’s Foundation Map, our internal tool for tracking where members are investing. This snapshot of our membership’s philanthropy represents over $146 million in giving to nonprofit organizations that serve the region and over $3.5 billion in assets.
In this year’s report, we take a close look at a particular tool in the philanthropic toolbox: advocacy. Some WRAG members have long supported advocacy work in the region and have been vocal advocates on important issues, recognizing that policy change can create the kind of lasting impact that direct service provision alone cannot. Over the past year, we have heard from other WRAG members that they are considering increasing their role in advocacy, as federal-level budget and policy proposals threaten advances that have been made in our region on many issues, as well as critical safety-net services that many depend on.
We surveyed our members to find out the range of ways they both fund advocacy and engage in it themselves. Fifty percent of survey takers reported making grants to advocacy organizations and over 40 percent reported that they try to build relationships with policymakers and to educate them on issues of importance to their foundations. We also asked them what challenges in the region would most benefit from advocacy by philanthropy. Housing affordability and gentrification, immigrants’ rights, and racial equity were suggested repeatedly.
In addition, we asked our members about the impact of our ongoing Putting Racism on the Table initiative. WRAG members seem to be actively committed to moving forward on race and racism. We find it promising that 36 percent of our members reported applying a racial equity lens to their grantmaking, and that another 34 percent are considering incorporating this lens into their work.
Other findings of particular note in this year’s report include:
- Health and education were the most highly supported issue areas in 2016, totaling well over $39 million in philanthropic investment.
- Two-thirds of members directed their giving across all three “states” that comprise our region.
- Sixty-three percent of respondents reported providing general operating support to their grantees.