Category: A Region United

Be a Budget Advocate: Speak Up for Our Region

By Tamara Copeland, President

Fairfax County

Montgomery County

Prince George’s County

District of Columbia

For months now, local elected officials have struggled with how to maintain services – ranging from housing for low-income people to keeping libraries open and keeping our communities safe – while grappling with insufficient funding. Some of their decisions we have applauded. Others have brought frowns and deep concern as we fail to understand their thinking.

In some jurisdictions, the decisions have been made, but for a few major jurisdictions in our region, the next week is critical. It is time to let your elected officials know what you think as one of their constituents and it is time for you as a knowledgeable philanthropic leader to offer advice to local politicians as they struggle with some right versus right decisions.

Earlier this week, WRAG held a budget briefing with local experts from Fairfax County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia. In the videos to the right, each leader speaks to the most important jurisdictional budget concerns for his/her community and offers suggestions for how our region’s philanthropic leaders can advocate for sound budget decisions.

Additionally, the Think Twice Before You Slice Campaign offers more advice on how to communicate the importance of careful decision making on the budgets. Read them here.

An Open Letter to Funders in the Region from Ike Leggett

In January, a delegation of funders from Washington Grantmakers
met with County Executive Ike Leggett in the second of a series of meetings occurring with local elected officials. Hearing Mr. Leggett’s concern that philanthropy doesn’t really know Montgomery County, WRAG President Tamara Copeland asked him to write this piece to introduce you to his Montgomery County.

An Open Letter to Funders in the Region
By Isiah Leggett, County Executive of Montgomery County, MD

The Montgomery County that you have thought of as a rich, white suburb that doesn’t need the attention of the Washington region’s philanthropic community has been changing rapidly in the last quarter century.

Hidden among our general affluence are people who are hurting, people who are really poor. Let me share just one statistic that will surprise you: there are more students in our Montgomery County Public Schools who are eligible for free and reduced meals than there are students in the entire District of Columbia Public Schools system. In addition to our traditional poor, the collapse of the international economic system has pushed many previously comfortable families into poverty. We know that to be poor among the affluent is a special burden. And we know that a community with an increasing gap between rich and poor is not a healthy community.

The need for services is skyrocketing at a time of steeply declining revenues. We’ve reorganized. We’ve cut budgets. We’ve increased taxes. And we have recognized that government can’t do it all. Now more than ever, we are working with our philanthropic, business, and nonprofit partners to ensure that Montgomery County continues to be a welcoming community to people of all races, ethnicities, and incomes. As County Executive, I look forward to continuing to work with you and our nonprofit partners to tap the time, talent, and treasure of our community to ensure that all our residents share in the benefits of our wonderful region. Together, we can make great things happen.

Funders – Join Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and senior members of his staff at the Funders Roundtable of Montgomery County this Thursday, March 3. Leggett will discuss the FY2012 budget, priorities for the coming year, and opportunities for collaboration with funders. If you are funding in Montgomery County, but not located in the county, this is a great opportunity for you to learn more about its needs. More information here.

A Region United: Community Organizing for Regional Equity

by Nat Chioke Williams, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Hill-Snowdon Foundation

Dr. Manuel Pastor, director of the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California, delivered a rousing keynote speech at Washington Grantmakers’ 2010 Annual Meeting. He challenged local funders to make equity the guiding principle of our efforts to move the region forward and highlighted community organizing as an important strategy for achieving social and economic equity.

The Hill-Snowdon Foundation released a report last fall entitled Making the Case: Supporting Community Organizing in our Nation’s Capital, citing numerous examples of local community organizing efforts that secured more equitable public policies for low income communities in D.C. Following WG’s annual meeting, I traveled to Los Angeles and asked Dr. Pastor to share more of his insights on community organizing and achieving equity in the Greater Washington region.

Here is the first of two videos. The second will follow later this month.

Save the date – March 7th, 2011 Democracy and Empowerment in Our Nation’s Capital: A Funder’s Briefing

Sponsored by the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, DC Vote, the Hill-Snowdon Foundation and the Greater Washington Social Justice Forum.

A Region United: We’re All in This Together

Throughout the course of the year, A Region United: A Continuing WG Conversation will explore topics and themes relevant to the dialogue started at Washington Grantmakers’ 2010 annual conference.

We’re All in This Together
By Carolynn Mambu
, Vice President

While I will not deny that the economic downturn has been difficult, I believe there is a silver lining. It has forced us all to think more creatively about how and why we do our work.

Our friends from the Monitor Institute tell us that “the status quo is not an option.” In his presentation at our Annual Meeting in November, Gabriel Kasper suggested that effective funders are moving away from evaluating a single grant as a measure of success. Instead, they are looking to knit together the sum of the parts in their effort to move the needle on complex social issues.

As a membership organization representing our region’s philanthropic community, Washington Grantmakers is well positioned to work with our members in a way that can have impact far beyond the success of any one grant, grantee, or donor. A quick look through our publication, Beyond Dollars, will illustrate that our community already knows this and has a track record of success. Still, we think we can act bigger.

This year, WG will coordinate a series of meetings with public officials around the region to build and strengthen relationships, share priorities, and identify opportunities to work together on shared goals. In December, a small group of WG Board members met with then DC Mayor-elect Gray’s staff and offered to serve as a resource to the administration as they develop their priorities. This month we will meet with Montgomery County Executive Isaiah Leggett and next month with Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker.

As local governments struggle with budget deficits and foundation assets are still recovering, it seems to me that we have a unique opportunity. By leveraging our relationships, we can maximize the impact that philanthropy can have on a wide spectrum of issues.

At the same time, we can educate public officials about the local philanthropic network that may serve as a knowledge resource, a natural collaborator, and a committed supporter of innovation. Ultimately, public officials and the philanthropic community share a common goal – creating vibrant communities where all residents are allowed to thrive.

We’re all in this together. With better communication, collaboration, and coordination with local governments, among others, we have the potential to work together to change the status quo immeasurably.