Category: WRAG Voices

Funders: Join us to ensure a fair, accurate, and complete Census 2020 in the Greater Washington region

By Levina Kim, United Way of the National Capital Area, Ria Pugeda, Consumer Health Foundation, and Terri Wright, Eugene & Agnes E. Meyer Foundation

In Spring 2018, the three of us agreed to join together to co-chair the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers’ then-new Census 2020 Working Group. Our goal was, and continues to be, to convene, educate, and mobilize our fellow funders to leverage our collective resources in support of a fair and accurate Census 2020.

The reasons why Census 2020 is an urgent philanthropic priority have been said before, but bear repeating: the Census is the cornerstone of our democracy. Census data determine where government allocates our tax dollars for new schools, hospitals, roads, sewers, and other critical infrastructure. Census data determine federal resources for maternal and child health, Head Start, supplemental food programs, subsidized housing, and other human services (more than $24 billion to DC, Maryland, and Virginia combined!) Companies use census data when considering where to pursue business opportunities. Census data is also used to determine the number of congressional seats that will prevail for the next 10 years.

Most importantly, a complete and accurate Census 2020 is critical for advancing racial equity in our region. The census count has historically missed disproportionate numbers of people of color, immigrants, young children, low-income, and rural households. It is estimated that more than 55,000 individuals were “undercounted” in this region in 2010. When communities of color are undercounted in the census they are impacted in multiple ways. It could lead to under-representation in government and thus a lack of focus on and investment in their priorities and concerns. Federal funding for social service programs could be drastically reduced. Businesses that are urgently needed – like grocery stores – may fail to open in under-resourced neighborhoods because the data does not reflect the potential for sufficient demand.

The current political environment, a reduction of federal resources for outreach workers (“enumerators” in census-speak), and the sweeping move to an online census have exacerbated the likelihood of our region’s most marginalized communities being grossly under-counted. It is essential for the nonprofit, philanthropic, business, and government sectors to step up and optimize our inherent potential to reach and support communities that are at the most risk of being undercounted in the 2020 Census.

Our call to action: The viability of an equitable future depends on a complete and accurate Census 2020. Philanthropy can and must invest in our nonprofit partners, which have the relationships and connections with different communities, to support the outreach, education, and assistance that under-counted communities – especially communities of color – would need. We call on our philanthropic colleagues to join us in investing directly or with other foundations and donors through a pooled fund housed at the Greater Washington Community Foundation dedicated to Census 2020. We know that through our collective effort we can achieve a complete and accurate count and make a substantial impact on what happens to our region over the next 10 years.


Funders: To learn more about the pooled funding opportunity, please contact Terri Wright, Vice President of Program & Community at the Meyer Foundation, or Ria Pugeda, Senior Program Officer, Consumer Health Foundation.

WRAG members are encouraged to join the Census 2020 Working Group to support a fair and accurate census. The next meeting is June 17. Contact Rebekah Seder to learn more.

The Countdown to Census 2020 Begins Today

By Rebekah Seder
Senior Program Manager
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Census Day is now one year away – and the time to act is now.

A fair and accurate census is critical to the future of our region. Data from the census are used to allocate political representation at the federal and state levels, and to determine billions in federal funding for a host of essential programs, including Medicaid, SNAP, housing vouchers, Head Start, and much more. (Check out these fact sheets from George Washington University to see just how much funding is at stake in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.) Census data drive decisions that impact our lives in countless ways, from where businesses choose to locate, to where bus routes operate, health clinics open, and housing is built.

Most importantly, a fair and accurate census is about equity. Those most at risk of not being counted are those communities that are already the most marginalized in our region due to a history of structural racism and inequitable policies. People of color, immigrants, young children, and low-income families lose political voice and access to resources – power and money – when they aren’t counted. (Explore this map to see where the hardest-to-count census tracts are in our region.)

All of this is compounded in 2020 as actions at the federal level, including the attempt to add an unnecessary citizenship question to the census form, have created a climate of fear that will suppress census completion among communities that have the most at stake. The shift to an online form will also suppress the count among low-income households and others affected by the digital divide.

What WRAG is doing

Since June 2018, WRAG has convened a 2020 Census Working Group of funders interested in strategically supporting the census count in the region. The group meets regularly to share information and get updates from U.S. Census Bureau officials and their counterparts responsible for census activities at the state level in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Many working group members are developing grantmaking and non-grantmaking strategies to support outreach to hard-to-count communities and to amplify the work of Complete Count Committees – cross-sector groups made up of local government representatives and trusted civic leaders that are activating to get out the count in their respective jurisdictions.

In addition, WRAG, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and 13 foundations and other organizations are co-sponsoring a convening later this spring to mobilize key community stakeholders and elevate effective strategies for ensuring that those communities most likely to be missed by the census are counted.

How to get involved

WRAG Members: Contact Rebekah Seder to join WRAG’s 2020 Census Working Group and get connected with other funders already taking action. Check out the Funders Census Initiative, convened by the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation, for a comprehensive toolkit for philanthropic action and other resources on the census.

Nonprofit partners: Advocacy and direct service organizations can educate, encourage, and enable their constituents to complete the census. Get involved with your local Complete Count Committee to support outreach activities in your community. Talk to your funders about what kinds of support your organization needs to participate in census-related activities.

Progress toward our vision of an equitable region is impossible without a fair and accurate census. We all have a role to play to ensure that everyone in our region is counted. The clock is ticking.

Philanthropy Then and Now: Mid-Career Reflections

By Katy Moore

After 11.5 wonderful years at the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, March 20, 2019 will be my last day. As I reflect on my 16-year career in philanthropy, having worked with more than 1,000 grantmaking organizations at the local, regional, and national levels, I had a few thoughts.

1. Don’t be daunted by the size of the problem.
Imagine having an annual grants budget of $1.5 million – the average giving level of WRAG’s member organizations. With that $1.5M, your board might ask you to, for example, build a stronger community for residents of the Greater Washington region (that’s about $.025 per resident), improve the health of Northern Virginians (that’s about $1.50 per resident), or improve the lives of children in underserved communities in Washington, DC (about $30 per child). Philanthropy is nothing if not ambitious. But, philanthropy’s resources compared to the scale of the problems the sector is trying to tackle can lead to what Grant Oliphant calls a “feeling of desperate impotence.” In these moments, it’s critical that we get out of our offices and into the community to connect with the people whose lives are forever changed by the investments we’re making.

2. Giving away money for a living can go to your head.
Many people who work in philanthropy understand their privileged position and are incredibly humble about how they approach their work. There are, however, a small handful of others who have either never worked in the nonprofit field or, if they have, seem to have forgotten what it was like to fundraise, work in direct service, or be woefully underpaid for working in the community. Philanthropy cannot achieve its goals without the nonprofit sector. We’d do well to treat them as the valued partners that they are. I’m a BIG advocate for term limits for program officers, for philanthropy professionals serving on nonprofit boards and for volunteering to be part of nonprofit pro bono projects. This helps philanthropy practitioners stay grounded in the nonprofit reality.

3. Affordable housing is the ultimate upstream strategy.
No matter what issue area you’re funding – from health to education to economic mobility – affordable housing is a good bet. Kids can’t do well in school if they slept in a car last night. You can’t improve someone’s health if they don’t have a safe place to live and cook healthy meals. It is difficult for families to build wealth without affordable home ownership options – this is especially true for families of color. So, whether you’re funding affordable housing directly or engaging in impact investing, it should be part of your portfolio since housing is at the root of so many social challenges.

4. Racial equity isn’t an issue area. It’s the heart of all issue areas.
We in the social sector really like to examine social problems. We commission research, we read, we call on experts. We do all this so that we can understand complicated, interconnected social challenges and be better positioned to invest in solutions. As philanthropy continues to dissect social ills, racial disparity remains the constant. The color of a person’s skin is still the number one predictor of life outcomes in America. That’s why so many funders are now putting racism on the table and doing their grantmaking with a racial equity lens.

If we, as a sector, are truly dedicated to improving the health, wealth, and vitality of our communities, racial equity must be the lens through which we conduct our work. That includes not only our grantmaking, but also the work we do internally with our institutions. The white culture of philanthropy is omnipresent and undeniable, especially when you consider that 90 percent of foundation leaders are white and approximately 95 percent of the $60 billion awarded each year by US foundations goes to white-led organizations.

It’s time for philanthropy to own and examine its whiteness. White funders must increase their racial literacy, examine their own white privilege and their institutions’ white culture. By doing so, we can unmask the power and privilege that whiteness (and white wealth) have created.

5. The future of philanthropy is here
Over the course of my career, I’ve watched the philanthropic field grow in sophistication and creativity – from the way it makes grants, to the way it invests its endowments, to the way it cultivates future leaders. And, while philanthropy – that most traditional of institutions – hasn’t always been lauded for its entrepreneurial spirit, innovation has always been a part of its culture. Here are just three recent trends I’m excited about:

Impact Investing – Just think what we could accomplish if we mobilized for social good the 95 percent of philanthropic assets that are currently sitting in trust funds and the stock market!

Participatory Grantmaking –Who knows better what a community needs than the community itself? Check out this video to learn more from one funder already putting this strategy into practice.

• Philanthropy’s increasing willingness to invest in advocacy and use its voice as a tool for social change. As one of my favorite authors, Brené Brown, writes, “Leaders who live their values are never silent about hard things.” If you’re being silent about the community challenges you see or the changes you’re trying to make, just know that your silence is sending a message.

Traditional philanthropy was built by money and privilege. Over time, thankfully, the ivory tower has started to crumble. As I reflect on my career and my efforts to break down the intrinsic power dynamics between the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, I’m proud of the strides that the field has made and of the direction we’re headed.

I hope that as I change gears to focus on nonprofit fundraising and capacity building that we can stay in touch! I will be relying on you, my network, to encourage me to remain bold in my efforts to push the social change field to achieve more. I hope that, together, we will continue to be audacious in our efforts to make this region a place where everyone can participate and prosper.

Thank you for 11 wonderful years!

****
Since 2007, Katy Moore has been a part of the team at the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG), a powerful network of more than 100 of the largest and most respected philanthropic institutions in the Greater Washington, DC region. Starting June 1, she will join The Orr Group, a fundraising consultancy with offices in DC and New York. Stay in touch and follow her work on Twitter and LinkedIn!

Blackface, White Privilege

By Katy Moore
Managing Director of Corporate Strategy
Director, Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility

Over the last few days, as the story of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook photo featuring a man in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan robes has played out, I’ve had numerous conversations with white friends and family about whether he should step down. I’m glad my white circles trust me enough to talk about race-related topics with me. But, I’m not a racism or racial equity expert. I am simply a daughter of the South who has embarked on a learning journey that has required a painful examination of my own deeply-ingrained belief systems, biases, privileges, and an acknowledgement of my own role in perpetuating racism and racial inequities.

The typical conversation about Governor Northam in my white circles has gone something like this: “Why should a ‘good man’s’ career be ruined over something that happened 30 years ago? After all, he’s apologized and asked for forgiveness. And, what’s so bad about blackface anyway?”

Why isn’t an apology enough?

The Governor’s initial apology seemed sincere and many, myself included, were inclined to forgive him – especially if he utilized this moment to spark conversations around race and racism. However, when Governor Northam changed his tune, it smacked of damage control, marred his chance to begin rebuilding trust, and squandered his opportunity for learning and community-building.

Even with what felt like disingenuous political maneuvering, many of my white friends and family are eager to forgive the Governor’s past actions. They are (ironically) loathe to condemn a (white) man for youthful indiscretions. This begs the question, should Governor Northam’s repentance matter more than the feelings of the thousands of Virginians who feel betrayed by this racist act and what it represents?

In many ways, as a white woman, I want to forgive Governor Northam. This could, after all, have easily been one of the many men who have helped shape my life. But, at some point, we (white folks) have to face the consequences of our actions and own the fact that we have all – intentionally or unintentionally – contributed to our society’s racial disparities. How can racism and its pervasive effects possibly be dismantled until a tidal wave of white people understand it and take responsibility and action for our role in this unfair system?

So, no, Governor Northam’s (recanted) apology isn’t enough.

Should past actions ruin careers?

At the time he was in medical school, Governor Northam was old enough to know right from wrong. Judging by the Governor’s swift apology after its discovery, I am going to assume that he is either in this photo or that another similar photo exists. Either way, he clearly didn’t think dressing in blackface or donning a KKK hood was a problem.

Governor Northam attended an institution of higher learning that accepted this type of bigoted behavior, so much so, that Eastern Virginia Medical School documented it in the yearbook. The likelihood that this environment reinforced a belief system of white superiority and black inferiority is quite high. The likelihood that this belief system – conscious or not – was then perpetuated by Governor Northam and other graduates who would go on to impact the lives of people of color as decision-makers, doctors, and public officials is also very high. In their medical practices, for instance, it is conceivable that these doctors contributed to long-running racial health disparities or undertreated their Black patients’ pain based on racial biases normalized through the type of behavior captured in this photo. This is about much more than a yearbook photo or long-ago moment in time.

In his race for governor, Governor Northam, a Democrat, ran against an opponent tied to a president who has been accused of racism. Many Virginians, including 87 percent of Black voters, supported candidate Northam. I cast my vote for him partly because of his career of service and, partly, as a rejection of his opponent’s party’s seemingly racist views and beliefs. With the emergence of this glimpse into Governor Northam’s past, I no longer believe that he can effectively represent all of Virginia’s residents – particularly the 20 percent of its citizens who are Black. A politician’s license to serve is based on the trust and confidence that citizens bestow upon them. That trust is broken.

Why is blackface so bad?

Google it.

Next steps?

Many are calling for Governor Northam to step down. Unfortunately, even if he resigns and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is sworn in as the Commonwealth’s second-ever Black governor, Virginia will not magically become a post-racial utopia.

Racism has deep roots here. This incident is just one example of how overt racism shows up in our society. Similar to the countless cell phone videos documenting racist acts, police brutality, and racial discrimination, this yearbook photo should serve as another piece of evidence to spur white Americans to deepen conversations about race, our racist past, and our role in perpetuating current racial inequities.

It is outrageous that in 2019 life outcomes can still be predicted by race. Calling for Governor Northam’s resignation cannot distract us from the real work that needs to be done to dismantle the deep-seated racism that underlies our societal systems. We should care about racist imagery and hold our public officials to the highest of standards. But, we should care even more about the deep inequities that still exist in our society based on nothing more than the level of melanin in our skin and a false narrative about white superiority.

Resources

If you’d like to learn more about racism, white privilege, unconscious bias, etc., I encourage you to embark on your own exploration. Here are a few resources that I have found helpful:

Videos: www.puttingracismonthetable.org
Podcasts: Scene on Radio – Seeing White
Books: Waking Up White, Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence

Looking Inward and Outward: Two Philanthropic Leaders in the Nation’s Capital Share their Stories about Liberating Philanthropy

This blog was originally posted to Justice Funders’ “Liberate Philanthropy” blog series. The series is intended to re-imagine and practice philanthropy free of its current constraints — the accumulation and privatization of wealth, and the centralization of power and control — to one that redistributes wealth, democratizes power and shifts economic control to communities.


By Tamara Lucas Copeland, WRAG’s president and Yanique Redwood, chair of WRAG’s Board of Directors and president and CEO of Consumer Health Foundation 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” In recent days, some suggest that an addendum to that quote is needed.  The addendum would encourage philanthropists to recognize the injustices that have created their philanthropic dollars – i.e. the social, economic and racial inequities that have allowed for extreme wealth accumulation by some at the expense of others

In the Greater Washington philanthropic community, there is an increasing awareness about the role of philanthropy in addressing issues of injustice as well as a growing realization of how philanthropic wealth has been acquired.  In recent years, a group of us have been collectively learning and taking action on these issues under a very explicit banner: “Putting Racism on the Table.”  The recognition of the privilege of the philanthropic community is not new, as many have explored the power dynamic between funders and grantees. What is new is the conscious overlay of learning about racial inequity and working toward racial justice.

We recognize that our work to liberate philanthropy requires both inward and outward change. Foundations must be radically different, thus leading them to take radically different actions. Even foundations on the leading edge of justice must evolve their practices and culture. In this blog post, the president and CEO of the Consumer Health Foundation shares one aspect of their evolution—community leadership in governance—and the president of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers shares how the philanthropic sector’s actions are changing as a result of centering racism and addressing root causes of injustice.

The Internal Work to Liberate Philanthropy

Yanique Redwood

I joined the Consumer Health Foundation (CHF) in 2012 as the foundation’s second president and CEO. After several meetings with trustees, staff members, external stakeholders and grantee partners, I shared my observations in a 90-day report to the Board, including this one:

CHF board members are highly educated. All board members have advanced degrees in the areas of public health, law, education, policy, and medicine. This level of education and experience allows us to have cross-cutting dialogue to guide the foundation’s grantmaking and strategic alliances. There may be even greater opportunities for different types of dialogue by involving persons with lower levels [I would now say different levels] of education and income on the board. CHF has done an excellent job of involving the perspectives of those in our community with lower levels of income and education using Speak Outs and other community engagements; our next frontier could be in the area of board governance.

Even though the CHF board was diverse, progressive and activist, I felt that we were too removed, in many ways, from the oppression of communities living at the sharpest, most painful intersection of race and class. Until people with that lived reality are stewarding foundation resources, I knew that we would not be able to liberate philanthropy and align with the priorities of the most oppressed communities.

As I talked to board members in one-on-one conversations about this observation, I was not met with resistance, but there was certainly reticence. Questions abounded about whether community members would even want to serve on the board and could take time away from their hectic lives for the purpose of governance. I thought these were all “how?” versus “yes” questions. Author Peter Block states that asking how “keeps us safe,” “is a defense against action,” and “is an indirect expression of our doubts.” Understanding that this was a new idea that may have needed processing time, I negotiated. We agreed to recruit community organizers with direct experience working with communities of color who were struggling the most in our region.

Then, a confluence of factors in 2017 – such as the broader national climate, increasing acknowledgement about the need for community stewardship of philanthropy and racial tensions on the board – led us to re-examine our board culture. While diverse in so many ways (e.g. race, gender, age, religion), we were still unable to talk to each other about tough issues related to these identities. We could talk systems and structures with the best of them, but when it came time to look a colleague in the eye and say that something that they said hurt, we were not able to do it well—or at all. How could we expect to be advocates for justice out in the world if we couldn’t do it in our own institution? How was the culture that we had developed—shaped by our socialization as educated and middle class—hurting our chance of community members feeling safe enough to join, stay and fully participate on our board?

We are in the throes of these questions and recently spent a day learning about how implicit bias, racial anxiety and stereotype threat are operating in our midst so that we can create the kind of environment that is honest, authentic and empowering for all who serve. As we are doing our work, community members are developing their own leadership through an effort that we funded called the Health, Economic and Racial (HER) Equity Community Leaders Program.  We hope that some will be interested in serving on CHF’s board. We know we have a long way to go, but saying “yes” was the first step.

The External Work to Liberate Philanthropy

Tamara Copeland

When the nationwide wave of cell phone videos emerged a few years ago depicting the murders of African-American men and boys by police, it was no surprise that the Greater Washington philanthropic community, including Yanique Redwood and the Consumer Health Foundation, wanted to act.  They wanted to make a difference immediately and called on all of their knowledge of what had made a difference in workforce development, in educational attainment, in quality housing. Then they stopped.

Sitting around a conference room table at the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG), a quote was shared by a local philanthropic leader that prompted a revelation: “The first step in leadership is not action; it’s understanding.” Until then, almost on automatic, these seasoned professionals had immediately started thinking about the tried-and-true strategies, relying on their decades of knowledge. Then, profoundly, they recognized the dimension of institutional racism in these incidents, an overlay rarely acknowledged publicly by those working for societal change.

While racial justice was not their typical focus, these grantmakers still had their theories and assumptions. They felt the incidents were rooted in systemic or structural racism and implicit bias. They talked about prejudice and discrimination, equality and equity, and realized that not only were they not all using the same language, they didn’t understand the racial realities of America sufficiently to decide on effective actions to take.  Wisely, instead of addressing symptoms without understanding root causes, they decided to step back.

Their first step would be focused solely on learning. Some would say that taking time to learn is a privilege that foundations have, and we were criticized for it. However, I believe it was a step that needed to happen to liberate philanthropy from its dangerous habit of assuming that those with institutional power are the “experts” with all the right answers.

From this small convening emerged first a six-month, three-hour/month, structured learning journey called “Putting Racism on the Table” for philanthropic CEOs and trustees, and then additional training on grantmaking with a racial equity lens and effective communication about race. In my tenure at WRAG, never before had organizational leaders devoted this amount of time to focused learning. And never had the community elevated a topic as ingrained, taboo, and impactful as understanding racism. The output of the sessions was important, but the impact has been transformational.

WRAG members are increasingly undertaking their grantmaking using a racial equity lens. They are asking grantees and potential grantees about their work on racial equity. They are funding those who are active advocates for a just society, not only those delivering services to a largely black or brown community. They are looking internally at their policies, practices, and organizational cultures to determine how they may be inadvertently perpetuating inequities. “Putting Racism on the Table” has launched critical attention and action to move the Greater Washington DC region toward racial equity. I am proud of the work that our community has done together thus far and look forward to how much farther we can go to achieve justice and liberation for our communities.

Unpacking the carry-on bag of bias: My reflections on WRAG’s “Responding to Comments that are Implicitly Biased: Guidance for African-Americans” training

By Manon P. Matchett
Community Investment Officer, Strategic Initiatives
The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region

I love curbside check-in at the airport. I welcome the opportunity to hand my luggage to someone else and not worry about it. I gladly tip the Skycap for the freedom to easily clear security and maneuver without the extra weight.

WRAG’s recent training, “Responding to Comments that are Implicitly/Unconsciously Biased: Guidance for African-Americans,” was a curbside check-in experience for me. When traveling into the unknown, it is comforting to travel with people you know and trust. The excitement is engaging with people you do not know.

Before we took off, our co-pilots, Robin Gerald, a consultant with White Men as Full Diversity Partners, and Pollie Massey, CEO of OMS Consulting and Training, provided us with an overview of the flight plan – a reminder of our rich history, significant contributions to building this great nation, and the struggles we continue to overcome. I was prepped for some turbulence but assured that in less than 180 minutes, I would land safely.

I booked a ticket on this flight because the title and narrative arrested a portion of my soul that is hurting. This session unpacked pains that I consciously wear and pains that are wearing me. They are my carry-on bag – sheltering my vulnerabilities and fears. I cope and survive by placing these pains in my own three-ounce containers. I left this session lighter because I can better trust myself to do what is best for me – not the situation or those involved.

When I deplane, I quickly descend to baggage claim to make sure no one walks away with my luggage. I wish it were that easy when discussing race and equity. I always feel like these are bags that never get lost. They belong to me. They have my name on it.

I can accept (even though I do not like) that racial insensitivity is luggage that may never get rerouted to another plane. It is the invisible noose that suffocates my very existence. It is a shadow on wheels that follows me even into the darkness. What I can do is choose not to let it weigh me down. I can choose not to internalize it to the point that it is detrimental to my own well-being. I have been challenged to fly higher with purpose and thoughtful intent.

Kudos to WRAG and other philanthropic entities who are making a conscientious effort to treat the causes and not just the symptoms of racial injustice.

The journey continues…


Responding to Comments that are Implicitly/Unconsciously Biased: Guidance for African-Americans was held as part of Putting Racism on the Table: The Training Series for the local philanthropic community. You can learn more about WRAG’s ongoing work around racism and racial equity at www.puttingracismonthetable.org.

Gentrification in DC Pushes Some Families Out

HOUSING | Large families with limited income are finding it challenging to obtain affordable housing in sections of DC experiencing redevelopment.

In a city with a critical shortage of affordable housing, the massive redevelopment off Rhode Island Avenue NE has become for some a symbol of the problems faced by those of modest means who are fearful of being displaced by monied newcomers in the District’s hot real estate market. Such fears are especially acute for large families that are overrepresented among the city’s poor.

Tenants’ advocates just filed a housing discrimination lawsuit at Brookland Manor. (WaPo, 8/30)

Related: Tamara Copeland’s blog yesterday discussing how structural racism may be playing out in the housing arena in DC, and that there are two sides to every story. (Daily, 8/29)

EDUCATION
– Education experts weigh in on the school calendar, and how best to “fix” it. (Atlantic, 8/29)

– Maryland Gov. Hogan will hold a press conference on Wednesday to discuss the school calendar and start dates for Maryland schools and potentially advocating they start after Labor Day. (WTOP, 8/30)

– Maryland and DC colleges get a nod for being some of the best colleges for adult learners.  (WaPo, 8/30)

DISTRICT | DC residents are not alone in their unsuccessful attempts for statehood. (Washingtonian, 8/26)

ENVIRONMENTMaryland fines coal power plants $1 million for polluting Potomac, Patuxent rivers (Baltimore Sun, 8/29)

TRANSIT
– Better economy, cheaper gas = increase in traffic deaths (WaPo, 8/29)

– Japan will give $2 million for a high-speed train feasibility study that will connect Washington and Baltimore. (WBJ, 8/25)

CIVIL RIGHTSJustice Dept. focuses on police treatment of mentally ill (WTOP, 8/29)

PHILANTHROPY | DC invests $1 million in new charity start-up focused on allowing people to donate online in new and more convenient ways. (WBJ, 8/29)

NONPROFITSThe New Overtime Rules Spotlight a Systemic Problem for Nonprofits (NP Quarterly, 8/29)


“Time is a precious thing. Never waste it.” RIP Gene Wilder – Buffy

Authentic relationships are key to fundraising success

by Hudson Kaplan-Allen 
WRAG’s 2016 Summer Intern

How important is it for funders and grantees to have authentic relationships? Very important, according to the “Dos and Don’ts of Working with Grantmakers,” the first session of WRAG’s 2016 Nonprofit Summer Learning Series. Keynote speaker Rick Moyers of the Meyer Foundation, and panelists Julia Baer-Cooper, consultant with the England Family Foundation and Prince Charitable Trusts, Ben Murphy of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, and Tracye Funn of Washington Gas shared advice ranging from how to initiate a partnership with a grantmaker to how to craft an effective proposal.

Nonprofits often view funders as if they were an ATM machine, trying to figure out the right pin, Moyers said. It is a game of cracking the code with the hope that the prize will be a blank check. Fifteen years ago, Moyers was an eager nonprofit leader looking to increase support from his biggest funder. Moyers found himself at a reception with the executive director of the foundation. His first instinct was to approach the E.D. and get straight to the point – and that is exactly what he did. Fast forward to the present, Moyers has, on occasion, found himself in his former funder’s shoes. Interactions like these are never authentic. Conversations should not be about a transaction, but about cultivating a common vision for the future. It’s important, too, to be a good listener.

Moyers and others addressed the question that every nonprofit leader has contemplated: what is the most common reason grant requests get turned down? Funn responded that if a funder truly believes in a program, they will find the money or try to connect the applicant with another potential funder. Murphy pointed out that if there is a great project hidden behind a poor proposal, it deserves a chance. Baer-Cooper noted that requests are frequently turned down by small family foundations because they don’t have enough resources to fund everything that comes their way.

Participants asked about strategies and practices for approaching grantmakers. Nonprofits should have an idea of what the foundation is looking for, the panelists said. No one wants to receive a generic cookie-cutter email. It’s frustrating to sit down with someone who hasn’t done his or her homework.

Moyers concluded where he began, with a discussion of authentic relationships between funders and grantees. To Murphy, authenticity is about reaching a point in the relationship where he and his grantees can have honest conversations and work hand-in-hand to effectively address organizational and societal challenges. Baer-Cooper defines authenticity as transparency and honesty. Funn emphasized the importance of being true to your values. “Don’t change who you are, just bring me into your world,” she said. Ultimately, programs that connect authentically are the ones that will succeed.


To learn more about the 2016 Nonprofit Summer Learning Series, please check out our recent announcement in The Daily WRAG. To register for the next two events in the series (July 14 and August 19), please visit WRAG’s online event calendar.

How funders can support students to become better readers

By Natalie Wexler
Trustee, The Omega Foundation

Standardized reading tests “are really knowledge tests in disguise,” according to cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham. That helps explain why students from highly educated families do so much better on those tests than other students.

Willingham, a University of Virginia psychology professor who has written extensively about the science of learning, spoke at the second event in WRAG’s Public Education Speaker Series earlier this month.

Willingham explained that authors inevitably leave out information when they write, assuming that readers will fill in gaps with their knowledge. Take these two sentences: “Tricia spilled her coffee. Dan leapt up to get a rag.” The author assumes readers will know that coffee makes a mess, and rags can be used to clean up.

Designers of standardized reading tests know some students have more knowledge than others about certain topics. To control for that, tests include passages on a variety of topics.

The result, as studies have shown, is that students with broad general knowledge do best on standardized tests. They’re also better equipped to understand a newspaper—or high school and college texts.

To ensure that students acquire knowledge, Willingham said, schools need well-rounded, logically sequenced curricula, beginning as early as possible. But many schools have narrowed the elementary curriculum to reading and math, pushing out history and science. While students from educated families continue to acquire knowledge of the world at home, others fall further behind.

So science, history, and art aren’t extras that can wait until after kids learn to read. To become readers, kids need exposure to those subjects as early as possible.

What can funders do to ensure kids are getting the well-rounded curriculum they need? First, take a look at the information available on the website of the Knowledge Matters Campaign. Then check the programs you’re funding to see if their curricula give kids the systematic exposure to rich content that builds knowledge—not just one book on a topic like sea mammals, but immersion in that topic for weeks at a time.

If a school or program is focusing primarily on reading comprehension “strategies” and jumping from one topic to another, students aren’t getting the kind of foundation that will enable them to do well in high school and beyond.


WRAG’s 2016 Public Education Learning Series is sponsored by the Omega Foundation, with additional support from the Tiger Woods Foundation. The next session, on July 7, will focus on addressing gender and racial disparities in school discipline. Education funders: register for the session here.

New partnership offers low-cost, high-impact learning opportunities for local nonprofit community

by Laura Dempsey, Lead Associate of Community Partnerships, Booz Allen Hamilton and Katy Moore, Managing Director of Corporate Strategy, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers and Booz Allen Hamilton are excited to announce a new partnership designed to leverage local philanthropic expertise to help build the capacity of the Greater Washington region’s nonprofit community: the Nonprofit Summer Learning Series.

Since 2007 Booz Allen has sponsored high-quality learning opportunities for nonprofit organizations to gain critical insights from leading nonprofit development officers, foundations, and corporate grantmakers. The Nonprofit Speaker Series was created to help nonprofit executive directors, development directors, staff, and board members build their capacity and learn best practices. On average, over 350 nonprofits per year have participated in the series.

Last year, WRAG launched its highly anticipated “Fundamentals of CSR” workshop, designed to help local nonprofits ‘crack the code’ to better understand local corporate funders. Since then, WRAG has seen an increase in demand from local nonprofits looking to connect with the area’s top experts in grantmaking.

From these two successful programs, the new Nonprofit Summer Learning Series was born. Designed and taught by some of the Greater Washington region’s most respected grantmaking professionals, this low-cost learning series “pulls the curtain back on philanthropy.” WRAG and Booz Allen invite Daily WRAG readers to join us as we shed light on how grantmakers think, how they approach their work, what they look for in strong nonprofit partners, and how you can build new and stronger relationships with the local funding community. Click the links below for details on speakers, locations, fees, and registration.

June 10 | The Dos & Don’ts of Working with Grantmakers
Even if your organization has successfully received grant funding for years, do you truly understand the ins-and-outs of working with grantmakers? Do you know and understand recent trends and shifts in philanthropy? Do you know how funders like to be approached? How they make decisions? How they’re organized and staffed? Do you know how to cultivate not only relationships but true partnerships with your funders? Join us to hear from four leading grantmaking professionals in our region as they offer practical advice and insights on these topics and more.

July 14 | Navigating the Grants Process: From initial contact to long-term partnership
You’ve identified a potential funder, made contact, applied for and received a grant, sent the acknowledgement letter… But that’s just the beginning! Join us to hear from four of our region’s top grantmaking professionals as they offer practical advice and insights on navigating the grants process from getting your foot in the door all the way to long-term partnership.

August 19 | Having Tough Conversations with Your Funder
Have you ever needed to have a difficult conversation with a funder? Topics might include financial sustainability or fundraising challenges, leadership transitions or staff turnover, or not being able to achieve key objectives set forth in your grant agreement. A nonprofit leader’s ability to successfully navigate these challenging discussions can be key to building trust and deepening relationships with your funders. Join us to hear from three pairs of funder/nonprofit partners as they discuss some difficult conversations they’ve had over the years and how they came through the other side.