Tag: inequality

Gentrification in the District is leading to widespread displacement of low-income residents

GENTRIFICATION | According to the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota Law School, low-income residents are being pushed out of DC neighborhoods at some of the highest rates in the country. The newly-released study tracked demographic and economic changes in neighborhoods across the country from 2000 to 2016. (WaPo, 4/26)

“For all the talk of gentrification happening in cities all over the country, what we found is that it really isn’t,” said Myron Orfield, director of the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity … “Washington is one of the few places in the country where real displacement is actually occurring. It’s quite rare.” More than 38 percent of District residents, including about 35 percent of low-income residents, live in census tracts that are growing economically … but low-income people who live in those areas are at the greatest risk of displacement … the study comes as gentrification and its consequences are being discussed with renewed urgency in the nation’s capital.

Related: This study complements the recent National Community Reinvestment Coalition report that found that DC had the “highest intensity” gentrification in the country, with 20,000 African-American residents displaced from their neighborhoods between 2000 and 2013. (WaPo, 3/19)

DISABILITY RIGHTS/PHILANTHROPY | According to a just-released report by the disability-rights group RespectAbility, nonprofits and foundations must do a better job of hiring, accommodating, and including people with disabilities. The report finds that only 24 percent of nonprofits and foundations have at least one board member with a disability. (Chronicle, 4/25 – Subscription)

EDUCATION
Opinion: Public schools in Montgomery County are growing in the amount of students, and they are also growing more segregated by race and class. (GGWash, 4/24)

–  The District leads the region, and nation, in universal preschool enrollment. (WAMU, 4/17)

RACIAL EQUITY | The Arlington County Board has voted to formally request Jefferson Davis Highway be changed to Richmond Highway, which if approved, will be changed in October. (WAMU, 4/26)

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
With new regulations in hand, DC businesses and developers ready to embrace ‘opportunity zones’ (WBJ, 4/24)

How Philanthropy Can Ensure Opportunity Zones Ensure Widespread Economic Renewal (Chronicle, 4/25 – Subscription)

HEALTH
– Some DC Residents Can Exchange Prescriptions for Produce (CP, 4/22)

– The Washington-Baltimore region has just been ranked as the 16th most ozone-polluted city in the US according to the annual State of the Air report, by the American Lung Association. (WTOP, 4/24)

INEQUALITY | A thought-provoking article on inequality and the failures of unrestrained capitalism. (WaPo, 4/20)

COMMUNITY | Bainum Family Foundation Appoints Jacquelyn Davis as New CEO and President

ENVIRONMENT/ART | It’s Not Just Trash, It’s Art: Maryland Park Installation Highlights Pollution Crisis (WAMU, 4/25)


Social Sector Job Openings 

Grants and Communications Associate | Neighborhood Health – New!
Development Operations Manager | World Central Kitchen – New!
Senior Manager of Member Engagement and Partnerships | United Philanthropy Forum
Director of Institutional Writing and Strategy​ | ​League of Conservation Voters Education Fund
Director of Development​ | ​Washington Tennis & Education Foundation
Director of Operations​ | ​Washington Tennis & Education Foundation
Development Director​ | ​Greater DC Diaper Bank
Director, Flamboyan Arts Fund​ | ​Flamboyan Foundation
Membership Director​ | ​Council on Foundations
Development Director​ | ​Council on Foundations
Communications Director​ |​ Council on Foundations
Learning Engagement Manager​ | ​ Council on Foundations
Racial Justice Program Officer​ | ​Wellspring Philanthropic Fund
Program Officer​ | ​The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation
Program Coordinator | TGR Foundation – A Tiger Woods Charity
Individual Giving Manager | Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
President and CEO | Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
Senior Program Officer | Potomac Health Foundation
Program Manager | DC127
Development Manager  | DC127
Corporate Responsibility- Mid-Atlantic Region, Vice President | JPMorgan Chase

Hiring? Post your job on WRAG’s job board and get it included in the Daily! Free for members; $60/60 days for non-members. Details here.


Community Calendar

To add an event to WRAG’s community calendar, email Rebekah Seder. Click here to view the community calendar.


Takoma Park’s 100-year history has led to it being called the “Berkeley of the East”

The (Almost) Daily WRAG will be back next week on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday!

– Buffy

The number of children in the region in foster care is down

CHILD WELFARE | There are half as many kids in foster care in the Greater Washington region than there were 10 years ago, and child welfare experts believe this is a sign of success for programs working to keep families together. But despite the achievements, there are still challenges. (WAMU, 4/17)

While the numbers of children in foster care in the region has declined since 2008…there’s now a larger percentage of older children in foster care who need placement with families, which this presents a different challenge… Additionally, agencies say they need more parents who are available to foster. The system’s racial makeup is also off balance. In 2017, more than two-thirds of children in foster care in the Washington region were African American, according to the report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

RACIAL EQUITY | Two new updates from the Meyer Foundation team: Maryland Program Director Julian Haynes writes about Meyer’s work to address school pushout, and Aisha Alexander-Young, Senior Director for Strategy & Equity, discusses her role at the foundation and how it is driven by a commitment to anti-racism. (Medium, 4/16)

HOUSING
Conflict brewing over HQ2-tied affordable housing money (WBJ, 4/17)

– Notwithstanding the housing crunch, there is a construction freeze in Montgomery County near four schools in an attempt to control class size. (WAMU, 4/16)

Did Silver Spring build enough housing to stay affordable? Sort of. (GGWash, 4/17)

HEALTH/INEQUALITY | What Would a Post-ACA America Look Like? (Truthout, 4/11)

SOCIAL IMPACT | Reimagining the Economy: The Social Justice Enterprise (NPQ, 4/15)


Social Sector Job Openings 

Senior Manager of Member Engagement and Partnerships | United Philanthropy Forum – New!
Director of Institutional Writing and Strategy​ | ​League of Conservation Voters Education Fund
Director of Development​ | ​Washington Tennis & Education Foundation
Director of Operations​ | ​Washington Tennis & Education Foundation
Development Director​ | ​Greater DC Diaper Bank
Grants Manager, Data and Reporting​ | ​The Colorado Health Organization
Director, Flamboyan Arts Fund​ | ​Flamboyan Foundation
Membership Director​ | ​Council on Foundations
Development Director​ | ​Council on Foundations
Communications Director​ |​ Council on Foundations
Learning Engagement Manager​ | ​ Council on Foundations
Racial Justice Program Officer​ | ​Wellspring Philanthropic Fund
Program Officer​ | ​The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation
Program Coordinator | TGR Foundation – A Tiger Woods Charity
Individual Giving Manager | Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
President and CEO | Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
Senior Program Officer | Potomac Health Foundation
Program Manager | DC127
Development Manager  | DC127
Corporate Responsibility- Mid-Atlantic Region, Vice President | JPMorgan Chase
Programs Officer | DC Bar Foundation

Hiring? Post your job on WRAG’s job board and get it included in the Daily! Free for members; $60/60 days for non-members. Details here.


Community Calendar

To add an event to WRAG’s community calendar, email Rebekah Seder. Click here to view the community calendar.


Did you see the large meteor that exploded in the sky earlier this week?

The (Almost) Daily WRAG will be back on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday next week!

– Buffy

Lack of foster parents in DC puts vulnerable children at risk

CHILDREN/FAMILIES | There is a shortage of foster parents in DC, which child welfare advocates say is putting children at risk of harm. Some children have even had to sleep at the office of DC’s Child and Family Services Agency while they waited to be placed in a home. (WAMU, 4/8)

“We’ve seen cases where kids have been exposed to a lot of violence, have been physically hurt, but have remained in their homes … because there are not enough foster homes right now” … the shortage has been caused in part by increased housing costs, experienced foster parents retiring, and changing demographics in the city. A spokesperson for DC’s Child and Family Service Agency says they are looking to add 40 new beds in the foster care system over this fiscal year … and specifically have a shortage of parents for children with special needs and for older children.

Related: Last year, WRAG’s president Tamara Copeland, urged philanthropy to focus on the child welfare system, a topic that is often invisible to many in our region. (Daily, 9/2018)

ARTS & CULTURE
– DC’s first-ever cultural plan lays out a strategy for growth through investments, infrastructure and programming. The plan was developed by the DC Office of Planning, in consultation with the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment – and includes input from over 1,500 artists, art consumers, and experts from the cultural sector. (WAMU, 4/4)

– The owner of Bethesda’s Union Hardware is promoting a plan to open a collective art studio in downtown Bethesda for up to 30 artists by this summer. (Bethesda Magazine, 4/3)

ECONOMIC INEQUALITY | America’s growing geographic divide derives from economic inequality, especially the tremendous gains of the one percent. (CityLab, 4/3)

EDUCATION
– DC’s Low-Income Neighborhood Schools Are Losing Money. Is The Budget Or Enrollment To Blame? (WAMU, 4/5)

– In Montgomery County, a $5.7 billion budget proposal is being questioned by those who want to see more money focused on education. (WaPo, 4/7)

MARYLAND | Mike Busch, the longest-serving state House speaker in Maryland history who helped shepherd laws that improved access to health care and legalized same-sex marriage, died on April 7 at age 72. (WaPo, 4/7)

VIRGINIA | As Amazon builds and staffs up HQ2, other tech companies who orbit them could follow. (WBJ, 4/4)

FOOD | Hungry, a new Arlington-based healthy food delivery service, has received star-powered support. (WAMU, 4/5)

PHILANTHROPY | The Road Ahead: Will Philanthropic Critique Change Philanthropic Practice? (NPQ, 4/4)


How would you improve the Metro map when it’s reprinted?

The (Almost) Daily WRAG will be back on Thursday and Friday!

– Buffy

New data show increasing economic disparities, displacement in DC

INEQUALITY | The median income in DC overall has increased since the recession, but the poverty rate has increased in wards 7 and 8, according to a DC Fiscal Policy Institute analysis of recently released census data. In addition, the number of African-American residents living west of the Anacostia River has declined since 2007. (City Paper, 9/29)

According to the advocacy organization, 21,000 fewer black residents live west of the Anacostia River than before the recession, resulting in a decline from 42 percent of west-of-the-river population in 2007 to 33 percent last year. Meanwhile, more than 90 percent of residents living east of the Anacostia are black, composing almost half of the District’s total black population (47 percent).

Additionally, the poverty rate east of the river increased from 27 percent before the recession to 33 percent in 2015. It ticked down a percentage point west of the river, to 12 percent, over the same period. The proportion of the city’s residents who live below the federal poverty line jumped from 40 percent in 2007 to 47 percent last year.

Here’s more on DCFPI’s analysis and recommendations.

– A new report from American University finds that, across the region, people living in the most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods think that their neighborhoods are better than other areas. However, even in diverse neighborhoods, black and Latino residents reported different perceptions of police and safety. (WaPo 10/3)

Related: WRAG Members: Derek Hyra, director of the Metropolitan Policy Center at AU, which conducted this study, is the business meeting speaker at WRAG’s 2016 Annual Meeting. His talk will focus on how we can better ensure that the benefits of economic development and growth happening across the region accrue to all residents. Learn more here.

– PolicyLink has a nice write-up (featuring the Northern Virginia Health Foundation president and CEO and WRAG Board member Patricia Mathews) about how Fairfax County came to pass the One Fairfax resolution, which commits the county to advancing racial and social equity. (PolicyLink, 9/29)

HOUSING
– In their latest in a series of issue briefs, HAND looks at the housing choices of millennials and their impact on the Greater Washington region. (HAND, 9/27)

Affordable Housing Advocacy and the National Elections (NPQ, 10/3)

Developer-In-Chief: Obama Wants D.C. (And Other Cities) To Build More Housing (WAMU, 9/29)

JUSTICE | D.C.’s Broken Parole System (City Paper, 9/30)

FOOD/HEALTH | FDA Is Redefining The Term ‘Healthy’ On Food Labels (NPR, 10/3)


How did I go for so long without knowing about pangolins?!

– Rebekah

Recovery and revitalization misses some areas of the region

REGION/HOUSING
In their series on housing in America last week, The Washington Post shared how residents in the Greater Washington region were affected by the area’s housing bubble, subsequent dive into the Great Recession, and population shift toward inner-Washington neighborhoods after the recession. (WaPo, 5/6)

Few places in the region burned hotter during the real estate boom than Loudoun County. As closer-in suburbs grew more built-out and expensive, Loudoun became the next frontier for home builders, a place to parcel farms into subdivisions featuring enormous single-family homes.

[…]

When the downturn came, the new homes were derided as McMansions — temples to American excess. Homeowners found that not only could they not pay the mortgage but they also couldn’t afford to heat or cool their manses.

OpinionA financing model for affordable and supportive housing in D.C. (WaPo, 5/6)

SOCIAL PROFITS | WRAG has unveiled a new Nonprofit Summer Learning Series, in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton, designed to “pull the curtain back on philanthropy,” and shed light on how grantmakers think, approach their work, and what they look for in nonprofit partners. Participants can join in-person or via live webcast. Click here to learn more and to register!

EDUCATION/DISTRICT
– The NewSchools Venture Fund has announced the launch of a new independent nonprofit spin-off organization beginning on July 1 called Education Forward DC.

– The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has released a report examining the fairness of the District’s Empowering Boys and Men of Color initiative. According to the ACLU and some D.C. officials, the city should work to “provide equivalent opportunities for our girls.” (WCP, 5/9)

WORKFORCE/INEQUALITYThe Racial Divide in the Creative Economy (City Lab, 5/9)


At this point, whether you’re a Broadway fan or not, you’ve at least heard of ‘Hamilton.’ Now, you don’t have to trek to New York City to see it.

– Ciara

Foundations should improve transparency, survey says

PHILANTHROPY
A new study by the Center for Effective Philanthropy analyzing survey data from 145 foundation CEOs and more than 15,000 grantees on the transparency of foundations reveals that most believe that grantmakers could become more effective and credible if they were more open to the public about their failures and shortcomings. A shortage of staff and resources to focus on such efforts were cited as deterrents to full transparency. (Chronicle, 2/23) Subscription required

Ninety-four percent of the foundation leaders surveyed said transparency is important. However, three-fourths say their organizations are not open enough. Even though 61 percent of the leaders say being more candid about how they assess their own performance would help them become more effective, only 35 percent say they share their self-assessments.

The level of openness online was even skimpier. Just 5 percent of foundation websites contained information on unsuccessful projects. However, the researchers found no correlation between information provided on a foundation website and a grantee’s perception of a grant maker’s openness.

The full report from CEP is available here.

– Independent Sector, a coalition of charities and foundations, has named a new chief executive. Dan Cardinali, head of Communities in Schools, will take over in July for Diana Aviv, who left the organization to head Feeding America. (Chronicle, 2/23) Subscription required

COMMUNITY | The 15th annual Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Awards, honoring the best in public service, are coming up! Five winners will be honored with a cash prize and, this year, a group will be honored with a new Team Innovation award. Click here to view the eligibility requirements and awards criteria. The application deadline is March 31.

DISTRICT/WORKFORCE | Abstract abilities and skills are the best predictors of high wages in the District (District, Measured, 2/23)

HOMELESSNESS
– The Quiet Revolution in Homeless Policy (HuffPo, 2/22)

– In light of Black History Month, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty elevates the issue of the deep connections between race and homelessness.

EDUCATION/POVERTY | More and more college campuses across the U.S. have been seeing students protest in the name of gender and racial inequality. Now, a greater number of schools are seeing students ban together and organize in protest of socioeconomic inequality at their institutions. (Atlantic, 2/24)


The streets of Staten Island just got a little bit…greedier.

– Ciara

Reported HIV cases decrease for seventh year in a row

HIV/AIDS
According to a new report released by the D.C. Department of Health, the number of reported annual new HIV cases is down for the seventh consecutive year. (DCist, 2/2)

The report shows preliminary data for 2014, which includes 396 new HIV cases – a 29 percent decrease from the 553 cases reported in 2013. The highest number of HIV cases was reported in 2007 with 1,333 cases. Since then, numbers are down by 70 percent.

Executive director of the Washington AIDS Partnership, Channing Wickham, had this to say of the news:

I’m very pleased to see the hard work of the nonprofit community, the D.C. Department of Health, and the HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration (HAHSTA) reflected in the latest data for new HIV cases.  At the same time, it’s imperative to remember the thousands of District residents who are living with HIV and the need to continue and expand HIV prevention efforts.

REGION/ECONOMY | A new study by the Brookings Institution ranks the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria area against 99 other metro regions in the U.S. in terms of recovery from the Great Recession. The study rates the D.C. area’s performance as: 71st in “growth;” 91st in “prosperity;” 72nd in “inclusion;” and 77th in “inclusion by race.” (DCist, 2/2)

HOUSING/DISTRICT | Some 7,300 households rely on public housing in the District. With a number of public housing properties slated for overdue rehabilitation or replacement, DC Fiscal Policy Institute shares some of the risks this could cause for families who may be displaced, and offers recommendations for their protection. (DCFPI, 1/27)

WORKFORCE/SOCIAL PROFITS | Hiring Keeps Rising at Nonprofits in N.Y and D.C., Study Says (Chronicle, 2/2)  Subscription required

YOUTH/EDUCATION
– The District and the D.C. Public Library have announced a new program, Books from Birth, that will send enrolled children a book every month until the age of five. The program is a partnership between the city and the Dollywood Foundation. (WCP, 2/2)

How Rich Parents Can Exacerbate School Inequality (Atlantic, 1/28)

ARTS/RACIAL EQUITY | Opinion: A writer shares his experiences witnessing slotting, tokenism, and dehumanization in the nonprofit theater sector. (NPQ, 1/29)

POVERTY | OpinionWhat Data Can Do To Fight Poverty (NYT, 1/29)


The Washingtonian presents a guide to successfully living in Washington, D.C.

– Ciara

How we’re Putting Racism on the Table: The Meyer Foundation

by Nicky Goren, President and CEO, and Josh Bernstein, Board Chair
The Eugene & Agnes E. Meyer Foundation

On January 22, WRAG launched its “Putting Racism on the Table” learning series with a presentation and discussion with Professor john a. powell, director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and professor of law and African American Studies & Ethnic Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. In his overview, Professor powell discussed structural racism, implicit bias, and how our brains are wired to react based on the overwhelming inputs we receive through media and popular culture. He also addressed the power of networks in perpetuating or altering the status quo. Perhaps most significantly, he raised an important threshold issue: the need to have open and honest conversations about racism.

The Meyer Foundation’s board and staff began our own conversation about racism as part of our strategic planning process last year. Two things quickly became clear as we took those important first steps: a variety of viewpoints were represented around our table, often deeply personal and strongly held, and we lacked a common vocabulary or framework for understanding and discussing inequity in our region. We are continuing this conversation by asking ourselves hard questions about our own implicit biases, and whether our institutional practices are set up to perpetuate exclusion. We are working to create a space for dialogue – both internally and externally – through which we can better understand the systems that perpetuate inequity and how we can dismantle them. For our regional philanthropic community, the WRAG learning series represents an opportunity to take those important first steps, too: to build our shared understanding of the impact of racism on our community, to develop a shared vocabulary that will allow us to have long overdue conversations, and to move toward solutions together.

Professor powell’s presentation re-affirmed our conviction that we need to continue this conversation with WRAG and its members, as well as with our workplaces, our networks, and our region as a whole. Many of the barriers and challenges facing low-income communities are the product of generations of systemic inequity  that we can no longer ignore, and we have to move from treating the symptoms to identifying and tackling the causes.

No single institution or sector can even begin to address these issues working in isolation. Our hope is that by tackling this work in a more intentional, vulnerable, and thoughtful way, the philanthropic community can influence leaders in  other sectors to do the same. We have all – perhaps unwittingly – contributed to maintaining the status quo, and we must collectively begin to peel away the layers of the onion and work together to make the kind of change we know is possible. We hope you’ll join us in this journey.

There is no post racial America. Does philanthropy know?

PHILANTHROPY
As we celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this week, it’s easy to think of the country as a dramatically different place than it was in the 1960s. In an op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Tamara Lucas Copeland challenges the notion of a postracial America and explains why WRAG is working to foster a better understanding among funders about the dynamics of racism. (Chronicle, 1/21)

[P]hilanthropy’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.

To learn more about Putting Racism on the Table, WRAG’s learning series for philanthropic CEOs and trustees, click here.

– The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP)  is taking nominations for foundations for their 2016 NCRP Impact Awards. You can nominate up to 10 foundations that demonstrate exemplary grantmaking, leadership in funding social change strategies, and commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity.

HEALTH/FOOD | Grantmakers in Health shares policy options and recommendations that recently came out of a meeting of experts, funders, and health practitioners on the ways to support healthier eating policies – particularly around sugar-sweetened beverages that are disproportionately consumed by low-income individuals and ethnic minorities. (GIH, 1/19)

EDUCATION | According to new data, 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 has taken place in Montgomery, Howard, Baltimore, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties. (WaPo, 1/ 20)

ARTS | With government-commissioned street art being a relatively new thing in the District, Washingtonian offers a glimpse at five D.C. street artists whose work has popped up throughout the area. (Washingtonian, 1/19) Some readers might recognize the work of Kelly Towles, the artist who created the centerpieces for WRAG’s 2011 annual meeting.

TRANSIT/INEQUALITY | Yet More Evidence That Bike-Share Isn’t Reaching the Poor (City Lab, 1/19)


Have you experienced a void in your life ever since the popular television series ‘Friends’ went off the air? Someone developed a computer program that can write new episodes…for better or for worse.

– 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.