Tag: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Is the power of philanthropy enough to move the needle on racism? Yes, it already is.

by Tamara Lucas Copeland
President
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

In January, the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG) started an intensive exploration of racism called Putting Racism on the Table. Each month, for three hours, grantmakers have been immersed in a topic. Structural racism in January, white privilege in February, implicit bias in March, and this month the focus was on mass incarceration as a case study on how all three factors are operationalized in one system of government, the criminal justice system.

I think that several factors are remarkable about this work. First, eleven major funders in the Greater Washington region came together and said, “We aren’t ready to act. We want to learn.” This was powerful. It has seemed like a societal taboo to talk about the 800-pound gorilla of racism that sits in the middle of the room when discussing housing needs, educational needs, health care, or any of the multitude of community needs that philanthropy seeks to address. But these grantmakers were ready for the talk. Eighty percent of the attendees have come to two or more of the sessions. They have recognized that racism cannot be explored in sound bites. There is a depth and breadth to the topic that requires that you listen, reflect, talk with others, and then sit with the information for a while to make it your own. They are doing the hard work of truly understanding racism. After the sessions, many have been candid in revealing, despite their education and commitment to social justice, just how lacking their knowledge truly was about how pervasive and entrenched racism is in our society. Here’s an illustrative sampling of comments:

“After the session on structural racism, I realized how little I know about racism.”

“The systemic nature of racism is more pervasive than I had previously understood.”

“I think there are situations where white privilege is so ingrained that I am not even aware of the impact I am having just by being present or in casual conversation.”

“Having been through the session on implicit bias, I better understand the very strong and powerful way our subconscious influences our thinking and actions. What can we do?”

I am proud of the commitment that philanthropy has made to this learning journey. People who felt that they were sensitive to and understood racism have learned that it is far more nuanced, unconscious, and institutionalized than many would think. We have achieved the goal of knowledge gain. But, this isn’t learning just for the sake of learning.

Philanthropy has been referred to as society’s passing gear. Its position provides a platform for societal change that goes well beyond dollars. Consider the impact of the national Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on smoking reduction or that of the local Summit Fund on teenage pregnancy prevention. They both felt that they could make a difference and with a laser focus that commitment has led to deep and lasting improvements.

I have heard foundation CEOs talk about how this work is already translating into changes at their foundations. I have heard trustees who are business leaders share the impact that it is having on their thinking and on their actions. And, I have heard colleagues in other states discuss how WRAG’s work has opened the door for a discussion that they didn’t think they could have with funders. The needle is moving – slowly perhaps – but moving, and the momentum is building. Stay tuned.

New county health rankings released

HEALTH
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has released their 2016 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, measuring and ranking nearly all counties in the U.S. and “compiled using county-level measures from a variety of national and state data sources.” In Virginia, Loudoun County was number one in the overall ranking for health outcomes, and in Maryland, Montgomery County came out on top. (WTOP, 3/16)

The yearly report — released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute — evaluates 30 factors such as poverty, education, transportation, housing, violent crime, jobs and access to medical care.

The full rankings can be accessed here.

PHILANTHROPY
United Way of the National Capital Area has announced $100K to social profit organizations in Loudoun County. (Loudoun Times, 3/16)

– Funders for LGBTQ Issues has released a report tracking 2014 grantmaking from U.S. foundations. Open Society Foundations and Wells Fargo were among the top 10 funders for LGBTQ issues.

POVERTY/REGION | Opinion: Maryland and Virginia are headed toward reform in the way that the structured-settlement-purchasing industry preys on individuals who are often vulnerable to the lure of fast money through lump sum payments, despite standing to lose out on much of the funds awarded to them. Many of the cases involve victims who received settlements because they were exposed to lead poisoning. Advocates for the victims want to ensure that much-needed legislation is passed. (WaPo, 3/15)

DISTRICT New Bills Would Increase Access to D.C. Affordable Housing and Government Buildings (WCP, 3/15)

TRANSIT/REGIONWhy Washington’s transportation is a problem, in one map (GGW, 3/15)

JOBS 
Northrop Grumman is seeking a Manager of STEM Education Programs.

– The Baltimore Community Foundation is looking for the right candidate to fill their Program Officer position.


It’s that time of year again…check out this year’s entries for the Peeps Diorama contest!

– Ciara 

Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough

by Tamara Copeland
President
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Last week, President Obama stood before the American people and again professed great sadness at another mass shooting in America. I’m not sure if he has said these exact words before, but I hadn’t heard them. He said that “thoughts and prayers aren’t enough.”

I had thought an appropriate response would occur following the killing of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In fact, at the time there was legislation pending in Congress that could have helped to prevent similar occurrences in the future. I was  certain of that legislation’s passage when President Obama brought some of the parents of those children to speak to Congress about the need for background checks and the need to limit the sale of some semi-automatic weapons. But it wasn’t enough. The legislation failed.

Mass shootings are becoming so commonplace that we have started to accept them as the norm. The national news no longer reports all of them, only the most serious. Consider this recent article in the Washington Post, quoting The Economist,

“ ‘Those who live in America, or visit it, might do best to regard [mass shootings] the way one regards air pollution in China: an endemic local health hazard which, for deep-rooted cultural, social, economic and political reasons, the country is incapable of addressing,’ The Economist wrote in response to the Charleston massacre. ‘This may, however, be a bit unfair. China seems to be making progress on pollution.’ ” 

But I continue to believe that America is better than that. And, I continue to believe that my sector –philanthropy – can and will play a leadership role. Why? Because we have on another problem that was also once considered intractable – smoking.

In the early 1960s, cigarette use had reached its peak. Smoking had become a societal norm. Even with studies from the U.S. Surgeon General and advocacy by countless groups, the number of users was not declining at an appreciable rate. In 1991 the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) courageously decided that it was going to work for the health of the country and support anti-smoking campaigns. Their decades-long, concentrated effort contributed to a major decline in smoking. Leadership mattered.

Well, now we have another public health problem in America. Just two days ago, the Wall Street Journal reported on a study on mass shootings from the University of Alabama, The U.S. represents less than 5% of the 7.3 billion global population but accounted for 31% of global mass shooters during the period from 1966 to 2012, more than any other country.” 

Can philanthropy be the conscience of society? Can philanthropy be the vehicle to promote accessible mental health care for those who need it? Can philanthropy be the broker who finds a path of reasonableness between those who want to ban the sale of guns and those who feel they have the right to own them with no limitations? Is this another public health tragedy to be tackled by Robert Wood Johnson? Perhaps, but RWJF isn’t the only funder with the resources and commitment to address this problem. Other national funders could step up to take on this challenge as could a collective of local funders who decide to collaborate on tackling this problem. Paul Ylvisaker, a former executive at the Ford Foundation, once described philanthropy as “society’s passing gear.” We need that vision and that commitment to overtake this problem. It takes leadership.

Philanthropy led before. I think philanthropy can again.

Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough. Who will lead? I’m putting my faith in philanthropy.

Introducing the BUILD Health Challenge

Your regular Daily WRAG edition today, as we have lots of great news to share.

HEALTH | This week, the Advisory Board Company, de Beaumont Foundation, Kresge Foundation, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced the launch of the BUILD (Bold, Upstream, Integrated, Local, and Data-Driven) Health Challenge, a collaboration to improve community health and promote health equity across the country. (CBS, 11/12)

The BUILD  Health Challenge is designed to encourage communities to build meaningful partnerships among hospitals and health systems, community-based organizations, their local health department, and other organizations to improve the overall health of local residents.

The Advisory Board Company, the de Beaumont Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are collaboratively issuing a call to action and inviting communities to take part in this nationwide effort. These four partners hope to identify, accelerate, and spotlight best practice models and innovative approaches that reorient the field toward upstream factors that influence health.

COMMUNITY | Mary McClymont, president of the Public Welfare Foundation and WRAG Board Member, received the Justice Through Philanthropy Award on behalf of the Foundation this week by the National Legal Aid & Defender Association. Congratulations! (Public Welfare Foundation, 11/13)

The Foundation was recognized for its special initiative to increase access to civil legal aid for the poor as well as its ongoing efforts to strengthen the ability of low-wage workers to promote policy and systems reform and its work to achieve reforms in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

WRAG | This week, we celebrated WRAG president, Tamara Copeland, for being named one of Washington Business Journal’s 2014 Women Who Mean Business. You can take a look at her interview and read more about the well-deserved honor. WRAG members Capital One, Kaiser Permanente and MedImmune were sponsors of the awards ceremony that took place Thursday evening.

PHILANTHROPY
– With the IRS now accepting a more streamlined version of the application for 501(c)(3) status, known as Form 1023-EZ, there are a few things for funders to consider. Exponent Philanthropy has you covered. (Philanthrofiles, 11/12)

– In a study by Foundation Source,  it was found that small and mid-size foundations have recovered steadily since the recession. From 2008 to 2013, assets grew by 48 percent. (Chronicle. 11/14)

FOOD/NONPROFITS | Fare & Square, the first nonprofit grocery store in the United States (NFF, 11/12)


NEXT WEEK AT WRAG
It’s almost Annual Meeting time!

Annual Meeting VIP Reception (WRAG member CEO’s, trustees, and senior staff)
Wednesday, November 19, 2014  5:30 PM to 7:30 PM

2014 Annual Meeting: Setting a Bigger Table (WRAG members)
Thursday, November 20, 2014  9:00 AM to 2:00 PM


If you’re a bad dancer, it’s not your fault! It may actually be a diagnosable condition.

– Ciara