Tag: Taproot Foundation

Why we are pursuing a “culture of evaluation” at WRAG

by Tamara Lucas Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

How do you know if your work is making a difference?

Sometimes the methodology can be relatively simple. Just ask.

That’s what the Taproot Foundation did last year when they assessed the impact of WRAG’s work. They described their methodology with language that reflected their research perspective, but bottom line, they interviewed individuals and talked with groups both within and outside of the WRAG community. In other words, they asked.

Over the coming years, WRAG plans to continue asking. With both intentionality and brevity, we will pursue a culture of evaluation.

Our asking, however, will have no value without your answers. We promise to keep our questions pointed and the number few. In order to provide you with content and experiences that promote increased, more effective, and more responsible philanthropy (WRAG’s mission), we need your feedback. Are we hitting or missing the mark? Your input will be fundamental in guiding how we shape our programming and what those programs are.

We can add up the numbers. In 2015, WRAG hosted 65 events that over 1300 individuals attended from 344 organizations. Did we provide valuable information? Maybe, but the real question is ”What happened because of those sessions?” Only you can tell us that. We have the quantitative info, but the story is not complete without your qualitative input. So, if you are a regular at WRAG events, look for evaluation tools following some events. Please take the very few minutes necessary to give us your input.

We are committed to offering programming that enhances philanthropy and serves to improve the region. Are we doing that? You’ll have to let us know.

We know WRAG isn’t the only organization thinking deeply about evaluation and impact these days. Join us on March 10 for a “Brightest Minds” event featuring David Grant, who will change the way you think about social profit evaluation.

Making a Difference | A Fourth Quarter Report to the Community

by Tamara Lucas Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

In my third quarter report to the community, I referenced our mission statement. I’d like to do that again: “The Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers promotes increased, effective and responsible philanthropy to improve the health and vitality of the region and all who live here.” Certainly, it’s an appropriate and laudable mission statement. But, at the end of the day, how do we know we’re succeeding? This quarter, our work focused on outcomes and our impact in the community.

Taproot Foundation – Earlier this year, WRAG applied for a Taproot Foundation grant because we wanted to know if we were making a difference. Were we living up to our mission statement? If you don’t know the Taproot Foundation, it is an entity that utilizes coordinated, pro bono services from the local corporate community to address the needs of the social profit sector. Via a comprehensive, six-month assessment, Taproot determined that the answer is “yes.”  WRAG’s value and impact rests in what Taproot calls our “pillars of value and impact:” 1) WRAG as a convener; 2) WRAG as a source of knowledge and information; 3) WRAG as the voice of philanthropy in the region; and, 4) WRAG as a promoter of collaboration and relationships.

Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility – This quarter, the second class graduated from our joint program with Johns Hopkins University. While already effective in their corporate responsibility work, the graduates acknowledged that participation in this year-long course made them even stronger in their positions. That’s exactly what we hoped would happen. Good news for anyone in the corporate community looking to  improve their work in CSR: there is still space in the 2016 class.

Get on the Map –Through a partnership between the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers and the Foundation Center, WRAG is now able to map the philanthropic investments of our membership. Launched this quarter, this mapping tool enables WRAG members to know who else is investing in a certain issue, in a certain geographic area, or to a certain social profit organization. Better information will lead to better coordinated investments. Just an FYI: this tool is available on our website only to WRAG members.

WRAG’s 2015 Annual Meeting – “Philanthropy All In” was the theme for this year’s annual meeting. The immediate feedback suggests that the business meeting session on The Metropolitan Revolution and regional cooperation, followed by the luncheon presentation, “The House that Racism Built,” gave the sold-out audience lots of food for thought. If you weren’t able to attend, video from the sessions will be available soon. After you watch Dr. David Williams’ presentation on racism, look out for an artistic element that powerfully underscores his message.

Is WRAG making a difference in the community? We think so, and hope you do, too.


Big announcements from WRAG’s 2015 Annual Meeting

Last week, WRAG held our 2015 Annual Meeting, Philanthropy All In, at the National Press Club. We made several big announcements during the event.


  • WRAG Board of Directors
    The following leaders were elected for a two-year term on the WRAG Board of Directors:

David Bowers, Enterprise Community Partners
Rose Ann Cleveland, The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation
Nicky Goren, The Eugene & Agnes E. Meyer Foundation

The following Board  Members were re-elected for a second two-year term on the WRAG Board of Directors:

Lindsey Buss, World Bank Group
Desiree Griffin-Moore, The Community Foundation for Prince George’s County
Yanique Redwood, The Consumer Health Foundation

  • Get on the Map
    Members can now explore this new resource for accurate, timely, and quality data on philanthropy in the region.

HEALTH | For the first time, the Northern Virginia Health Foundation (NVHF) has awarded $125,000 to five organizations in the region that are working to address social determinants of health. Traditionally, NVHF has centered its grantmaking on organizations providing health care and other health services to low-income and uninsured residents. (NVHF, 11/19)

COMMUNITY | The Lever Fund has announced the hiring of their first executive director, Gregory M. Cork, along with their inaugural board of directors.

– According to a Washington Post poll of D.C. residents, there is a strong racial divide in the attitudes Washingtonians have about redevelopment in the city and who benefits from it. The number of African American residents who were polled about whether or not they see redevelopment as negative for “people like them” has grown a great deal over the last several years. (WaPo, 11/20)

– The Urban Institute takes a moment to ponder what a more equitable D.C. might look like. (Urban Institute, 11/19)

EDUCATION/WORKFORCE | A report from the Washington Area Boards of Education finds disparities in the salaries of teachers in the region from district to district. The report highlights the challenges facing some districts in hiring and retaining talent. (WaPo, 11/22)

Have you read any of these picks for the best books of 2015?



Information Overload: The Victim, the Culprit, the Solution

By Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Piled on my desk are several issues of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, a few copies of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Bruce Katz’s The Metropolitan Revolution, the latest report from the Democracy Collaborative and assorted articles that I should read. Sound familiar? What does this tell you? That I’m still caught up in the last century’s hard copy preference? While that’s true, the bigger point is that I am constantly surrounded by information that I don’t have time to read, think about, or learn from because I am too busy doing.

Consider this from a 2013 article by science and technology writer David Russell Schilling:

Buckminster Fuller created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve”; he noticed that until 1900, human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today things are not as simple as different types of knowledge have different rates of growth. For example, nanotechnology knowledge is doubling every two years and clinical knowledge every 18 months. But on average, human knowledge is doubling every 13 months. According to IBM, the build out of the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.

Now at the same time that we are drowning in information, we’re all adding to it. Yes, WRAG, and probably most of you who are reading this post, is a part of the problem. We all manage programs, produce reports, host seminars – all chock full of information – good information, valuable information – but information that many don’t have the bandwidth to utilize.

Enough! At least, that’s what WRAG is saying.

Thanks to a grant from the Taproot Foundation, WRAG will be undertaking a comprehensive effort to learn what we do that truly helps our membership be more effective and responsible in their philanthropy. That is our mission. We want to be more laser-focused in accomplishing that mission. We still want to offer that inspiring speaker, that provocateur who will push us to think more expansively, but we also want to offer our members what they can use now, what they need now. We want to offer them tools, information and speakers that enable them to be more effective and responsible philanthropists. WRAG members, you’ll be hearing more. Stay tuned.