Philanthropy moves toward action on racial equity

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

By Rebekah Seder
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

In November 2015, the local philanthropic community began the process of putting racism on the table. Over the past year, a sizable cohort of WRAG’s membership participated in a six-month learning series on the dimensions of racism, as well as trainings on applying a racial equity lens to grantmaking and communicating effectively about race and racism. While learning is always ongoing, funders are ready to move toward action to advance racial equity.

Last week marked the launch of the Racial Equity Working Group at WRAG, a group of funders that are dedicating time and energy toward continuing to better understand how structural racism manifests in our region – and to collectively take strategic actions toward dismantling it.

Co-chaired by Yanique Redwood (Consumer Health Foundation) and Rick Moyers (The Meyer Foundation), the working group – which already includes 23 organizations with diverse interests and priorities – has identified three major areas of focus:

Envisioning a Racially Equitable Region: When you disaggregate the data on social outcomes in our region, be it educational achievement, household wealth, or health status, racial disparities are stark. These funders have done the deep learning to understand how structural racism has led to these disparities. The next step is to realize a shared vision for what a racially equitable region would look like. What are the implications of equity for schools, neighborhoods, jobs, economic development, and so much more?

Community Engagement: Participants in the working group understand that this vision of racial equity can’t just be philanthropy’s vision. It has to be rooted in the needs and the desires of the community. The working group will consider how best to engage with communities across the region to both listen to and raise up their voices so that they authentically inform this work.

Systems & Policy Work: Though a growing number of funders are applying a racial equity lens to their grantmaking, grants alone won’t undo inequitable systems that have been centuries in the making. The Racial Equity Working Group will prioritize developing an understanding of the systems that impact people’s lives, and the policy shifts that are needed in order to make real change in our region.

WRAG is encouraged by the energy and commitment that our membership has shown to advancing racial equity in the Greater Washington region, and is excited to support the working group as they get to work.

For more information about WRAG’s Racial Equity Working Group, please contact Tamara Copeland, copeland(at)