By Tamara Lucas Copeland
President, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
It was a bittersweet moment last week when I attended my last WRAG Annual Meeting. It has been twelve years since I joined the WRAG team. One of my most valuable lessons during this time has been the importance of using my voice and recognizing the incredible platform that WRAG offers.
So, for one more time, I used my voice and that platform to urge the WRAG membership to focus on four areas:
- Seeing the 5% IRS nonprofit payout requirement as a minimum, not a maximum. I asked whether foundations make conscious decisions about the 5% floor, or whether, like many of us, they were simply acting on automatic. Then I asked that they think more about their other 95% of assets and consider impact investing, thereby increasing their ability to be change agents.
- Child welfare – One of my earliest professional positions was as a foster care caseworker. That position opened my eyes to so much that is needed to change in the child welfare system. Many years later, I fear that change is still needed. When these children are taken from dangerous situations and placed in foster care, there is then a societal belief, I think, that the situation is now righted and no intervention is needed. Just being in a non-violent environment does not necessarily mean that the child is being nurtured. We need to place child welfare back on our priority list.
- I urged the WRAG membership to see affordable housing as more than rental units. Certainly they are needed. I want us to think about the need for affordable for-sale housing to people across multiple income brackets. I asked the WRAG community to see this as a Big Hairy Audacious Goal and one that they have the ability to tackle.
- Race and racism – I urged our members to keep racism on the table. Issues often become labeled the “flavor of the month,” something to be focused on for a minute and then quickly forgotten for the next important issue. As I shared at our Annual Meeting, 335 years have passed between 1619, when Africans were brought to Jamestown in chains, to 1954, the year of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. Then roughly another 65 years of silence. We have to peel back the onion of racism, understand the roots of structural racism and bias, and work toward racial justice. This is the work of our lifetimes.
My hope for the WRAG community is that they fully embrace their ability to be change agents, that they stop to look at what they’ve always done and consider if they always have to do it that way, and that they continue to be bold and fearless.
If you would like to read Tamara’s full speech, click here.