10 Philadelphia-area leaders on what's next for philanthropy - Generocity Philly

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Nov. 9, 2020 1:00 pm

10 Philadelphia-area leaders on what’s next for philanthropy

Now that the 2020 election is over, does philanthropic planning for 2021 stay the same, or does it change?

(File and courtesy photos)

Now that the election is finally over, what’s next for philanthropy in the Philadelphia region — before, during and after the transition from a Trump to a Biden presidency?

Does the planning for 2021 stay the same, or does it change?

These are the questions we asked philanthropic leaders in the Philadelphia area. Here are their responses.


“We must all become more policy focused at both the federal and state levels.”

Pedro A. Ramos

President and CEO

Philadelphia Foundation

 

Clearly, there’s great mutual affinity and appreciation between the people of our region and the President-elect and Vice President-elect; and it’s up to leaders and institutions across sectors in our region to ensure that this opportunity translates to bigger and faster economic mobility for all in our region including those who’ve been excluded or marginalized. We also need relief for nonprofits whose criticality has been conspicuously demonstrated during the crises of 2020. We must all become more policy focused at both the federal and state levels.

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“I believe philanthropy should immediately come together to push Congress to pass emergency aid now for individuals and nonprofits.”

Donna Frisby-Greenwood

President and CEO

Fund for the School District of Philadelphia

 

While I can’t say what’s next for philanthropy in Philadelphia, I will say what I believe should be next. People and nonprofits are suffering. According to Pew’s recent poll, 40% of working Philadelphians have lost their jobs or are working fewer hours and making less money due to the pandemic. Additionally, 80% of Pennsylvania nonprofits have experienced revenue decreases of $612 million and increased operating costs of $95.3 million, according to PA Association of Nonprofits August 2020 survey.

I believe philanthropy should immediately come together to push Congress to pass emergency aid now for individuals and nonprofits. We should also ask Congress to extend the charitable giving deduction for people who do not itemize and figure out how to incentivize wealthy individuals to give more. Philanthropy in Philadelphia can also continue do what it did this spring and summer to respond to the needs created by the pandemic: speed up their process for grant making; work together; and fund operating expenses for grantees. I also think we’ll begin to see more philanthropic institutions implement trust-based philanthropy giving more discretion to the nonprofit recipients and funding more organizations led by people of color.

At the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, we are developing a growth plan that will allow us to better support the work at the District to create a more equitable system for all children no matter where they live. As I believe, and President-elect Joe Biden stated it in his acceptance speech, education will get a great deal more attention and support than it currently does in the Trump administration.

“We must use the full weight of our philanthropic resources to invest in BIPOC leaders and grassroots movement building.”

Molly de Aguiar

President

Independence Public Media Foundation

 

I’d like to challenge my colleagues on two points as they think about what they’re going to do to prevent a savvier, more sophisticated version of Trump winning in 2024:

  • Whose voices are heard, whose stories get told, how narratives are created and shaped all impact the issues you care about. You must find room in your work and budgets to support media and media making that helps people feel powerful, that challenges the white dominated narratives and norms in newsrooms, and that lifts up the experiences, expertise, and ideas of communities of color. Don’t know where to start? IPMF will help you.
  • Relatedly, we must use the full weight of our philanthropic resources to invest in BIPOC leaders and grassroots movement building. Does that sound hard to my colleagues? It is not. Whatever issues matter to you, there are BIPOC organizers who are trying to do the work on a shoestring budget, trying to get your attention. Find them, fund them and trust them to lead.

“We believe the nation has cried out and their voices have been heard.”

Vanessa B. Briggs

President and CEO

Brandywine Health Foundation

 

At the Brandywine Health Foundation we believe the nation has cried out and their voices have been heard “we need healing and new path forward.”

On the heels of this historical election and speeches by President- and Vice President-Elect, at the Brandywine Health Foundation we are excited that our three strategic priorities remain relevant and align with their vision of healing the soul of our nation by addressing and not ignoring the impact of coronavirus pandemic and tackling racial and social injustices.

The Brandywine Health Foundation’s planned priorities are: (1) Integrated Services that advances social and economic mobility and improves the health and well-being of people and communities.; (2) Healthy Environments brings forward health, equity and dignity in public spaces by creating access to resources and opportunities like affordable housing, healthy food, social and family supports and other basic needs, and (3) Community Voice amplifies community voices to drive locally determined solutions aimed to influence systemic racism and discriminatory practices by influencing inequitable policies, systems, and structures that improve health and well-being for all.

We are confident that our plan and priorities are even more relevant today. As we continue watch soaring numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths in the rise, we now have new leadership coming in with a plan grounded in public health to turn the corner on the coronavirus pandemic along with long term strategies to deal with it’s health and economic aftermath, particularly among low income communities of color.

“The administration’s #1 priority should be a focused, science-based, comprehensive approach to battling the coronavirus.”

Frances Sheehan

President

The Foundation for Delaware County

 

Collectively philanthropy has tremendous resources to drive innovation and change, but it pales in comparison to the funding that government can provide. For those of us working on setting up a public health department in Delaware County, the administration’s #1 priority should be a focused, science-based, comprehensive approach to battling the coronavirus with funding to strengthen the public health infrastructure in every state. This is critically important to all of us in philanthropy. Our ability to eradicate the virus dictates the timing of our economic recovery, the education of our children, and whether people survive.

I’m hopeful that we’ll see a commitment to programs that have been proven to be effective in giving every child the strongest possible launch in life. Perfect examples are the public health programs we run in Delaware County like the Nurse-Family Partnership, Healthy Start and the WIC nutrition program. And we’ve got to reduce the horrifying racial and economic inequities in our public education system. These are the long-term investments that are critical to our reducing income and racial inequality, creating a strong civil society, and driving economic progress for everyone. And of course they’re the right thing to do.

“Philanthropic leaders should ask questions around civic priorities with such a significant change occurring at the federal level.”

Dominique C. Goss

VP – Senior Manager of Strategy & Social Impact
Office of Charitable and Community Giving

TD Charitable Foundation

 

It seems ironic now, but a few days ago many of us were waiting and holding our breath as anxiety continued to elevate with each passing day. Now, it’s time to think about philanthropy’s role with the change of the current administration. I also think it’s important to echo the significance our federal elections have on our state and local politics. I think the first step is meeting with our local elected officials (county, municipality, town), and our state leaders. Philanthropic leaders should ask questions around civic priorities with such a significant change occurring at the federal level.

These meetings aren’t meant to disrupt current strategy or planning, but the insights and data should be integrated in our collective philanthropic strategy. For many of us COVID wasn’t top of mind on November 3, or the days after but it’s still a very real threat that continues to cripple our economy and take lives. Anti-Black racism, and the racial reckoning that received widespread media attention in June hasn’t dissipated either; especially for us still reeling from the death of Walter Wallace.

So the question is, “Where do we go from here?” From my own personal perspective, our city, state, and the nation need healing and reunification. What would it look like if philanthropy invested more resources in healing circles, continued to invest in Black led/Black serving organizations, and abolished the notion that operating support isn’t integral to the sustainability of our nonprofits? As a philanthropist those are the conversations I will continue to champion within my organization, and I hope my peers will commit to doing the same.

“The work we do requires support from state and federal leaders.”

Shawn McCaney

Executive Director

William Penn Foundation

 

As was the case during the previous Presidential transition, the William Penn Foundation remains steadfast in its commitment to its current, long-term strategic plan to improve the quality of life in Philadelphia by improving education for low-income children, ensuring a sustainable environment, and fostering arts and culture in communities to enhance civic life. While we will not be changing or pivoting our strategies as a result of this presidential transition, we are supporting grantees to inform and educate all stakeholders about these core priorities as we carry out our work.

We will continue looking at ways to expand and improve educational opportunities for children in Philadelphia and increase public and private investment in pre-k and other early learning, which is particularly necessary to sustain providers through the COVID-related crisis. We also recognize the critical importance of fair and equitable access to clean waterways and outdoor spaces, particularly during the pandemic. And we are committed to preserving the neighborhood artists and cultural assets that enrich our city, most immediately by supporting them through the COVID crisis.

The work we do requires support from state and federal leaders. President-elect Biden has committed to increasing Title 1 funding for schools to improve equity, increasing pay and support for early childhood educators, and other investments essential for our education system. He has pledged to immediately rejoin the Paris climate accord to combat climate change, and to invest in infrastructure and re-establish critical environmental regulations that protect our water, land, and air. And finally, he has stated that racial equity is a top priority for his administration. We look forward to helping to bring his vision to reality in our city, region, and state.

“What this election showed us … is the power of organizing, and what can be achieved under the leadership of Black women.”

Farrah Parkes

Executive Director

Gender Justice Fund

 

We can’t become complacent. The forces that brought Donald Trump to power —white supremacy, patriarchy, unbridled capitalism — are still very much at work and it will take more than a new president to defeat them. We also can’t lose sight of the fact that the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our communities and especially on women of color. Philanthropy needs to be prepared to step up again. I know we all want to believe we’re in recovery; but I’m not sure we’re there yet.

What this election showed us though, is the power of organizing, and what can be achieved under the leadership of Black women. I hope philanthropy takes note and invests more in both going forward. We are gearing up to make grants to organizations working towards gender justice through advocacy, policy and community organizing, but we are one of just a handful of local foundations that fund this type of work. We need more of us supporting organizations working to eradicate the systems of oppression that make philanthropy necessary in the first place, otherwise we could easily end up with another Donald Trump in the White House.

“We must continue to be vocal watchdogs and advocates for democracy and justice, and most immediately ensure a peaceful transfer of power.”

Sarah Martinez-Helfman

President

Samuel S. Fels Fund

 

Now that the votes have been tallied and we’re pumped with Philly pride, let’s resist the habitual return to business as usual and instead reimagine what can be. This is a moment for those of us in philanthropy to center in our common humanity and ask,

  • “What would it truly take to bring unity and healing?”
  • “Who carries the deepest wounds in our region, and how do we dress/address them so we don’t continue to do harm as a society?”
  • “How will we animate the Black Lives Matter statements so many of us made last June?”
  • “When the COVID-19 relief funds run dry, can we afford to dig deeper into our endowments to replenish them?” (Hint: the answer is, “YES!”)
  • “Can we align all of our resources (including our endowments) and our practices (internally and externally) with our racial, social and economic justice missions?”
  • “When will we invest in systems change work with a level of priority, funding and urgency that demonstrates we really want systems to change?”

Answers to these questions can’t be left to a new President/Vice President or our good intentions and well-crafted statements. They certainly won’t be found in the slow drip of resources and tight-fisted clench of power that is philanthropy’s traditional way of operating. Let’s instead listen to and amplify the voices of Black, Indigenous, brown and other people of color who bear the continual brunt of injustice, elevate and resource our community organizers, artists and healers who are working for more just systems, and rejoice in dancing with our grantee partners as they lead.

We must continue to be vocal watchdogs and advocates for democracy and justice, and most immediately ensure a peaceful transfer of power. And once and for all, let’s recognize and name white supremacy and actively work to dismantle it, reunite the children ripped from the arms of their parents at the borders and #ShutDownBerks!

“We are all hungry for a better America, but what that means and how we come together to achieve it is where the work begins.”

Michelle Legaspi Sanchez

Executive Director

Chester County Fund for Women and Girls

 

We are thrilled at this historic moment when the U.S. elected the first woman, as well as the first woman of color, to serve as its Vice President, as well as at the record-breaking number of women across the board from both parties. We hope this is a chance for more of our leaders to address how systemic racism and sexism are deeply embedded in our flawed systems and to recognize that resulting inequalities that have only been exacerbated in recent times.

It is not a time for philanthropy and nonprofit organizations to take our foot off the gas. The fact that a record number of voters from all perspectives turned out tells us something. We are all hungry for a better America, but what that means and how we come together to achieve it is where the work begins. The call to us all is to work even harder to listen, learn, build trust with individuals and organizations that are different from us, and be willing to put in the work — even when it’s uncomfortable — in order to make true progress.

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