by Dwayne S. Marsh, President and CEO, Northern California Grantmakers
This is not the New Year’s message I was hoping to write.
There was a moment this fall when things started feeling like they might just fall into place. We saw progress on the pandemic, and it felt like 2022 might herald a fresh beginning. But reality intervened, as it tends to do.
We need to remind ourselves that our desire for a return to ‘normal’ is insufficient – normal was already a problem. Normal included living with social and environmental challenges that undermine every aspect of society. While COVID is the traditional pandemic, the harsh truth is that it is but one fundamental ill we must confront in order to build the society that benefits all people. We are facing multiple interrelated crises – income inequality, a climate catastrophe, historic attacks on our norms of governance, and deep, systemic racial inequities.
The obvious question we must all ask ourselves is, what are we going to do about it?
This is a deeply personal question and it speaks to the kind of society we want to build, and what we are willing to do to create it. We each have our own choices to make, our own journey to take.
For those of us who work in philanthropy, it is also a question of shared responsibility and collective action. What can we do now to help bring our sector together in meaningful and perhaps unprecedented ways?
For me, the answer to this question is tied to my own story. Service to community runs deep in my family and through my career. After three decades of working with nonprofits, foundations, and all levels of government to advance racial justice and racial equity, I have the opportunity and the responsibility to engage with some of the most powerful and privileged institutions in our society to help make change. Together, we can deeply infuse the principal of justice across our sector. We can meet this moment.
At Northern California Grantmakers, we will do our best to make that happen.
Internally, it starts with safeguarding the health of our hard-working team to make sure they can thrive in this challenging moment. We have been diligent in doing everything in our power to help staff maintain some semblance of life-work balance amidst the turbulence that currently defines daily life. It also means applying a racial equity framework to ensure that we use our limited time and resources as effectively as possible in support of our mission, with more emphasis on action and measurable progress toward impact. You can see the results of that effort here.
But that’s not enough. We have to be a resource and partner to each of you, the 217 members of NCG and the countless others in the region whose wealth and innovation have the power to transform society and fulfill your own potential. While our individual efforts matter, it’s what we do when we think, commit, and act together that will have the most powerful impact. We need the entirety of the sector to recognize the opportunity and act for change.
In the year ahead, you will have the chance to participate in programming that is intentional about advancing equity in all corners of the region. We will invest a great deal of energy in promoting our framework for an equitable recovery for philanthropic action. You will see an increased emphasis in our collaborative and pooled funding efforts on elevating the agency of the impacted communities, as with our Youth Power Fund. You will have the chance to participate in new public policy efforts that can build tools for philanthropy to change systems, such as our C(4) Learning Community.
We continue to invest in proven cohort learning experiences such as our Racial Equity Action Institute and Foundations of Racial Equity. We are deepening our efforts to harness greater investments in addressing the effects of climate change. We are working to expand support from philanthropic leadership dedicated to advancing equity, through our 5 Shifts work with donor and trustee communities and via expanded efforts to engage corporate philanthropy.
All of these programs will be delivered with an enhanced member experience, which we are excited to share more about shortly. If you want more details about the highlights of what we hope will be a truly transformative 2022, join us on February 9th for a preview of how to make the most of NCG.
2021 reminded us of the value of the work we do, and the need to work together to build toward a more equitable future. Let us make 2022 the year where we use our imagination, courage, and resource to be equal to the task.