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Retreat to Step Forward: A Day in the Racial Equity Journey of NCG

One of the things I love about being President of NCG is how powerfully I am reminded of the privilege and responsibility of this position. Leading the organization whose charge it is to strengthen philanthropic practice in Northern California has never had more meaning than it does today. If philanthropy is to meet the challenges laid bare in this decade, we must bring deep clarity and strategy to our efforts.

That privilege was on full display last week at our 2023 All Staff retreat. It was our annual chance to spend a day all together, in person, in service of us, and thus the field. It was equal parts reunion and introduction, as we strengthened relationships, welcomed new team members, dreamed a bit, and reminded ourselves of what makes us NCG.

More importantly, we didn’t back away from the challenges that confront us as we try our best to center racial equity in both – what we do and how we do it. We went deep on how to tend to the disconnection that comes from limited in-person time together, the complexities of sharing leadership to unleash the full potential of a highly talented staff, and the need for an even sharper theory of practice that grows our impact. You know, the responsibility.

This is the evolution of doing philanthropic transformation in this decade. It’s not enough to proclaim the centrality of racial equity in all that we do (we have). It’s not enough to host thoughtful and inspiring programming (we do). To play our part well, we have to answer difficult questions specifically, how can we ensure that more aligned organizational strategies lead to transforming philanthropic practice?

So where are we in the quest to change practice? We’re… getting there. We’re building the strongest team we’ve had to date, and our new Directors for Member Engagement and Policy and Movement only accelerate that process. We’re selecting a new Director for Climate and Disaster Resilience who will leverage the progress we’ve made infusing equity in resilience investments in California, and by year’s end we will be introducing a new Vice President for Equity and Justice, who will bring greater coherence to all of our efforts to center racial equity (leads still welcome!). I only wish they could have witnessed the animated conversations we had whilst assembled together.

This Fall, we’re convening multiple Communities of Practice offering funders clear skills and tools to invest in movements and reach marginalized communities. We’re pushing ourselves to hold the discipline that will benefit the field. We’re bracing for what promises to be historic year, and a bit of a crucible for the relevance of philanthropy.

As you can imagine, coming together as a group to reflect, imagine, and strategize made for quite the day. One thing was abundantly clear – there’s no turning back from committing to equity. We continuously hold ourselves accountable to move the field to action. Because in this moment, statements aren’t enough. Actions matter. But that’s the topic for the next CEO Corner post. 

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