We have been silent since the killing of George Floyd on May 25 because we didn’t know what to say. We didn’t want our words to be empty or promise too much. Instead, we have spent this time thinking, reading, listening, and learning. Today, we would like to share with you–our members and supporters–where this process has led us.
As individuals, we have been saddened, angered, and shamed by the killing of George Floyd and too many other Black Americans and by our failure, in varying degrees, to fully grasp the power of anti-Black racism in our country and in our lives. We recognize the deep harm racism does to many groups, including indigenous peoples and people of Asian and Latinx descent, and our obligation to combat racism in all forms. At the same time, we acknowledge the unique role of anti-Black racism in our society.
As a board, we have struggled to define our responsibility and our path forward. Our grantmaking and education programs address the consequences of structural racism, but we have yet to define the role racial equity should play in our work. We are based in one of the most diverse regions of the United States, and we have made and will continue our efforts to increase the diversity of our membership, but we are still today a predominantly white organization with a predominantly white board.
In short, we know that we have work to do. We don’t know exactly what that looks like. But we are committed to figuring it out.
Over the past two months, we have taken our first steps toward this goal. We have talked to collective giving organizations across the country to learn how they are supporting racial equity through their culture, practices, and grantmaking. We have had conversations with the Community Investment Network, a network of Black-led giving circles, to explore how we might work and learn together. We have participated in programs focusing on racial equity and philanthropy organized by Philanos, Philanthropy Together and the Community Investment Network, the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, the Catalogue for Philanthropy, King Boston, and more. We have joined the Philanthropy Together/Community Investment Network Racial Equity Community of Practice for Giving Circles. We have studied and shared podcasts, videos, articles, and books.
We realize now that this work may be ongoing over many years. However, in the short term, we have decided on a two-year approach:
- In 2020-21, we will focus on examining our mission, culture, and membership practices through a racial equity lens. This work will take place within the context of a broader diversity, equity, and inclusion perspective.
- In 2021-22, we will focus explicitly on grantmaking (although questions about our grants process are also likely to arise this year).
Specifically, in 2020-21:
- We will create a working group to lead and coordinate racial equity work. This group will be charged with presenting recommendations to the Board for possible changes in our mission, culture, and membership practices to be implemented in 2021-22.
- We will invest in racial equity training for the Board so that we are better equipped for this work. The Board as a whole will participate regularly in discussion and learning led by the racial equity working group.
- We will expand our donor education program to offer members more and more flexible opportunities to learn with us. Many of our events have highlighted the consequences of systemic racism, including mass incarceration and the maternal mortality crisis in DC, which will be the focus of a panel this fall. We will continue to examine racial inequity through our focus areas, as well as more broadly and in the context of philanthropy. By offering events virtually, we hope to enable more people to participate and to connect with others while learning.
We don’t know exactly where this process will lead, and we know that along the way, we will make mistakes. But we welcome this opportunity to make Many Hands a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization, and we know that we will only do so with your participation and support.
We invite you to join us on this journey as we deepen our commitment to those in need across our region. If you have ideas to share with us or reactions of any sort, or if you have particular expertise or interest in racial equity and would like to participate more directly in this work, please contact incoming Board President Mary Kwak at email@example.com.
Lynne Battle, Elizabeth Bausch, Melissa Rose Dennis, Tracy Ganti, Wendy Lynn Gray, Mary Kwak, Jill Rosenbaum Meyer, Katy Moore, Karen Murrell, Anna Gunnarsson Pfeiffer, Kim Quyen Pham, Tara Brennan Primis, Dianne Rudo, Susan Sarver, Kathryn Zecca
The Many Hands Board
Together We Make a Difference