On Giving Tuesday this year, Many Hands was honored to host two leading experts on philanthropy for a conversation on how funders and nonprofits can advance racial equity. Our guests were Tamara Lucas Copeland, former president of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, and Kathy Kretman, director of the Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. Board member Katy Moore moderated the conversation.

The frank and wide-ranging discussion moved from the challenges confronting philanthropy at this moment to the work facing Many Hands. Asked to identify the biggest challenge facing the sector as a whole, Tamara named the the invisibility of structural racism:

George Floyd supposedly passed a $20 bill that was counterfeit. He was murdered for passing that $20 bill. But Dylann Roof in South Carolina killed nine people in a church. He was arrested safely and appropriately. You have to juxtapose these situations of what happens in the Black community or in communities of color as compared to the White community. If that doesn’t happen with some degree of intentionality, I don’t think you just notice these things. I don’t think philanthropy just notices. You have to point it out.

Kathy addressed the power imbalance between funders and nonprofits and the importance of engaging communities in determining their needs and making long-term investments in leaders of color and community-based organizations. “Racism, implicit bias, ignorance, lack of risk-taking, lack of courage,” she said, account for the failure to invest in Black-led organizations.

She also challenged Many Hands to examine its status as a predominantly white organization: “I would ask you all: have you given thought to what you’re going to do? What are your plans for engaging others?” Similarly, Tamara encouraged members to reflect on the forces behind the existence of groups like Many Hands: “What caused Many Hands to exist? Why is Many Hands here? How long will Many Hands have to be here? What are the power dynamics that have created the need for this organization?”

In closing, both speakers emphasized the value for grantmakers of listening more more carefully to the people doing the work on the ground. Speaking of metrics, Kathy noted: “What we want people to measure isn’t necessarily realistic or smart. What do they want to measure? It’s really not about what your goals are; it’s about what their goals are.”

“Change doesn’t happen overnight,” Tamara observed. What’s needed is “trust and going out a bit on a limb of faith and giving organizations time to breathe and be the agents of change they can be.”

To learn more about resources mentioned during the event, please consult the following links: