RE: Philanthropy Blog

I love my city of Chicago. One of my prouder moments occurred in 2010 which, to me, witnessed the manifestation of about ten years of outreach, communication, and deepening mutual respect across normative borders. It came out of years of interfaith dialogue and growing friendships.

The proudest moment of Ruben Garcia’s life was when he watched his first child graduate from Boulder High School last spring. The father of three and his wife know how much it took for their son to reach the important milestone. They will tell you that their work with him started before preschool.

In philanthropy we know that storytelling is a critical way to illustrate impact. A new video, “Post 9/11: The Impact of a Funder Collaborative,” tells the tale of what we learned through the Civic Engagement Fund (CEF). The CEF is a collaborative fund that supports little-understood communities that were propelled to the spotlight after 9/11, and remain invisible yet hyper-visible in mainstream America even today.

The study and practice of leadership has been on my mind for the past several months. Since July, I’ve been fortunate to participate in the Career Pathways Program through the Council on Foundations.

As foundations continue to assess where they can maximize the social return on their charitable investments, many are looking at issues of gender norms and equity.

At a pivotal historical moment, family foundations are poised to address matters of racial equity, inclusion, and diversity to enhance their impact. These concerns are central to any thematic area a family foundation would address in its programming. Health, education, income and wealth, and any range of other issues are characterized by persistent disparities among demographic groups. If family foundations hope to influence systemic change, the realities of today’s demographics and inequities between racial and ethnic groups would have to be incorporated into strategic thinking and action.

Saturday was wonderful preconference kick-off to what will undoubtedly be another great Council on Foundations event. Collaboration, common agendas, and community engagement were key themes for both the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) and Global Grantmakers. Each group delivered thought-provoking, inspiring programming - but unfortunately I was forced to choose between sessions. Similar to previous conferences, I was forced to make the mad dash between presentations and sneak politely in and out of conversations that were great independently but have the potential to be transformative together. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to mobilize to create a more perfect Council union.

For the past two decades, the James A. Joseph Lecture has been one of the intellectual high points of the Council on Foundations Annual Conference. The list of past lecturers at this Association of Black Foundation Executives event helps make the case, not just Ambassador Joseph delivering the first lecture in 1991 and again in 2001, but Carol Goss of the Detroit-based Skillman Foundation (2007); Frank Thomas of the Ford Foundation (1992); Emmett Carson, now heading the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (2000); and Handy Lindsey, formerly the innovative grantmaker heading the Field Foundation in Chicago, more recently heading the Cameron Foundation in Virginia.

I was a member of the third class of diversity fellows. I value many things about the fellowship. My top two are the structured opportunities for reflection and learning and the access the fellowship provided to the philanthropic field overall, a tremendous support network, and numerous growth opportunities.

Prior to starting as a Proteus Fund Diversity Fellow, I spent five years in my hometown serving the city that provided me with the platform to become an educated professional of color. In returning to my hometown of New Bedford, Mass., to serve its youth, I saw that the promise of an excellent public school education had been supplanted by an underfunded and lackluster version of my urban school experience.