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Event Recap: Spruce Council Meeting — Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Philanthropy

On September 22nd, the Spruce Foundation kicked off the second year of the Spruce Council program with our fall quarterly meeting.

Spruce Council is the Spruce Foundation’s program to engage young professionals deeper in our work, and in the wider world of philanthropy. Being a member of Spruce Council allows participants to immerse themselves in Philadelphia’s philanthropy scene, to assist with  meaningful projects integral to the Foundation’s success, and to define their own version of change-making philanthropy. This program is a key way that the Spruce Foundation intentionally cultivates the next generation of philanthropists and actively diversifies our volunteer base.

Spruce Council offers quarterly meetings devoted to educational programming, opportunities to volunteer with Spruce, invitations to attend Spruce events, and networking with Spruce Board and other Council members.

For our September quarterly meeting, we chose the topic Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Philanthropy. 

Omar Woodard, Executive Director of GreenLight Fund Philadelphia, led the educational session, which focused on evaluating the missions of non-profit organizations around issues of white supremacy and patriarchy. We were blown away by Omar’s presentation and his thoughtful responses during the Q&A session. Participants left the conversation with key takeaways for evaluating organizations through an equity and inclusion lens to further guide personal philanthropy. Below are a few of those takeaways: 

More specifically, we learned that philanthropy should focus on solving root causes in order to create systemic change. White supremacy is embedded in policies and systems, and therefore must be addressed on a systemic level. For example, GreenLight supports proven models to solve challenges as defined by community members experiencing them. GreenLight focuses on all 400,000 people facing poverty in Philadelphia to address root causes on a systemic level.  

To use the GreenLight model to figure out your personal philanthropic approach, consider the following:

  • Self-awareness: Determine what gets you excited about philanthropy.
  • Situational awareness: Understand the systems you operate within and how these systems impact yourself and others differently.

Additionally, implementing strategies in tandem across these three levels results in more impactful social change:

  • Policy: Change federal, state and/or local policies to expand access or increase funding
  • Practice: Change how government and/or businesses engage in a particular issue
  • Perception: Change how people see, approach, and/or think about an issue

Omar concluded his presentation with critical advice to use your privilege to help solve community problems, and to use your voice to elevate and uplift Black-led organizations and Black-led giving circles.

Omar answered attendees’ questions, ranging from criteria for venture philanthropy to board donation policies to hiring Black talent to sexism and patriarchy in Philadelphia. He provided insightful responses to all of the questions, two of which are highlighted below. 

  • To ethically collect stories of program participants, you can empower community members to tell their stories on their terms, whether through an interview or writing it themselves – and pay them for their labor.
  • It is important to strengthen the “circle” element of Giving Circles by creating connectivity among people who care about the community but might not otherwise be in the same space. Building a strong circle allows you to accelerate the impact of your giving.

In addition, we invited the Philadelphia Black Giving Circle (“PBGC”) to highlight their work to leverage collective resources from diverse donors to support non-profit organizations undertaking impactful work in the Black community. Chelsea Hicks, a PBGC Steering Committee Member, shared information about the group’s philanthropic work in Philadelphia, as well as how to get more involved with PBGC. Check out PBGC’s website and social media to learn more.  

To join more conversations like this, sign up for Spruce Council on our Get Involved page. Stay tuned for more details on our December 2020 meeting!