I wrote you a couple of months ago about how we must be “people with hope to bring.” We are people who believe in the possibility of change and actively build pathways and invest deeply to make it happen. Especially today, we are reminded that we stand on the shoulders of trailblazers like Martin Luther King, Jr. in that possibility and pursuit.
I held my new year message to you for this special day. It’s even more special to me this year as an antidote to the daily barrage of divisive and disrespectful rhetoric in our national politics. At this time, on this day, offering hope and working together for a better world are more important than ever.
We hear from our nonprofit Investees that many of them feel personally at risk from threats thrown about by the president-elect and those emboldened by the politics of diminishing and dividing. We hear the families they serve fear losing their basic supports for breaking out of the cycle of poverty. Or worse, their families could be separated by deportation and jail-time. As I made clear in the post-election email and will say repeatedly, we are not a partisan organization. But we are political—as citizens and as a Partnership. We promote a philanthropic mission and community goal that can only be accomplished when we are grounded in the context of policy, politics, and personal experience of people served by the mission. At this moment, then, we must especially be called to action to ensure progress for these families, not just defending ground.
I believe that each of you wants to make deep and lasting change or you wouldn’t have chosen SVP as a vehicle for your philanthropy. You are the people who believe in possibilities and invest yourselves in fueling solutions. We work at the roots of our community’s greatest needs. So what will we do this year to make progress? What can you do?
I’ll share my thoughts on that below but let me take this first opportunity to invite you to one of eight Partnership Town Halls in February and March. They are designed to share with you our progress over the last several years, our strategy to achieve the Ready for Kindergarten (R4K) Goal, our commitment to advancing racial equity, and your questions. Rather than host an Annual Partners Meeting right now (we’ll do it in November instead), we want to have a two-way conversation with every one of you about what is critical to the success of our Partnership and what we need from you. (See the Town Hall dates and sign up for one here.)
So what will we do this year? What can you do?
Focus. Now is the time to focus our Partnership’s resources and your own on efforts that truly make change. Nice-to-have rather than must-have nonprofits and programs will be a distraction and drain at a time when we will be fighting for progress and not just defending ground or dealing with uncertainty. You will hear more at a Town Hall about our two focus areas for achieving the Ready for Kindergarten Goal: access to high quality early education experiences (like preschool) and family support and empowerment (i.e. parenting). We are focusing to increase the pace of progress toward the goal and supports for the kids and families. We have also increased our nonprofit Investee portfolio—including an end-of-2016 investment in the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO). We have granted almost $750,000 to the current Investees and helped bring in funding from others so these nonprofits have received another $4.2 million through our efforts.
Our focus and strategy is clear. How about yours? I urge you to hone your focus as well. I invite you to let us know how we can help you do that.
Connect with Others. We recognize that personal connection—with people whose story we know and people whose story we need to know—is more important than ever in this time. “Othering,” as john a. powell called it at a recent Oregon Grantmakers event (see video here), allows us to get away with disparaging others. Authentic connection with the other combats that and creates an opposing force of “belonging” instead.
To create more meaningful connections for you, we are changing our event offerings this year to help you spend quality time with one another and with the communities we serve. Starting in April, fellow Partners will host dinner discussions focused on important issues and difficult questions we face as a community. Many of these will be topics presented and led by our Investees and their clients so that we understand better firsthand the stories and the strengths of our neighbors. Through “Lunch & Learn” site visits, we will also give you the chance to visit these neighbors and see the work of our Investees. Oh, and we’ll have quarterly happy hours too! See the current list of events here.
We will give you greater opportunities to connect and learn from one another. I urge you to take us up on those early and often, to let us know what you want to learn to be more strategic and effective in your philanthropy, and to find opportunities to get to know “others” on your own (and invite us to do it with you, whenever possible).
Advance Equity. The fact is, our charity is not enough. We get to feel good about being charitable but unless we work to address the root causes of inequities in learning and life success for our kids, we are merely hacking at ever-growing branches. Kids of color bear the brunt of opportunity gaps in our R4K goal. Offering programs to help them is not enough. We are learning from our community partners about the experience of racism and classism embedded in our educational and justice systems. We have to invest ourselves and our resources in removing the systemic barriers that perpetuate the disadvantages for our kids and families of color.
We will soon publish our intention and specific actions to advance racial equity and remove the barriers to success for kids of color. I invite you to join with us in that effort. We will offer you various opportunities to learn, to act, and to lead. If you want to do something now, see here the Ten Things You Can Do to Honor the National Day of Racial Healing.
I trust that you became an SVP Partner because you felt you had something to offer and something to learn. Like in friendships and marriage, we show up offering who we are and who we can become, with and for that person. As we start a new year and consider again how to be our best selves, I remind you that as Partners we must be hopeful, undefended, courageous and action-oriented. Be reminded on this day of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words:
Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
I look forward to another year of…
Undefended listening and learning,
And deep partnering…in pursuit of our mission and goal.
Thank you for all of your passion and dedication.
Mark Holloway, CEO