I've just finished a half day-long, inaugural board and staff retreat with Philanthropy Massachusetts. If my time spent with the board and staff today is reflective of the work that lies ahead, it's with great excitement that I embark on this board service journey.
I come from the SouthCoast of Massachusetts. The well of philanthropic dollars is not as deep as our larger neighboring cities like Boston and Providence, but over the course of this last decade, the funding community is working together on a deeper level than I've seen in my tenure in this region. The nonprofit sector continues to deliver innovation and results across communities rich in cultural, diversity and natural assets and facing immense social challenge. Funders are having more authentic conversation and peer learning around: 1) immediate community needs; 2) best approaches to responsiveness as funders through the lens of building strong, resilient and equitable communities; 3) being honest about what are the elements in our cities that are perpetuating inequality in our neighborhoods and systems; and 4) what can the philanthropic sector do about this?
What transpired in our retreat today was bigger and bolder than what I expected. I found myself among like-minded folks who are thinking along similar lines and grappling with similar challenges. What I discovered today is that this a conversation happening across the state. Across Philanthropy Massachusetts membership, program staff, sectors from private philanthropy to the nonprofit sector to corporate and business communities. Philanthropy Massachusetts’ intentional decision to serve as a sounding board to its members and lead in this space was affirming and inspiring. More importantly, their willingness to train the staff on topics of justice and equity is leading and teaching by example. Without compromising the "safe container" that Philanthropy Massachusetts offered its board and staff today; I will share that it's clear this organization's mission and values align with what many of us are contending with – in what can feel like silos.
Today was a conversation about justice and equity and how this shows up on a personal level and how we translate that into day-to-day decisions. This conversation was uncomfortable and raw at times -- and for someone showing up for the first day -- was bolder than I expected.
Philanthropy Massachusetts is setting its horizon on a new day in planting a flag in the ground to provide a safe space for philanthropists and nonprofit organizations to explore these places of discomfort. And it is doing so without judgement and without lecturing. Instead, Philanthropy Massachusetts is providing a platform to discover, explore and challenge us to be better in our work – by doing no harm and leveraging the precious resources we steward.
Thank you to Philanthropy Massachusetts staff and board for inviting us all to think about our work thru the lens of justice and equity.
Kathleen Carney Larisa, Executive Director
Carney Family Charitable Foundation