#AskHer Series: Jacquelyn L. Lendsey, DC Fiscal Policy Institute

Our #AskHer series is an interview with our partners, community members and supporters who work tirelessly for women and girls. This interview is with Jacquelyn L. Lendsey, Interim Executive Director, DC Fiscal Policy Institute. The interview was conducted at the end of 2020 by our President and CEO Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat. 

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat: Can you tell me a little about yourself/your organization?

Jacquelyn  L. Lendsey: I’ve been a nonprofit executive for more than 25 years. I started my career in education as a classroom teacher, and then went into communications and marketing, and then nonprofit leadership.

I’m a native Washingtonian. I’ve spent my whole life here and went to grad school at Howard University. I’ve worked at both local and national nonprofits, including Women in Community Service, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and DC Children and Youth Investment Trust and that experience has given me an opportunity to be involved in education, policy, health care, and community development. I have served on several nonprofit boards including Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC Action for Children, DC Scholars Public Charter School, and the Consumer Health Foundation.

I started working as an Interim Executive Director (IED) for nonprofits in 2012. I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done and blessed that I’m able to do the work for nonprofit organizations in the community where I have lived and work all my life.

I am currently the Interim Executive Director at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, (DCFPI). The DCFPI promotes opportunity and widespread prosperity for all residents of the District of Columbia through thoughtful policy solutions.

JLS: You recently became the interim ED. Tell us about your transition of leading an organization and making shifts during a pandemic?

JLL: From an interim perspective, I think one of the things that the pandemic has changed in terms of how we do this work is that you’re used to working right next to, and seeing individuals, within the organization on a daily basis. It makes it much easier for an interim to come in on a short-term basis, learn the landscape, get a real quick sense of the staff and at the same time move the organization forward. You get to know each member of the staff professionally and personally. Those little things you get from working together and being in person, are priceless. I had the opportunity to work in person at the DCFPI office for one week, and then we made the decision to go remote.  The pandemic turned our way of working upside down.

I do think that the pandemic requires so much more of an interim because you are now doing all of your work virtually – the tools (Zoom, etc.) make it possible to do so – but even with the tools, the cues that you get from individuals when you are working in person are different from the cues you get through a screen or camera. As an interim you have to be intentional about taking the time to get to know the individuals you are working with.

I like to do individual check-ins periodically. We set a time so I can find out – what is going on with each staff member, what is working, and how can we improve. It is a challenge, but I think one of the things people who do interim work understand is that you are going to have challenges one way or the other. It just so happens that the pandemic has forced us to a virtual world. It is just another challenge that adds another skill to the interim skill bank.

COVID has not stopped the critical work that DCFPI does. We are still doing policy, advocacy, and research. We are still focused on education, budget, revenue, tax, homelessness, housing, etc. We are still looking at those issues and how they impact low-income and moderate-income people, and working with policymakers, coalition partners, funders, and the community.

JLS: How have you/your organization had to shift right now?

Our staff are primarily policy analysts and are working in coalition and with policymakers. The hours are the same, but everything is being done remotely and the number of opportunities to engage with people have increased.

DC government had to truncate its entire budget process, so now instead of a budget process taking place over a period of several months, it took place over a period of two to three months… in a very compressed period of time.

We’ve had to shift the way in which we do work. We couldn’t just run down to the Wilson Building.

We have had to be more deliberate about meetings and conversations with policymakers, coalitions partners and the community. We’ve worked very closely with our coalition partners on a Just Recovery revenue campaign, doing polling, to find out what the community thinks about the budget, the need for revenue generation, making the case that those in our community who could afford to more do so.

We’ve looked at the impact of COVID on Black and Brown residents andon Black businesses.

With our coalition partners, we made a deep dive into the impact of COVID on childcare in our community including the need to stabilize the sector, especially independent child care providers, those home providers who live on that income, and who were horribly impacted by COVID.

JLS: What are your thoughts on budget advocacy right now and the needs in our community?

JLL: DCFPI has been very deliberate in looking at revenue. While all of our revenue ideas may not have come to fruition, the need to continue to look at revenue as an integral part of the budget process must continue.  DCFPI did polling and found that there is support is this community for revenue increases. In other words, there is support for the idea that those who can afford to pay more should pay more to ensure success for all.

How do we marry budget and revenue? And how do we get our community interested in looking at new ways of increasing or raising revenue to deal with some of the issues that have come about because of COVID are doing this in coalition with a number of organizations, through the #JustRecovery Campaign; looking at how those who can looking at ways to provide more revenue to address budget shortfalls and provide targeted recovery support to those individuals and local businesses who have been hardest hit.

DCFPI, with its coalition partners is and will continue to be there with thoughtful policy solutions and pushing the envelope on how we ensure that all of our community has affordable housing, that we deal with homelessness and that we provide that a safety net and public safety for our community.

JLS: Back in 2016, you came and spoke to The Women’s Foundation’s board about racial equity and provided some guidance to us about how to apply a racial equity lens to our work and encouraged us to step out and speak up. Your advice helped pushed us, and we have pivoted and fundamentally changed our work. I’m wondering, from your perspective four years later, what’s changed and what hasn’t changed in terms of racial injustice?

What doesn’t look different is that we are talking about the same issues. It’s just that COVID pushed it to a higher level, but we’re talking about the same issues in terms of equity, race, poverty, homelessness, housing, education, health care. And we’re still talking about the same issues about how those resources are divvied out.

On the other hand, four or five years later, we see more and more organizations and institutions talking about being intentional and deliberate about racial equity. Intentional and deliberate about looking at racial disparities. Intentional about infusing racial equity and social justice within their organizations. Four or five years ago that would have been unheard of.

I was fortunate to serve on the board of the Consumer Health Foundation, a leader in using a racial equity lens to govern its grantmaking work in the Washington region. More and more funders and organizations are infusing racial equity and social justice to advance the health and well-being of everyone in our community.

In other words, some communities are barely surviving, and others are thriving. How do we end that disparity? One way for us to end that disparity is for us to look at it, to be deliberate, to talk about it and to be intentional.

JLS: How does this play out as an Interim ED?

JLL: First of all, the job of an interim is to be very clear that you’re not taking the job, so it frees you. Second, you’re leading through transition, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, how the mission is actually being delivered, and whether or not there are issues or ways in which it could be done more effectively. You share with the board honestly. You provide the board a bird’s eye view of their organization before they bring in a new leader, allowing them to  make critical decisions on moving forward and setting the stage for the success of the new Executive Director.

JLS: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

JLL: From an interim perspective, I love doing interim work. It is never the same from one institution, one organization, to the next. It is the challenge of being able to step in and transition quickly with a clear understanding to move the organization forward knowing when I am gone I have left the organization ready for new leadership.

Learn more about DC Fiscal Policy Institute here!

Sharing Some Personal News…

It is with a heavy but joyful heart today that I share with you my decision to step down as President and CEO of Washington Area Women’s Foundation this summer. To say this has been my life’s work is an understatement. The work of the Foundation has been very personal for me and will always hold a very special place in my heart. This team and place have been my family and my home, and it has been a joy to work with people so talented and unwavering in their mission to make this region, this world, just a little better.
Looking back on my 13 years at the Foundation, I am most proud of who we are right now: a community-supported foundation investing in the power of women and girls of color. Centering our mission in gender and racial equity is necessary and right. While too often unsung, the work of women and girls of color have advanced human rights and gender, racial, and economic justice in our communities for decades.
For the past six years, I have been on a personal racial equity journey, examining my role as a white leader in our community. I have pushed myself to become comfortable with the uncomfortable, to challenge my own assumptions and privilege, to acknowledge when I make a misstep, to learn from my mistakes, and to push other white leaders to do the same.
2020 was full of challenges for all of us—from managing through a pandemic and the countless ways people are grieving a multitude of losses, to the blatant and rampant systemic racism from which we can no longer turn away. On a personal note, in July my younger brother suddenly and unexpectedly passed away, leaving me utterly shattered and searching for solid ground and deeper meaning in the chaos of our time. I have slowly come to realize that sometimes grief can bring clarity.
I’ve always felt that I’d know when it was time for me to step aside. That time is now. The Women’s Foundation is a strong and respected community leader in the fight for gender, racial, and economic justice and is positioned to further advance its mission and pursue exciting opportunities in the months and years ahead. We have been intentional in shifting our work and centering the voices and lived experiences of women and girls of color, starting with the launch of the Young Women’s Initiative and more recently affirming a new mission statement that names the power of women and girls of color in our community. Deepening our commitment to women and girls of color and prioritizing their leadership in all aspects of our work is critically important to living out our values as an organization.
Different times call for different leaders. I am humbled to stand on the shoulders of the three leaders of The Women’s Foundation who came before me. Each of us built on what the others accomplished, creating stepping stones for those who followed. Now is the time for our next leader—someone who is deeply committed to our mission and our community and who will build upon our accomplishments while forging new paths and realizing the potential before us.
My resolve to dig deeper and be a better ally in the fight for racial justice will not end with my departure from this role, and my commitment to The Women’s Foundation and its mission will always be a part of my heart and soul. It is my fervent hope that each of you will join me in supporting The Women’s Foundation as the board and staff embark on the next phase of its journey.
My deepest respect and gratitude,

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat
President & CEO

We’re On A Mission…

In 2016, Washington Area Women’s Foundation began what will be a forever journey. At the time, we were both clear and intentional in how our mission pursued gender justice, but we were not as clear, nor were we intentional, about how racial justice intersected with that mission. And so began our organizational journey with a fundamental question – how could we be better and do better?

We started with ourselves. We took steps to change policies, processes and workplace cultural norms that perpetuated white supremacist values. I will be the first to say that we don’t always get it right, and it will be a lifelong work in progress, but we are being intentional about our learning and acknowledging when and where we fall short and taking steps to do better moving forward.

We then began examining our work and our role as a grantmaker – who and what we support and why. As a women’s foundation, our entire body of work since our inception has been about improving the lives of women and girls, but who are the women and girls we are talking about?

After five years of reflection and internal reform, I am proud to announce, on behalf of the entire Washington Area Women’s Foundation team, an important update to our mission statement:


In many ways, our mission statement is catching up to the fundamental shifts we have been making over the last five years.

There is no debating that women and girls are bearing the brunt of the pandemic, and for cis and trans women and gender expansive individuals of color, this is exacerbated by the structural inequities that were in place long before this pandemic. We saw this play out in real time across our region, prompting us to launch the Stand Together Fund last spring, which prioritized the needs of women and girls of color. In launching the fund, we were clear from the outset that we needed to be focused on the immediate, short-term and long-terms needs of women and girls of color because the systemic barriers that prevented access to opportunity would not disappear overnight.

Additionally, research shows that philanthropy has historically underinvested in women and girls of color, undervaluing them as the powerful community and movement leaders they are. We knew that we could do better. We intentionally prioritized women and people of color led organizations. We shifted to general operating support and changed our application and review process to take the onus off our Grantee Partners. And we undertook our grantmaking outreach and due diligence at the direction of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color leaders in our community so that our investments focused on gaps identified by those who know best.

By investing in the power of women and girls of color, we are actively and intentionally working to shift the power dynamics that are inherent in philanthropy and our community. We are recognizing that our collective liberation from white supremacy is tied to the liberation of women and girls of color, and we are deepening our commitment to achieving gender, racial and economic justice.

While we are proud of the pivots we have made, we are clear that there is much work to do. We are stronger when we stand together, and I invite you to join us on this journey to invest in the power of women and girls of color in our region.

We’ll Be Right Here.

As the staff of The Women’s Foundation continue to process the traumatic and violent assault on the Capitol, we have struggled to find the words to adequately express our thoughts. For us, Washington, DC is home. It is not a tourist attraction. It is the place where we live, work and play. Yes, it is the nation’s capital, the seat of federal government, but for us, it is so much more. 
DC is a beautifully diverse city with unique and wonderful neighborhoods and a rich culture unto its own. It’s a proud city, a resilient city. Our home. And so our collective grief and trauma is both personal and professional. 
From an organizational standpoint, we are clear about the path ahead. We are committed to living out our mission to invest in the power of women and girls of color in the Washington metropolitan region. We celebrate and honor the women of color leaders in our community whose power, passion and persistence is breathtaking. 
From a personal standpoint, our staff is taking a moment to process, breathe and steady ourselves for the work ahead. 
Here are some resources that staff have been using these last couple of days, including resources for parents who are having trouble finding the words for their children: https://wawf.org/antiracism 
We hope you find them of use as well and know that we’ll be right here, doing the work.”

#AskHer Series: Chloe I. Edwards, Advocacy & Engagement Manager at Voices for Virginia’s Children

Our #AskHer series is an interview with our partners, community members and supporters who work tirelessly for women and girls. This interview is with Chloe I. Edwards, Advocacy and Engagement Manager at Voices for Virginia’s Children. The interview was conducted by our President and CEO, Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat. Voices for Virginia’s Children is one of our Grantee Partners.

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat: Can you start by telling me a little bit about yourself and your role at Voices for Virginia’s Children?

Chloe Edwards: I have a long background in advocacy and have personally been impacted by all that I specialize in from foster care to kinship care to trauma-informed care and now social justice.

Prior to my work at Voices, I served as Director of Connecting Hearts, an organization with a mission to find each and every child a permanent, loving home through kinship care, re-unification, or adoption. I went into kinship foster care at the age of 14 with my grandparents. That experience influenced my desire to learn about the way in which systems impact people at the community and individual level. I went to the Minority Research and Law Institute at Southern University’s Law Center in 2013. In 2015, I graduated from Hollins University as an English Major with a double concentration in multi-cultural literature, creative writing, and social justice in an effort to highlight systemic issues through creative writing. In 2019, I graduated from the Sorensen Institute’s Political Emerging Leader’s Program. This year, I graduated with my Masters of Public Policy with a Leadership Concentration from Liberty University.

Currently, at Voices for Virginia’s Children, I serve as the Advocacy & Engagement Manager and specialize in cross-disciplinary issues. In my role, I practice policy analysis, advocacy, and outreach and engagement. In particular, I was hired to serve on the Campaign for a Trauma-Informed Virginia, where I liaise a feedback loop between local and regional partners and community networks to Voices policy team. The concentration of my work has been trauma-informed policy and practice; however, quite recently, the work has shifted to an intersection between trauma and equity through the launch of Racial Truth & Reconciliation Virginia.

At Voices, we are a multi-issue child advocacy organization, and we’re home to the Kids Count data center. We specialize in child welfare, mental health and health, early childhood education, family economic security, trauma-informed care, resilience, and research and data.

JLS: How has the work around trauma-informed care and racial truth shifted as a result of the pandemic?

CE: A lot has shifted in our work as a result of the pandemic, which is partially why Racial Truth and Reconciliation VA was born. Voices for Virginia’s Children achieved so many successes in the last General Assembly session, but all of that changed because of the present economic crisis. We shifted our attention to what we felt needed to be prioritized and protected rather than trying to advocate to keep all of our successes in each of our issue areas. That was the prominent change… we remain resilient as an organization, and we kept going.

In addition, we enhanced our capacity in order to work more at the federal level. We are a state advocacy organization, but many federal funds have came from the stimulus package—the CARES Act—so we’ve shifted our work to saving child care, prioritizing community-level prevention funds, stabilizing and investing in our child welfare workforce, telehealth, family economic security, and more.

Virginia also convened for session this August, which is an emergency session and is quite historic. Special Session introduced police reform bills and COVID-19 intervention amendments, but we also wanted to make sure children and families were prioritized and had their basic needs met.

Our trauma-informed care work completely shifted. In recognizing the inadvertent impacts of cultural, historic and racial trauma. Our work has shifted in an intentional manner and is further concentrated in the intersection of trauma and equity on a broader spectrum.

JLS: Special session – how does that process look different in terms of advocacy?

CE: It’s all been virtual. In a normal session there would be over 3,000 bills introduced. It wasn’t even a quarter of that in special session, so seeing fewer bills.

Our team has been working virtually currently. We’re not sure what the 2021 General Assembly session will look like… we do plan to introduce some advocacy trainings and to host advocacy days. We will let advocates know more once we know all the details of what the session will look like.

JLS: Can you talk a little bit about how the Racial Truth and Reconciliation Week came to be and the next steps?

CE: We recognized the inadvertent impact of COVID-19 on communities of color in addition to the resurfacing of the modern day civil rights movement. Many times, leaders of color are left to find the solution to the oppression that impacts us. I recognized that communities of color are underrepresented in the trauma-informed space and took it as opportunity to do an intentional temperature check with the Trauma-Informed Care networks that are particularly led by leaders of color, which there are five out of 26. After that conversation, we decided to respond. In May, we supported Resilience Week, which increased awareness of trauma on a broader spectrum. However, there is a general discomfort across the nation as it relates to addressing and understanding the inadvertent impact of cultural, historical, and racial trauma as a whole. Collectively, we wanted to be very intentional in focusing on those three traumas: cultural, historical, and racial. We came up with the mission and the goals of the week collectively. It’s truly a community-led initiative, and that’s how we came up with the mission to empower the voices and experiences of marginalized communities in acknowledging truth to promote healing, reconciliation and justice. The goal is to ultimately move the mission forward in pushing past the discomfort and biases that leave us complacent and to work collectively and communally to dismantle systems of oppression and racism at all levels, individual, community, and systemic, to enact authentic change.

We didn’t expect it to grow as large as it did, but it spread like wildfire. We wanted to involve the Governor’s office. We didn’t expect to gain support of his Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer with the little planning time we did have, but we were pleased to have Dr. Janice Underwood’s support.

We envisioned that individuals impacted by organization’s missions should be the loudest voices in the room, and that’s how we came up with the Give Us the Mic series between politicians and partners. We view youth as not leaders of tomorrow, but instead today, and that gave us the vision to bridge intergenerational gaps through the Our Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams series, the elder chats, and the youth-led Q&A with the Virginia Legislature Black Caucus.

There were over 50 community leaders engaged, 30+ events, 35+ partners in solidarity, the Facebook page grew to 850 followers in one week. Now it’s a longer-term initiative—Racial Truth and Reconciliation Virginia. With over 300 supporters so far through our Coalition listserv, and our Facebook page has over 950+ followers now. We have broadened our social media and can be found @RacialTruth on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Now we’re starting to structure our committees, which are: executive, advocacy & activism, education, engagement, and partnerships. We have co-chairs and chairs of each and are beginning the recruitment phase for committee members.

JLS: Can you say a little more about the Trauma-Informed Care Networks?

CE: My colleague, Mary Beth Salomone Testa and I, tag-team on a technical assistance through policy analysis in providing support to the Trauma-Informed Care Networks across the state. There are 26 multi-disciplinary networks with professionals from different fields across the state. Each year, we search for themes around best practices to implement trauma-informed care and challenges to the implementation of trauma-informed care and connect to policy opportunities and each policy analyst chooses one issue, and we create a unified policy agenda. The targeted demographic has been the Trauma-Informed Community Networks in order to create a unified policy agenda. We provide advocacy trainings and policy updates throughout the year and mobilize advocates during the General Assembly Session. The goal is to promote trauma prevention, mitigation, and intervention.

JLS: How is the racial truth work shifting and moving forward?

CE: We are describing Racial Truth & Reconciliation VA as the intentional evolution of the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Virginia. It further concentrates our efforts on the intersection of trauma and equity. Voices is implementing our strategic plan and working towards our organization’s equity transformation. One component  of the strategic plan is to empower those impacted by policy to ignite the change that they want to see in their communities.

With our equity transformation, each staff member has an equity component to their workplan in order to implement the work. Racial Truth naturally gives the organization the opportunity to have an opportunity to engage with the initiative across departments, at the board level to policy to data and development, through which we can analyze the way which we fundraise at Voices.

Through our action teams, we are broadening our reach, expanding demographics, and ensuring equity is at the center of all of our work, in order to ensure communities are authentically represented internally and externally.

We’ve created the committees for Racial Truth work: executive committee, partnerships committee, education committee, engagement committee, and advocacy and activism committee.

In terms of Voices policy initiatives, we plan to make racial equity impact statements within our areas of specialty and disciplines. In addition, when it comes to issues that Voices may not have an area of speciality, we are supporting the work of partner coalitions in order to still make stance. Lastly, through the work of Racial Truth & Reconciliation VA, we are creating partnerships with youth and family-serving organizations to provide advocacy and social change coaching in order to empower them to ignite change at, whether its systemic or social, local or state, or within the institutions that impact them.

JLS: What has Voices internal process been in terms of incorporating racial equity and how you’re operationalizing it across the organization?

CE: The components of the strategic plan include: 1. To promote effective child-centric statewide policies and laws 2. To empower local communities who guide laws and policies that affect the lives of children and families and 3. For equity to be centered in our work internally and externally.

Tactics affiliated with the first goal include educating public officials by expanding their knowledge of policies in order to address the needs of families and children through policy and data analysis to create equitable solutions. In our strategic planning process, we also communicated with stakeholders, who communicated that, while there is a need for state-level advocacy, there is room to further engage at the local-level to achieve local community empowerment. Our goal is to mobilize families and children to influence change in their communities.

Equity was the consistent theme across the board as a lens that can be applied internally and interdepartmentally effectively. An indicator at our KIDS COUNT Data Center highlights that 47% of children in Virginia are children of color. In order for Voices to adopt principles of equity in all of our programs, we are in the process of race equity transformation and have developed a race equity assessment plan to monitor our growth as an organization. We will use data as a guide to shape the internal race equity needs of our organization and adopt it to promote just and equitable outcomes for our staff in addition to the communities of color impacted by our mission. We hope other organizations can view us as an example and also model this within their organizations. It’s recommended that organizations begin this work internally in order for it to be done in an authentic way externally.

JLS: I’m curious, as we think through federal, state, and local budget cuts, how does this impact your advocacy and the need that you’re seeing in community, particularly when you’re working so hard to center the voices and experience of those most impacted so that they are front and center?

CE: We’re not quite sure what our 2021 advocacy agenda will look like because of the negotiations with the budget. But on one end, we have a lot of community members that are very excited, within the coalition particularly, to advocate on behalf of opportunity gaps that have been further exacerbated by the pandemic. Opportunities like new laws around food justice, police reform,  juvenile justice and increased support personnel in schools- the opportunities are exciting. However, limitations come with the economic impact of the pandemic.

We will likely be protecting a few items that, once again, need to be prioritized around child welfare prevention, family economic security, ensuring children have basic access to mental health and health services, and policies that promote trauma-prevention and equity. This may mean that we may not have as quite a robust policy agenda that we have had in the past. We also have to balance making sure that people who have been involved in marches and different advocacy initiatives still feel like they’re getting their voices heard and still feel like they’re creating a sense of community and solidarity around civil rights, particularly in racial justice. Simultaneously, we also have to work at the policy level to ensure that we’re connecting the needs of families and children’s basic needs to the policy opportunities and protecting those few policy opportunities that we may have because of the restricted budget.

This is also the last year of the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Virginia, and we’ll be transitioning to Racial Truth and Reconciliation Virginia. We’re having a joint advocacy day to connect the two different demographics: The Campaign for a Trauma-Informed VA: Racial Truth & Reconciliation Advocacy Day. The advocacy day will likely be virtual with traditional legislative meetings, but we are also having an in-person day to create that sense of community and solidarity; this will likely be held on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We are working on collaboration with partners to shape the day.

JLS: How are you doing today, and how is the team doing? How has the staff and the team at Voices transitioned to virtual work and how are you managing what we really call two pandemics—the racial reckoning as well as coronavirus? 

CE: That’s a very layered question. So, with the equity transformation, I’m hoping that other organizations can see Voices pursue the process and view it as an example. It’s hard work for the people of color impacted by a transformation and also the allies involved. It’s not easy. It’s not beautiful. It requires everyone to form an increased sense of self-awareness and mindfulness. All are encouraged to get comfortable with being uncomfortable; as a result, everyone has homework to do. All of this is also layered with the lived trauma that staff members of color have experienced and is further challenged  by external factors, today’s modern civil rights movement. For many of us, this has created even more work, because the needs of families and children have been further exacerbated. I’d say that our team is very resilient. We are all very passionate about Voices mission to champion public policies to improve the lives of Virginia’s children. That ambition and the desire to make an impact has definitely kept us moving forward. The goal is to consecutively and consistently move the mission forward.

Find out more about Voices for Virginia’s Children on their website.

Enough Is Still Enough.

I wrote this piece four years ago. It was a punch to the gut reading it today because nothing has changed, except for the names—1,000 names, in fact, of people who lost their lives simply for being Black.

To my staff, my colleagues, and my friends whose pain, grief and trauma is indescribable and unrelenting—I’m sorry. Your pain is not a pain inflicted solely by the events of last week. Your pain is compounded by centuries of oppression and injustice. Your pain is the fear that walking or jogging in your neighborhood, playing in a park, going to the grocery store, or even sleeping in your own bed will result in death solely because of the color of your skin.

As the staff of Washington Area Women’s Foundation individually struggle to process the events of this past week, we also collectively struggle with how we show up as a philanthropic organization at this moment. During a call today, a staff member shared that we all have a unique gift to offer and that we should use our gifts to make change.

So we asked ourselves, “What is the gift that Washington Area Women’s Foundation has to offer?”

Our gift is using our voice as a funder to push for change. To that end, we will stand in solidarity with women and girls of color in DC and across the Washington metro region. We will center women and girls of color and follow their lead in identifying community needs. We will invest in the power of women and girls of color. We will push philanthropy to use an intersectional lens. We will work to disrupt sexist and racist systems. And we will acknowledge our mistakes and commit to doing better.

As a white woman, mother, friend, and leader, my gift is also using my voice. Silence is not an option. But words alone are not enough. To my white colleagues and friends, I implore you to speak up and take action. Our discomfort with saying or doing the wrong thing is inflicting even greater pain. If you don’t know where to start, here are some excellent resources.

There is no gender justice without racial justice. We have to take a stand against racism today. 

As I said four years ago:

“At what point do we say enough is enough? At what point are we willing to look deep within ourselves and face our own prejudices and biases head on and call them out for what they are? At what point do we collectively decide that the racialized structures we inhabit have to go? If not now, when?”

In solidarity,

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat
President & CEO

The COVID-19 Crisis is a Racial Justice Issue & our Response must Prioritize the Power of Black, Indigenous, Latinx & Other People of Color

The COVID-19 virus does not discriminate — it can infect anyone. However, when an indiscriminate virus is unleashed in a country where racially unjust systems have long decided who lives, who dies, who thrives and who just gets by, the impact is anything but equal. As data disaggregated by race trickles out from state and local health agencies, it has confirmed what many of us not only feared but also anticipated: Black, Latinx and other people of color, who are the people of the global majority, are disproportionately dying from COVID-19.

A racially disparate impact necessitates a racially equitable response — one that prioritizes the leadership of Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and other people of color to respond to the immediate needs in their own communities, bolsters resilience in the face of this crisis, and builds power to push for long-lasting systemic change. With this in mind, we, the undersigned funders who believe in reimagining philanthropy as a just, racially equitable transition of power and resources, have coordinated approximately $2 million in sustained funding and $500,000 in rapid response funding to date to organizations led by people of color in the Washington, DC region based on the following commitments:

1. Supporting underfunded organizations led by people of color
Organizations led by people of color are traditionally underfunded; therefore, they are less likely to have reserves and are more likely to be unsustainable after an economic crisis. We challenge the notion that the nonprofits that can weather an economic downturn are the “best.” Rather, they have not suffered from decades of systemic underinvestment from local and national funders. We commit to designating funds to organizations, projects, groups and collaboratives that are led by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color, who are using an intersectional lens, and have operating budgets of under $1,000,000.

2. Solidarity with organizers, base builders and advocates
The philanthropic sector and the individual donors who support nonprofits are less likely to support the work of community organizing, base and power building and advocacy. We believe that more investment in organizations and groups that do this important work is imperative to address the issues that precipitated this crisis and the fallout to come. We commit to supporting those who have been organizing, advocating, and building power with communities of color before, during and in the wake of this moment.

3. Focusing hyperlocally
In times of crisis, your neighbors — those living and working in proximity to you — are often your first responders. We believe community care and mutual aid are vital responses in this moment and their structures will have lasting benefit beyond this crisis. We commit to focusing this support toward groups working in hyperlocal ways, for example, the neighborhood, block or building level.

4. Prioritizing disproportionately impacted industries and workers
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the District of Columbia already reported the highest Black unemployment rate in the country, and Virginia had a wider gap between Latinx/Hispanic and white unemployment than any other state. In the month of March, unemployment in the Greater Washington region, like the rest of the country, skyrocketed. Restaurant workers, domestic/care workers, hospitality workers, sex workers, day laborers, and those dependent on the formal and informal gig economy lost their livelihoods in the wake of COVID-19 — sectors where people of color make up the majority of workers and frequently have few worker protections. We commit to supporting organizations and groups with sector-specific priorities to increase the resiliency of our region’s disproportionately impacted industries, many of whom employ large numbers of people of color.

5. Taking a multi-pronged approach
Philanthropic institutions’ support must be as nimble and diverse as the evolving challenges our partners and their constituents face. Organizations are in the midst of shifting strategies and they are experimenting with digital organizing, conceiving of new fundraising plans and devising new engagement methods in a year with big priorities, including civic engagement and the Census. Our support is crucial. At the same time, we ask funders of social service and large-scale advocacy organizations to realign their resources in support of grassroots groups. We commit to a multi-pronged, innovative approach to address the needs of organizations led by people of color to develop new capacities and shift their strategies.

6. Operating with trust
Philanthropy is a sector created and maintained by inequity and an imbalance of power, and we recognize our role in maintaining inherited practices that hinder our ability to be at the forefront in achieving racial justice. We commit to reimagining the relationship between funder and grantee partner, operating through a trust-based approach that is transparent, streamlined, flexible and removes unnecessary barriers that disproportionately impact grassroots groups and organizations led by people of color.

As funders coordinating this effort, we pledge to act as advocates for these groups and invite our philanthropic peers, both locally and nationally, to part ways with business-as-usual philanthropy to meet this moment, which is anything but usual. Here are steps you can take right now:

1. Get the support you need from funding peers with experience in racial justice grantmaking. Organizations like Neighborhood Funders Group and Association for Black Foundation Executives can help. For local support, reach out to any of the signatories on this letter for opportunities to plug in.
2. If you do not have the relationships or capacity to deploy funding quickly to grassroots groups, rely on trusted intermediaries such as Diverse City Fund and Emergent Fund, who have a history of funding systems-change work driven by people of color-led grassroots organizations.
3. Extend your influence beyond grantmaking by contributing your time, expertise, and voice. We have formed sub-committees focused on civic engagement, healing justice and capacity building. We are especially inviting national foundations with regional offices in the Washington, DC region to join us.
4. Finally, attend the trust-based philanthropy webinar hosted by the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers on Monday, April 20th at 11 a.m. to learn how to reimagine your philanthropy. Information can be found here: trust-based-philanthropy-during-times-crisis-and-beyond

In solidarity,

Yanique Redwood, PhD, MPH
President and CEO
Consumer Health Foundation

Board of Instigators
Diverse City Fund

alicia sanchez gill
Emergent Fund

Julia Baer-Cooper
Philanthropic Advisor
England Family Foundation

Tonia Wellons
President and CEO
Greater Washington Community Foundation

Daniel Solomon
Donor Adviser to Greater Washington Community Foundation

Nat Chioke Williams
Executive Director
Hill-Snowdon Foundation

Dara Johnson
Executive Director
Horning Family Fund

Nicola Goren
President and CEO
Meyer Foundation

Tom Perriello
Executive Director Open Society-US
Open Society Foundations

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat
President and CEO
Washington Area Women’s Foundation

Hanh Le
Executive Director
Weissberg Foundation

Think Local. Invest Local.

We’re Rising. We’re Mobilizing. We’re Making History – That’s the tagline of the 2020 Women’s March taking place this Saturday in Washington, DC and in cities across the country, but the tagline could also be viewed as a rallying call for 2020 and beyond.

We’ve entered a new decade and with that an opportunity to re-imagine what the next 10 years could and should look like. I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions per se. Despite the best of intentions, they always seem to result in broken promises to yourself, and I’d rather not kick off the new year disappointing myself!—but rather I like to reflect on the previous year in order to inform where I want to go in the coming year.

This year, I’ve been particularly reflective, in part because I’m a stone’s throw away from being an empty nester, and I know that the next 18 months will fly by. I’m watching my daughters grow into young women, beginning to feel their way through the world, asserting their independence and making their own decisions about the kind of world they want to live in. My oldest will cast her first presidential vote this year, while my youngest is arguing fiercely that the voting age should be lowered to 16. I work hard to suspend what some may call my “jaded and outdated” opinions in order to truly listen to, and receive, their ideas and opinions with an open mind and an open heart. It turns out that practice has taught me much lately and has actually fortified me for the coming year. And let’s be honest—it’s going to be a year.

It’s no coincidence that within days of the Women’s March we will commemorate the birthday of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and mark the National Day of Racial Healing. The story of gender and racial equity are intertwined, and in 2020, the fight continues.

That is why The Women’s Foundation remains steadfast in our commitment to equity. It is our duty as a women’s organization to acknowledge and embrace the fact that the strength of our community lies in the diversity and identities of its members, and in order for us to effectively address the economic realities of women and girls, we must create space for the voices and experiences of women and girls who experience inequities to be seen and heard.

And that’s what The Women’s Foundation does best.

We amplify community needs and voices by convening unlikely allies to work together to center the voices of women, girls and gender non-conforming individuals in our region.

Young women like Kiran Waqar, one of our Young Women’s Advisory Council Fellows, who has made it a priority to amplify the voices of fellow youth, lifts others up by taking center stage and speaking up herself.

Or organizations like the DC Rape Crisis Center, our Grantee Partner, which provides survivor-centered advocacy with an equity frame as the only rape crisis center in DC.

Or partnerships like those between Prince George’s Child Resource Center and Maryland Family Network, who are organizing Prince George’s County early childhood educators to advocate for themselves in Annapolis.

And leaders like Samantha Davis, Founder and Executive Director, of the Black Swan Academy, who is fiercely committed to creating a pipeline of Black youth leaders through civic leadership and engagement.

Those are just a few examples of local women and organizations rising, mobilizing, and ultimately making history in their own way to better their communities. As we embark on this new year, we’re investing in our local leaders to ensure that women and their families thrive now and into the next decade.

Specifically, in 2020, we will draw attention to issues embedded in economic security that don’t necessarily garner the local spotlight that they deserve. Issues like the role that gender-based violence plays in creating barriers to women achieving financial stability, the need for high quality and affordable early education programs so that moms can work, and racial disparities in women’s reproductive health care that prevent women and girls from  physical and emotional well-being. We will invest in and work across these primary areas, and others, because we recognize that in order for a woman to successfully complete a job training program or thrive in the workforce, she and her family members must be healthy, secure, and free of violence.

That is what we will do.

Now I have two asks of you in 2020: Think local. Invest local.

Take a moment to learn something about your community, a local nonprofit, or a local leader. Shop at a local women-owned business. Eat out at a woman-owned restaurant. Remind yourself that Washington, DC and the metropolitan region is more than the national political headlines. It is a vibrant and beautiful community that we all call home, and it is filled with boundless opportunities and potential.

So, when you’re marching this week, remember – you don’t have to look too far for the effective change you seek because it is already happening right here in the Washington region.

We’re rising. We’re mobilizing. We’re making history. Join us.


Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat

October 11th Is Not Just a Day, It’s A Movement…

Seven years ago, the United Nations deemed October 11 International Day of the Girl with the goal to “galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, promoting opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.” Around the world, this day is recognized by a focus on advocacy related to issues that impact young women and girls and celebrations of the strength and enduring spirits of young women.

As a foundation focused on supporting the economic stability of women and girls in our region, The Women’s Foundation carries the intent of the Day of the Girl with us every day. It is the impetus behind all of our work, but our project that speaks most directly to the intent of October 11 is our Young Women’s Initiative (YWI), which is a District-wide effort to improve life outcomes and increase opportunities for cis and transgender young women of color and gender expansive youth of color between the ages of 12-24.

There are multiple facets to this exciting work that we have phased in systematically; First starting with listening sessions to hear directly from young women of color in DC about what they need and want in order to realize their life goals. Second, we launched a Young Women’s Advisory Council to formalize the feedback we received from young women of color and to serve as the guiding voice of the project. We, in partnership with the Young Women’s Advisory Council, hosted the GirlsLEAD Summit in March, which provided leadership and life skills workshops to 300 local young women.  And most recently, we released a Blueprint for Action, which takes the collective voice of several hundred young women and girls of color with whom we have engaged through YWI and puts forth their recommendations for an improved Washington, DC, that better supports their needs and ability to thrive.

Today, on this Day of the Girl 2018, we are excited to announce the launch of YWI’s Rock Star Fund. The Rock Star Fund will provide micro-grants to individual young women and girls to support their own leadership development and help them advance advocacy or community development projects in their neighborhoods and schools. We are piloting the Rock Star Fund this year by inviting attendees of the GirlsLEAD Summit to apply for up to $2,000 each to support their projects. The goal of the Rock Star Fund is exactly the goal of the Day of the Girl – to promote opportunities for young women and girls to show leadership.  Applicants will tell us what their leadership development needs are, and members of the Young Women’s Advisory Council well help select the Awardees. This is participatory grantmaking at it’s best – developed by young women of color, for young women of color, and led by young women of color.

While this year’s pilot will be by invitation only, we look forward to opening up applications more broadly in subsequent years. If you have questions about your eligibility for the Rock Star Fund this year, please contact Claudia Williams at cwilliams@wawf.org or call us at 202-347-7737. Applications are due on November 8, 2018.



#our100days Day 1 Action

Strength in Numbers

The Women’s March on Washington is just the first step. It’s essential that we keep moving forward. Our plan is to focus the energy of thousands of women and men into action. By coming together each day to do a single task, we can create lasting change in #our100days.

Here’s what we’re doing today:

We need women across the Washington area to come together. Share our site with your friends and recruit 10 women and men to join our movement: http://our100days.thewomensfoundation.org/