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The 2021 Capital Collaborative was such a transformative experience because it hit on so many components of my life: The personal (how race has played a role in where I sit in the world today), the familial (as a board member of my family’s foundation), the professional (as the Director of Philanthropy at a wealth management firm). While I expected I would learn a lot from others, I was not prepared for the ways in which the journeys of the participants – both funders and social entrepreneurs - would lead to huge shifts in my thinking and actions.
Because the experience of participating in the Capital Collaborative felt so big itself, it was tempting afterwards to think “Phew. That was a lot. Perspective shifted. Box checked. Time to rest.” But it was after the program ended, of course, that the real work began.
How would I take this overwhelming amount of learning and translate it into real change in institutions with entrenched policies, complex histories, and multiple stakeholders?
The short answer is, I’m still working on it. But it is possible!
The Biggest Obstacles
One of the biggest obstacles was my own mindset. Since I had a strong sense of what success would look like to me, I found myself feeling a lot of anxiety about where the conversations would lead. What if others weren’t interested in these new perspectives? Where would that leave me, my work, and my relationships? My Capital Collaborative coach was instrumental in helping identify two considerations to move beyond my paralysis:
#1 Curiosity: There’s a significant difference between coming to conversations with genuine curiosity and coming to conversations with curiosity for the sake of an agenda. I learned a lot about how to let go of how I thought conversations should unfold, let go of my personal agenda and metrics of success, and instead focus on approaching people with genuine curiosity about where they are. This liberated me from huge amounts of anticipatory stress.
Instead of thinking: “Isn’t our current grantmaking process frustrating?” I might instead ask: “What do you think of our current grantmaking process?”
Instead of asking: “Aren’t you embarrassed by the limited number of BIPOC-led organizations we fund?” I might ask: “How do our statistics around funding BIPOC leaders make you feel?”
And instead of saying: “Don’t you think our founder would want us to focus on racial equity?” I ask: “What do you think the purpose of our granting should be going forward?”
These open questions allowed the conversations to feel, and to be, collaborative in nature. I met with people one on one, instead of bringing sweeping suggestions to a larger group, and started planting seeds of ideas for what was possible.
#2 Timing: The cliché is true. Timing is everything! It was personally hard for me to wait through our next grant cycle which was just a few months after the end of the Capital Collaborative to make progress. I knew there were changes we could implement quickly if we were all committed, but I also knew if I rushed the process, people would not feel as engaged. I started by identifying how I could personally model some of the changes I wanted to see in the following ways:
- I used my discretionary grants (that don’t need board approval) to fund Black leaders at higher levels than I had before and made multi-year commitments.
- I asked questions during the grant reviews to inspire discussion about the importance of people with lived experience being given power.
- I forwarded articles about organizations doing work that I thought represented the type of organizations we should support.
In short, I looked for small moments to generate discussions which I believe will lead to longer term, more impactful change. In my own mind, I am constantly balancing a sense of urgency for change with the need to meet people where they are and allow them to go through their own process, as I did mine.
While our next grant cycle will not be perfect, I expect it will be better. Now, we are discussing concepts such as multi-year funding, distribution of larger grant amounts, and how we source our grants, and we are talking about ways to measure the leadership and diversity of the organizations that we fund. In short, there’s a lot more work to be done, but we are on the right path.
Camelback Ventures’ Capital Collaborative works with white funders and social impact investors who want to deepen their individual and organizational commitment to racial and gender equity — but may not know how. Our unique approach brings together a community of white accomplices to engage in an introspective and concrete curriculum, to diversify their networks and make their grantmaking processes more equitable. Learn more about Camelback Ventures’ 2022 Capital Collaborative today!