I hope this finds you, your familia, and your organization well on the cusp of springtime. This past month, I was honored to receive the Amistad Award from Todos Juntos Learning Center, an organization in Austin that is dear to my heart. The organization is a critical community partner offering dual-generation education programs to immigrant and refugee families in Central Texas. I’ve served on the Todos Juntos board since 2017 and I’m honored to be part of this community that I care about and identify with.
In Spanish, the word “amistad” means “friendship.” A good friend, in the words of Todos Juntos, is someone who builds you up, is your staunchest cheerleader, and challenges you to reach beyond what you think is possible because they believe in you and your potential. In honor of Women’s History month, I’m excited to share this next episode of Redefining Philanthropy in Practice and Profession, where I spotlight two of my CivicAIM team members, Elaine Gast Fawcett and Marta Vizcarro, who have co-shaped the stories and videos showcased in CivicAIM’s newsletters over the last several years. I am excited to feature these two talented professionals, who are also my friends, as they have provided me with invaluable support related to communications, storytelling, and marketing. In this episode, we take you behind the scenes of Redefining Philanthropy to show you how we brought this series to life. We hope to spark ideas and encourage our listeners to use your voice, as we encouraged each other to do ourselves, and hold space for others when it comes to centering equity.
Q&A with the CivicAIM Team
More than a year ago, CivicAIM launched a video series that features leaders who are at the forefront of centering equity in philanthropy. Since then, we’ve featured some of the most courageous, resourceful practitioners of color—leaders who go beyond a ‘business-as-usual’ mindset and show us what philanthropy can be if it is structured to drive justice across communities and generations. In this video, we share what it meant personally to us to be involved, and some of the lessons we learned along the way. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation.
Q: What did it mean to you to be part of Redefining Philanthropy in Practice and Profession?
Erica: As a Latina woman who has dedicated almost two decades of my career to philanthropy, I believe this series was seeded early on in my academic and professional career. I realized two equal parts. The first, as I scanned across the room in philanthropy spaces, there were few, if any, people who shared a similar background and cultural identity with me. The second, I realized that my journey and story, although different from the majority of the room, is just as meaningful and important to the work of philanthropy. This series represents the values of integrity, connectivity, and the belief that everyone has assets to share and learn from in the work of building community.
Elaine: Five years ago, I was in a job interview where one of the questions was “what have you done to advance racial equity in your work?” I didn’t have a good answer (and subsequently, I didn’t get the job!). When I looked closely, I realized I had been working on projects that took an equity lens, but I didn’t name it or call it that. I never thought about using my skills in storytelling and narrative strategy specifically to advance justice and equity, and this was a real blind spot on my part—and one where I had to examine my own privilege around that. Being a part of the Redefining Philanthropy series has been an opportunity to align my values in several ways—doing what I love doing, which is sharing stories, in order to do what needs to be done, which is center equity and justice in philanthropy. I also get to do it with colleagues whom I respect and admire and learn from—a big bonus!
Marta: Personally, it feels great to be part of a project that focuses on equity and justice, and to do so with a group of women who support each other. Working together has elevated my work and helped us all get better as we go. Sometimes we wonder if we are doing what’s needed in order to achieve a more just society, and I feel this series is one step towards that goal.
Q: As we move into 2023, how might you encourage others in lifting diverse voices, or social justice and equity?
Elaine: I think of the saying, “If you do nothing, nothing will change.” We can all play a role—no matter what it is, no matter how small we might see it. For me, it helps to do things together with people you like and respect—that is inspiring and motivating. Find what works for you.
Marta: I often think of the saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I’m intentional about the voices I follow, and how I spend my time and money. I’m vocal about my beliefs and I voice my discomfort when I see someone expressing racism or demeaning others. And as a perpetual learner, I follow and listen to people who are not in the same privileged position I’m in.
Erica: Take the initiative to act and model what centering equity means in all facets of your life. To me, small steps carry the same weight as bold strides, as they both exemplify advancement and progress. Even though you may feel alone, disconnected, or unprepared, know that a supportive community exists and is out there. We all have the ability to be bridge-builders in helping lift and connect.
It’s been a productive and meaningful winter for CivicAIM. Here’s a recap of our convenings and leadership opportunities:
New Partnership with Fidelity Charitable
CivicAIM is proud to announce its recent partnership with Fidelity Charitable. As an advisor, Erica will participate in Fidelity Charitable’s Philanthropic Advice Program as part of its philanthropic advisor network. Donors with a Giving Account at Fidelity Charitable who would like to learn more about the program and eligibility requirements can contact Fidelity Charitable.
Todos Juntos Learning Center - 2023 Amistad Honoree
In February, I was honored to receive the Amistad Award from Todos Juntos Learning Center, an organization in Austin that is dear to my heart. The organization is a critical community partner offering dual-generation education programs to immigrant and refugee families in Central Texas. I’ve served on the Todos Juntos board since 2017 and I’m honored to be part of this community that I care about and identify with. You can watch the video here.
Advisor, Austin Together
Erica serves as an advisor to Austin Together, an initiative that enables sustained collaboration between nonprofits, businesses, and governmental agencies. Erica is helping to plan its 2023 Culture of Collaboration Summit, a day-long convening on April 20, 2023, designed to inspire collaboration in the social sector through community building activities, inspirational guest speakers, interactive presentations, and robust peer-learning opportunities.
CivicAIM is a philanthropy consulting firm focused on strengthening grantmaking, governance, and impact. CivicAIM supports mission-driven families, small-staffed foundations, funder collaboratives, and giving circles. Together with you, we develop and execute grant and evaluation strategies that lead you to impact, and we facilitate critical conversations and transitions that strengthen your board’s decision making.