Letter to the Community
Deborah M. Smith, M.D.
Chair, Board of Trustees
When we tell people that the Consumer Health Foundation is transforming, there is often a look of surprise on their faces. It is easy to believe that Consumer Health Foundation had already been transformed in a variety of ways. We are intentional about our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. CHF is one of few private foundations in the country with a person of color at the helm. The Board of Trustees has historically reflected the racial/ethnic and gender diversity present in our community, and the Foundation has been advancing equity since we made our first grants 20 years ago.
Those looks of surprise lead us to two observations:
- First, there may be an assumption that organizations can be transformed. That is to say, the work of transformation can be completed and finished. Achieving equity is certainly a desired outcome. Indeed, we do aspire to the day when it is impossible to predict a person or group’s outcomes based on racial identity (equity as a goal). However, we also see equity as a constant process of assuring the conditions that allow all people regardless of their racial and ethnic background to live optimally (equity as a process). In a similar vein, organizations must see themselves as constantly in the process of transformation. The question on everyone’s minds at the board, senior management and staff levels ought to be, “What else can we do as an organization to become more equitable?” This is also the work.
- Second, foundations (including CHF) often have little accountability to a community or set of communities. As a sector, we have accepted this as the way it is. We are now challenging ourselves in this respect, and we have started with the center of power in philanthropic organizations—the Board of Trustees. For many community members, the ability to fully participate in philanthropy has been limited by structural racism and other forms of oppression. So, we dedicated resources to popular education with community members about the philanthropic sector and how it amasses and distributes wealth. At the same time, we created opportunities for all of us to react to outdated notions about who knows best what communities need. We, then, invited community members of color with lived experience and expertise in surviving housing instability, low wage work as an adult and unemployment or underemployment to apply to serve on the Board. We received 19 such applications from thoughtful, curious and, ambitious folks. By this fall, four of these individuals will join us. We paused strategic planning last year to wait for them so that we could, together, rethink our programmatic strategy in partnership with a broader network of community members. We have hired a facilitator to keep us vigilant about power dynamics at board meetings and strategic planning conversations.
At an interest meeting that we held at Miriam’s Kitchen this past spring, we explained our transformation efforts to community members who had experienced or were experiencing homelessness. One woman asked, “If you have been around for 25 years, how come you are just now doing this?” It was a pointed question deserving of a clear answer. Our answer was not good enough, but it is where we are.
We had focused on racial and gender diversity and the traditional lens of diversity frameworks and had failed to examine board composition and other parts of our institution through the intersection of race and class. Now that we have, many tensions have surfaced, but we are ready for the relationships and conversations that will allow us to further clarify the pathways to racial equity and economic justice.
It’s about time, and it is the time.
STATEMENTS OF FINANCIAL POSITION
as of December 31, 2018 and 2017
Cash & cash equivalents
Program related investments
Prepaid expenses and other assets
Liabilities & Net Assets
Accounts payable and accrued expenses
Accounts payable, program close out
Deferred lease incentive
Deferred excise taxes
Net assets without donor restrictions
Net assets with donor restrictions
Total Net Assets
Total Liabilites & Net Assets
STATEMENTS OF ACTIVITIES
for the Years Ended December 31, 2018 and 2017
Net Assets Without Donor Restrictions
Revenue and Other Support
Net unrealized gains
Interest and dividends
Net realized gains (losses)
Release of net assets from restrictions
Total Revenue and Other Support
Management and general
CHANGE IN NET ASSETS WITHOUT DONOR RESTRICTIONS
Net Assets with Donor Restrictions
Release of net assets from restrictions
Change in Net Assets With Donor Restrictions Before Non-operating Activities
Transfer of other RPCC funds to Greater Washington Community Foundation
Transfer of RPCC funds
Change in Net Assets w/Donor Restrictions After Non-operating Activities