EPIP's Future: Updates and Reflections from Our Executive Director

Want to hear more about what we’re seeing and thinking?

  • Join us this Wednesday, 10/26 at 3pm for a town hall webinar with me and strategic plan facilitator Christi Tran

  • Read the executive summary of findings-to-date from EPIP's strategic planning prepared by Christi and her colleague, Frances Tompkins

For 15 years, EPIP has provided a safe space for thousands of rising leaders in philanthropy to connect with one another, learn the field, hone their leadership and find a path forward in the social change world. EPIPers have gone on to become effective and influential executives, innovators and advocates for equity. We are proud of this legacy and remain committed to playing this role in the field.

At the same time, many in our community have expressed a hunger for us to exercise a greater level of leadership in the field, particularly as relates to matters of diversity, equity and inclusion. Over the past year, I’ve been traveling the country talking with members of our community; we’ve also started a strategic planning process rooted in the question of how we better support individual and collective leadership for DEI. Now several months into this process, I want to share some of my emergent takeaways with you and invite you to share your reactions.

1. For diverse leadership, a leaky pipeline.

Our members represent the diversity we want to see leading the field: 45 percent of EPIP members identify as people of color, 65 percent as women and eight percent as LGBTQ. Data from the D5 Coalition and others clearly shows that the diversity of our membership has yet to be reflected at the top levels of our field.

What we know of our members' experience to date corroborates that data. While our field wrestles with how to bring in diverse executive talent, rising leaders within our membership have shared with us experiences that they feel push them out. Many of our members have told us that they feel unable to ask questions, express concerns or take on what they see as role-appropriate leadership within their institutions. This can be a result of cultural and structural barriers within their institution, a lack of mastery of the unwritten rules of philanthropic leadership, or both. Members have also expressed concerns about practices that undermine their personal and, where applicable, their institutions’ commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Together, these factors are likely to contributing to our field's challenge in cultivating diverse leaders from within.



At this year's EPIP Conference, participants were asked to share there thoughts on questions such as the above. Some of their answers surprised me.

2. For institutions, untapped insights.

Over the past year, I’ve talked with relatively senior foundation leaders who are wrestling with many of these same questions. These leaders have told me that they want to create positive leadership and professional experiences for staff, even if their upward path takes them out of the organization. Some have also expressed desire to bring a broader range of stakeholders, including their staffs, into their innovation and strategy development work, as well as to break down internal barriers to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion. In short, supporting the success of individual leaders and our institutions can be a win-win. We plan to do more learning in the coming months around our member institutions’ hopes and pain points in this regard.

What’s Next for Us

We remain committed to promoting excellence in philanthropy and the responsible stewardship of philanthropic resources. At the same time, we want to better understand and represent the experiences of our individual and institutional members, and to support dialogue, innovation and practice change, so that our field can better promote our shared commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion within and without. Toward that end, we will do the following over the next few months:

  • Conduct deeper research with individual and institutional members in order to deepen our understanding of our community’s hopes, challenges and opportunities -- and then play that back to you all
  • Revisit our mission, vision and theory of change -- we’re already doing some early work on this and plan to share a draft of these for community feedback in early 2017. If you’d like to see an early draft, please email me
  • Start building out a next-iteration operating model to help us structure our new activities and enhance our existing programs.

I will happily sit down with anyone in our community -- chapters, institutional members, partners, or others -- who would like to talk in greater detail about what we're seeing and learning. Email me at tamir at epip dot org.

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