From 2019 - 2021, EPIP Bay Area & The Libra Foundation held in person and virtual gatherings where women of color philanthropic leaders spoke with EPIP’s audiences about their journeys fighting for justice and authenticity in the field.
In April 2019, The Libra Foundation welcomed local grantees, colleagues, movement partners, and friends and family with an open house to celebrate its new office. Crystal Hayling, Libra’s executive director, had persuaded the board to accept that Libra could not do what it set out to do if it was stuck in a “hermetically sealed high rise”. She knew that if the Foundation was going to disrupt and transform philanthropy it needed a “home with creaky doors and lots of color. More loud than hushed. A joyful place for discussing, debating, dreaming, and not just strategic planning.”
The walls at Libra’s office-home are covered in art by local artists of color and prints quoting movement leaders, fluffy pillows to sink into, and the bathrooms even have neon hair ties in case conversations get heated. This space is meant to hold what great family homes hold – growth and growing pains, freedom to live authentically, safety to fail, and lots (and lots) of food and drink to make it all possible.
Libra believes that in order to breathe new life into philanthropy, joyful conditions are necessary. Especially when it comes to confronting the white supremacist culture of philanthropy.
That’s why it partnered with Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) Bay Area Chapter to host intimate gatherings for conversations with seasoned philanthropic leaders and people newer to the field. The Foundation’s commitment to racial and gender justice and bringing an intersectional lens to philanthropy is reflected in these dialogues.
EPIP's mission is to empower emerging leaders and elevate philanthropic practice in order to build a more just, equitable and sustainable world. EPIP Bay Area is the local chapter headed by a steering committee of early-mid career philanthropic professionals committed to developing and providing learning, networking, and social events for philanthropic professionals with a focus on equity and justice.
Over the last two years, Libra and EPIP have brought more than 200 people together who are committed to reimagining the role of funders in social movements. The lineup has included:
- Crystal Hayling, Executive Director, The Libra Foundation
- Jamie Allison, Executive Director, Walter and Elise Haas Fund
- Aldita Gallardo, Program Officer, Fund for Trans Generations
- Dr. Carmen Rojas, President & CEO, & Jonathan Jayes-Green, VP of Programs, Marguerite Casey Foundation
- Ana Conner and Kiyomi Fujikawa, Co-founders, Third Wave Fund
The events have highlighted women and gender expansive people of color in philanthropy, with participants reflecting mostly the same demographic, and intergenerational leaders across issue area and foundation/fund type. The topics included:
- navigating philanthropy as women of color while fighting for justice
- professional and personal journeys to get where they are now
- how to advocate for specific marginalized identities and issues (i.e. sex workers and abolition)
- traversing unchartered waters of class
- and so much more!
“I'm grateful for EPIP and Libra for the opportunity to reflect on my experiences mobilizing resources to trans communities of color at the Fund for Trans Generations and navigating power dynamics in philanthropy.” Aldita Gallardo, Program Officer at the Fund for Trans Generations said.
She continues, “This virtual salon allowed me to fully step into my leadership in a more embodied way, provided the space to share my thoughts on building trust and removing barriers for marginalized communities, and helped me reimagine what a career in philanthropy in right relation with movements could look like.”
Crystal Hayling, Executive Director of The Libra Foundation, echoed Aldita’s sentiments. “It was an honor to be the first speaker in this powerful partnership series. I dreamed of stewarding an environment where young people in philanthropy could get together informally to share real talk and it was finally happening.” Crystal continued: “Women of color in philanthropy are in solidarity with each other for the sake of the work and for the sake of our wellness, which is one and the same. Libra will continue to invest in this ethos for years to come.”
The event turnout surpassed expectations, demonstrating that EPIP’s membership is hungry for this type of gathering. One participant said, “It was so refreshing to have an open and honest conversation about a senior leader of color’s journey and work – and not just the list of accomplishments.” Another participant expressed motivation going forward, she wrote, “These conversations always bring to light new and justice-oriented work! I always leave inspired about the future of philanthropy and my role in it.”
In 2022, we’ll be reflecting on what’s next for our partnership and how to build on what we’ve accomplished together. We know there’s no place of arrival for this work, so expect to see more from both EPIP Bay Area and Libra on how we’re shaking up philanthropy for the better.