Tamir Novotny and the Emerging Generation Changing the Philanthropy Landscape

No need to worry about passing the baton to the next generation of leaders in the philanthropy space. In this conversation with Tamir Novotny, Executive Director for Emerging Practitioners of Philanthropy, we learn about the vision of emerging leaders and how they want to show up in the world to create change. This isn’t your father’s leadership model. Gain insight into why this generation is focused on equity as a way to change today's philanthropy landscape.

About This Episode

No need to worry about passing the baton to the next generation of leaders in the philanthropy space. In this conversation with Tamir Novotny, Executive Director for Emerging Practitioners of Philanthropy, we learn about the vision of emerging leaders and how they want to show up in the world to create change. This isn’t your father’s leadership model. Gain insight into why this generation is focused on equity as a way to change today’s philanthropy landscape.

About Tamir Novotny

Tamir Novotny became Executive Director of Emerging Practioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) in 2015, following a three-year engagement with the organization.  Starting as a chapter leader in New York, Tamir went on to join EPIP’s national team, supporting chapters in the Northeast and advising the national leadership.

Prior to his appointment, Tamir held multiple positions over nine years at Living Cities, a philanthropic collaborative focused on improving the lives of low-income urban residents.  There, he developed and led portfolios in areas including housing, smart growth, and civic technology.  Most recently, Tamir developed and launched the City Accelerator, a $3,000,000 initiative to speed the spread of municipal innovation, and the Civic Tech and Data Collaborative, a partnership to harness the power of technology and data to address issues like criminal justice and youth employment.

Tamir received a Masters in Public Administration from New York University in 2008 and a BA, magna cum laude from NYU in Metropolitan Studies in 2006.

In His Words…

“The times we live in, they really demand that philanthropy step into deeper leadership for equity and social justice. Look at who’s doing that in this country. A lot of it is young people, young people of color and young queer women of color who are really stepping up and setting the direction for progress in our nation.”
“We often talk about emerging pros as the future leadership of philanthropy. We have people who are leading now. The question is, are there institutions getting the most out of that leadership? Too often, the processing culture and systems within a foundation are set up in such a way that emerging leaders, let alone communities, which is ultimately where the learning really needs to come from, are only able to provide insight or input after decisions have already been made. That undercuts our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”
“A lot of philanthropy is still rooted in this idea of ‘we have solutions, we just need to scale them.’ But the solutions are too often about the individuals and if the individuals just knew more or learned better or were better prepared for the economy, that systemic racism would go away. And we all know that that’s not true. So, I think that there’s a reckoning where on a surface level, we have the same values but we don’t really fully understand the impact of how our practices play out with respect to those values.”
I want to start a note of optimism here, because all of these are solvable problems, and some of the solutions are technical, and some of them require some change in little things about how we think and others require deeper self-examination. But, to me, that is what philanthropy is called upon to do in this moment and we can’t look away. My fear for philanthropy is that the folks who are fighting this fight now will get hired and leave, and we’ll be left with folks who are just going to play the game and the status-quo ante. That scares me.”

Questions Answered on this Episode

  • What are some of the areas you are seeing innovation in philanthropy, as it relates to emerging leaders?
  • What are the opportunities for change in philanthropy?
  • How do you define philanthropy?
  • EPIP works to develop and empower emerging leaders, as well as elevate philanthropic practice, in order to build a more just, equitable and sustainable world. Share with me some examples of elevating philanthropic practices that will help build that more just, equitable and sustainable world?
  • What is your vision for the members of EPIP?
  • I’ve had a number of conversations this podcast season and many of my guests cited frustration about the lack of resources available to communities of color and women. What are your views on this? How do we shift the model to be more equitable?
  • What are the three biggest concerns you see with emerging leaders, as they relate to the philanthropy sector?
  • What does the next five years look like for the sector?



Welcome to the Social Change Diaries. This is the first of our final two episodes of our season of philanthropy. Today I’ll be speaking with Tamir Novotny, Executive Director of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, also known as EPIP. Tamir took the helm as Executive Director in 2015 following a three-year engagement with the organization. Starting as a chapter leader in New York, Tamir went on to join EPIP’s national team supporting chapters in the Northeast and advising the national leadership. Prior to his appointment, he held multiple positions over nine years at living cities, a philanthropic collaborative focused on improving the lives of low-income urban residents. There he developed and led portfolios in areas including housing, smart growth and civic technology. 

Most recently Tamir developed and launched The City Accelerator, a $3 million initiative to speed the spread of municipal innovation, and the Civic Tech and Data Collaborative, a partnership to harness the power of technology and data to address issues like criminal justice and youth employment. All right, so I would like to welcome to Tamir to this episode of The Social Change Diaries, and really eager to chat with him about emerging practitioners and future leaders in philanthropy. Welcome. 


Thank you. Thank you for having me.


Sure. So Tamir, on this season we’ve had a number of conversations with people from different areas about philanthropy. So we’ve talked about Latinos in philanthropy, African Americans, we spoke with Edgar Villanueva about decolonizing wealth and so, really interesting perspectives, and I thought it was it would be important to round out some of these conversations and some of these points that have come up and really diving into the younger leaders in philanthropy. I’m a big believer that the future generations are going to disrupt and make some changes that will be very valuable in how we look at philanthropy and social changes, and so I’m happy to have you here as the Executive Director of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy and get your perspective and just your insights about what you’re seeing in the field and what your members are sharing around their needs or what’s happening or what they’re feeling inspired about or what they’re frustrated about. 

So, I guess my first question is what are some of the areas where you are seeing innovation in philanthropy as it relates to emerging leaders?


Thank you for the question, and if you don’t mind, I just want to give a little bit of background about where we’ve been and where we’re going, because it puts all the rest in context.




So, first of all, the times we live in, they really demand that philanthropy step into deeper leadership for equity and closer justice. Look at who’s doing that in country. A lot of it is young people, young people of color, young queer women of color who are really stepping up and setting the direction for progress in our nation. And, in many cases, the people who make up our membership are essentially in the team cohort of hosts, just in a different position in the field. Even the first part is undergoing its own sort of metamorphosis. And, for many years, there was this back and forth question where we were asking ourselves is EPIP really a professional [unclear 2:34] working organization, or is it a social justice organization. And we made a decision about two and a half years ago, around the time that I started, that our goal was really to advance social justice. And, as we started to figure out what that was going to look like, what we realized was one, we had one of the most diverse memberships in the field. And you know diversity is a big topic in philanthropy right now, as I’m sure your guests have alluded to. Our members by our data, 45% people of color, two-thirds women, and 10% LGBTQ, and many of them carry more than one of those identities.

The second thing is that folks would come to us and say, “We’re here to expand our networks and gain fuel,” for where we started digging deeper with them into where they’re feeling stuck or what they want to focus on, before feeling really isolated. And they were struggling, basically with the same sort of barriers in terms of culture within the institution. So, they were maybe stuck in roles that weren’t allowing the full extent of what they bring to the table to come to before. They’re advocating for communities and for grass-roots leadership, being cultures that prize scale and other things that tend to lead other foundations to larger, usually white-led organizations. And often, their concerns were dismissed or they were associated with them personally as opposed to a larger generational shift that’s happening in the country and across the world.

We decided that it wasn’t enough just to create space for folks to find fellow travelers in their journey but then go back and get institution space and those same conditions. 

So, we based our whole organizational identity around this idea. We wrote our mission, vision and values to center equity and social justice. We advance our programs to center people of color and others that are not privileged in society or in the workplace. We went from a skills-based approach to a professional to a leadership-developed approach really rooted in helping people transforming philanthropy from within. And what we’ve heard from our sister organizations is that that kind of change often starts at the middle or at the bottom of the organizational chart. And in addition to that, as you know from our background conversations, we’ve taken on an advocacy approach to this also, and we believe that there is – and this gets into your question – that foundations are really at a point where they recognize their need for change. I think that’s a big part of the driving force behind this conversation around diversity, equity and inclusion.

I think somewhat in the back of their mind they know that their emerging leaders have a ton to offer. We often talk about emerging pros as the future leadership of philanthropy. We have people who are leading now. The question is are there institutions getting the most out of that leadership. Too often, the processing culture and systems within a foundation are set up in such a way that emerging leaders, let alone communities, which is ultimately where the learning really needs to come from, are only able to provide insight or input after decisions have already been made, and that undercuts our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion because the folks who are the most diverse on the org chart, but it’s also bad for organizational learning and by extension, it’s bad for organizational effectiveness.

And that’s a place where we’re really zeroing in, and we’ve had a lot of interest from foundation leaders in what we’ve been learning. You’ve seen that there’s a study that we’ll be releasing soon that starts to point to what emerging leaders are experiencing. Part of our reason for doing that is that we hear these stories all the time, at events, in the hall, meeting after the meeting, at the bar, but they never seem to get to the main stage when you’re at a conference and you’re listening to the key note or the [unclear 6:28].

So, we’re trying to put that on the table in a way that takes the onus off of the individual to prove that there is an issue and to say instead, this actually a generational issue. This is happening across the field. And the more we do this, the more patterns we see about that.

So, that’s the background. And, to your question about where are we seeing innovation or things that are being done differently, one thing is – and this isn’t really an innovation necessarily, but it’s a small paradigm shift that I think is true transformative – organizations that open to their staff in such a way that they can actually be transformed by what they hear. And this goes back to what I was saying before, so Susan [Batton from ADFEE] who says that racial equity processes within foundations often start in the middle.

So, I’ll use the example of my former employer [Living Cities], The Philanthropic Collaborative, and after Travon Martin and Michael Brown were showed, there were staff internally who said, “Not only do I not feel like I can bring my full self to work, but I actually can’t stay in this field if we can’t actually talk about race.” And even [T. S.] has that first, he was like, “[unclear 7:46].” And it persisted from there to having no splits at racial equity analysis, to just last week being a founding partner of a nationwide effort to sign organizations onto a racial equity agenda with the Governing Alliance for Race and Equity and I believe Release Forward and a couple of others.

That was over a period of about five years, and one of the people who started that process internally who was a senior associate at the time now leads their equity work and is a senior member of the staff. So, there are a few examples of things like that that are happening. And there are other places that, on the flip side, hire for diversity, and then they think that they’ve achieved equity, and I’ll tell you I have a lot of conversations with folks. We’re very fortunate. We have very diverse candidate pools for the positions we hire for. But a lot of that as we chose people are adoption for us right now.

I have conversations with people where they say, “We’re trying to hire for this position and the pools are really white,” and you hear the gamut in terms of why people think that is. But a lot of it has to do with working people are stacked way on the other side of the hiring process, and people talk, and so they know what’s going on in the culture of the organization. And the organizations that I believe are really making change – one, they’re putting people actually in charge of that. A lot of places I talk to, they don’t even know who’s doing their equity work, which was really surprising to me when I started to hear it, and it’s becoming more common of a theme. Or that person doesn’t have enough authority.

But two is, they’re going beyond technical issues. You can’t just change your hiring policy or your HR policy. If you were to create a new program and you’re going to be equitable, this is like being cheated cultural stuff that has to do with what’s valued in the institution, how do people know what’s true, are the outcomes rooted in a model of impact that is rooted in white supremacy or management literature written by, about and totally and simply for, white men. And that’s not even just structural work. That’s really hard inner personal work and I think the places that really recognize that and lead from there go a lot farther than places who think, “We’re going to hire somebody. We’ll bring in a consultant. We’ll make recommendations about the policies and then we’ll kind of be done.”




And all of that leads back to emerging leaders, because we see the most progressive generation in documented history. It’s the most diverse generation, if we’re talking just about Millennials. The generations are right there, too, and let’s not sleep on Gen X because they’re taking the reins real soon, including now.

And so, really progressive, really diverse, and they’re making decisions about their future based on whether their employers are really serious about this stuff. Two years ago, all the questions I got were about how do we engage Millennials. You can’t do that without addressing these questions and it’s just not easy, and it really comes down to, it is the tradition or the commonly current way of doing thing that is considered best practice really rooted in our values, or is it not.


That was that was a chock-full answer. There’s a lot of questions I have from that, but I want to start from the back, the values-based question. I think that is so important and so can you answer that. Are our practices based on our values? Are we living up to the values around philanthropy and how we are engaging communities and working together to solve problems?


Well, I think there’s discourse going on in the field right now about what the underlying values of philanthropy should be. And I think that happens between mainstream liberal, for lack of a better word, institutions who have values that run the gamut and the social justice wing, or left link, of philanthropy whose values are a little bit more radical. So, we rewrote our values, and I’ll just use us as an example because I think that helps to ground the conversation. 

So, our values used to be multi-generational as an impact and one more and now they’re shared leadership, community, excellence. We call it diversity, equity and inclusion but we really mean social justice and learning. And the key one in there for me is, in addition to social justice, which orders everything that we do is actually shared leadership. And that really opens the door for all those things we were talking about different ways of knowing, different ways of showing up. It’s rooted in the idea, which is not our idea – we’re part of a broader movement on this – that people who are most affected by inequity are in the best position to solve their own problems if they had the resources and the power to do so or contain their powers and resources to do so.

But, a lot of philanthropy is still rooted in this idea about we have solutions, we just need to scale them, but the solutions are too often about the individuals and so if the individuals just knew more or learned better or were better prepared for the economy that systemic racism would go away. And we all know that that’s not true. So, I think that there’s a reckoning where, on a surface level we have the same values, but we don’t really fully understand the impact of how our practices play out with respect to those values.


So, in your two and a half years with the organization how, if at all, has your definition of philanthropy changed your thinking about what philanthropy should be doing. Has it changed at all? It sounds like the mission of the organization has absolutely changed and more tightly fits into what the needs are of right now, so I’m curious as to your personal thoughts about philanthropy. How have they changed and what is your current definition of philanthropy?


So, organizationally, our definition is kind of boring. We work mostly with foundations of different kinds, because that’s what we know, and that’s what our offering are best tailored to serve. But, we love to talk about how philanthropy meets well with human kind. I think one of the challenges with philanthropy is that people in it feel really disconnected from the work, especially folks who come from grass roots. And ultimately, [unclear 14:24] talks about subsidiary, the idea that social change happens with a small possible unit of society or in your really inbound called that [unclear 14:32]. We have to transform ourselves to transform society. And I think both of those things are true. Institutional philanthropy has huge power in this country, can resolve municipal insolvency and save [unclear 14:46] time.

we can achieve the 911 system or the green revolution.

But, in order to really be on the right side of history here, it requires all of us to take on what we can take on, personally and professionally, but also to really examine ourselves in relationship to the impact that we have on other people, and can make the stage for folks to be able to share the impact that our actions have on them. And I say this as a trans-gender chief. My colleague and dear friend was once told that we all walk around with a yolk over our shoulders, and the more critters we have, the wider the yolk is and it’s our job to make the yolk as small as possible and to turn really carefully when we make a turn.


Thank you for that. Talk to me about what you are hearing from your members around their level of excitement and hope for careers in philanthropy. I’ve had some conversations just personally with some people who were super excited to you know join the field of philanthropy and working at foundations and other grant-making organizations, and after being there for some time feeling a bit deflated about their ability to really create change or making sure that funding is funneled to the right people. I think one of the biggest things, the most common things that I’ve heard, is feeling like they’re able to have an impact and make a difference. You have access to many more people through your membership and your work with foundations. What are you hearing? What are the biggest issues or concerns that you’re hearing from folks who are on the ground?


Well first of all what you’re saying is so real, and you basically captured the narrative perfectly. The first thing I’ll say, and not only do we have these conversations, but we have some research forthcoming that will put numbers to this. People are proud to work in philanthropy. We don’t actually whether that means they’re proud of their institution or they’re proud that they made it to the point that they’re in a prestigious institution, which is something we’ll probably look into a little bit more. But they all believe that philanthropy has this power.

But, we hear things like a really tiny percentage of people, particularly at the associate level in philanthropy, see a future for themselves in their institutions. Often, they are told explicitly there is nowhere for them to go if they want to move up within the institution. But then they don’t get the support that they need in order to figure out what’s next, or it’s not systematized in the institution.

And I think people would be surprised how deflating that is, because it leaves folks feeling like their value is questionable in a way that I don’t think their supervisors and management actually will leak. But folks just don’t know what to do about it. It’s often left to the individual supervisors. So, that’s one of the starkest findings.

But then, there’s a lot that we see that shows that folks, again, don’t feel comfortable bringing their full selves to work or they try to show up in a certain way, and they feel shut down or it’s like they’re saying just isn’t being heard. We had a member after [unclear 18:06] called and told me, “I took a mental health day today, because I couldn’t stand the idea of walking into my institution and having to explain to people why I was upset.”

If our laws were different, that would almost gloss our working environment, right? But that’s not how our laws are designed. And the data shifts in some interesting and respective ways, but there are folks who feel like they have to hide part of their identity, particularly folks who identify as LGBTQ. Other folks can’t see that. So, we’ll figure out how much they’re willing to coach, all those different things. And that leads people to burn out, so there are a lot of folks who, when we ask them in our survey, when they see themselves leaving philanthropy and when they leave philanthropy it will be because ________________. And there are a lot of folks who said, “I’m going to leave because I’m tired.”

And I don’t know if it’s worse. If they leave because they’re tired, or if they don’t leave and stay tired, for them and for the [unclear 19:08].

But, the thing I want to emphasize, I want to talk about the research. I was talking to the head of a pretty detective intake in philanthropy, and he said to me, “Your paper is awesome, but it’s really depressing.” And so I want to start a note of optimism here, because all of these are solvable problems, and some of the solutions are technical, and some of them require some change in little things about how we think and others require deeper self-examination. But, to me, that is what philanthropy is called upon to do in this moment and we can’t look away, and my fear for philanthropy is that the folks who are fighting this fight now will get hired and will leave, and we’ll be left with this adverse selection problem of folks who are just going to play the game, and the status-quo ante. That scares me.

I’m supposed to be optimistic but I’m depressing again.


It’s all right. They know that the truth is the truth. What do you think the responsibility is of the institution right now? Let’s say you had the floor and there were the most you know prestigious foundations in the room, and they wanted to know, “We care about this issue. We want to make progress. We know there’s a problem. We know that emerging leaders really are important to the sustainability of our organizations and really creating the impact that we want. Tell us what to do.” I know you said some of it is structural, some of it is self-examination, but what are the three or five takeaways that an organization could at least use as a primer, because also in my conversations is painful and quite frankly infuriating as it is for me when I’m having conversations with people in leadership roles there is sometimes, a real lack of understanding of the problem. 

And so that there definitely is a level of privileged connected with that, and it’s hard for someone like me to grapple and understand how someone could be so disconnected, but it’s the reality. So, rather than sort of sitting with my arms folded and annoyed and frustrated and huffing and puffing like, “Okay, if we have to extend the branch to get to where we need to go.” How can we help to direct people to those next steps or first steps.


So, first, if you don’t mind, I want to go back and take a couple of things that make me optimistic, because I have my days. I’ve been in this about – I’m 34, but I’ve been in this deal a dozen years, and I have days when I’m like, “Man, screw it. I’m just going to go sit in a rocking chair.” Like let me open an artisanal dog shop, whatever Millennials are supposed to do. And, but the thing that gets me really re-energizing and grounded is actually our members. They are amazing. When we made our strategic shift, we didn’t just decide that this is going to be what it is. We did decide that, but we couldn’t have done it if our members weren’t down. And our process – we had as many as 200 people involved from start to finish. We had members literally editing our vision in a Google document.

And there’s a level of ownership there, and people have signed up. We have 16 chapters around the country. About 14 of them are active. We have folks that basically sign on to be leaders for equity in philanthropy at the regional level. We’re still growing into what that looks like. But, as we have the conversations about how do we get from here to there, I learned so much from them. They’re incredibly thoughtful. They’re so passionate. They’re already doing this leadership in their organizations. They’re already talking to executives, locally and nationally. They’re players – under 30 they’re players. In some cases, under 25. They’re leading now. That gives me a ton of hope, and just their wisdom is really amazing. Foundation CEOs, if you’re listening to this, I would strongly encourage you to go check out an EPIP chapter event or reach out to chapter leadership, because these guys have a lot to offer.

And the other thing that give me hope, honestly, is how unapologetic the movements are. I was sitting in a neighborhood funder’s group a couple of weeks ago to a workshop run by The Movement for Black Lives and then there’s like, “Here how’s we’re going to win. We’re going to train 50,000 people and we’re going to do this.” And I’m like, they’re doing it. We can be on the right side of it or not, but they’re doing it, and that’s really energizing to me.

To get to your question, and thank you for bearing with my roundabout way of getting there, the one thing I want to say is we don’t have all the answers yet. Our prophet is to say, “First, let’s just bring philanthropy values rigor, and rightly or not, we want to bring some numbers to this, just so folks can get a sense of the scope of the issue.” And now, as we do that, we start hearing from people what they’re trying to do and where they’re getting stuck. And I think the next step for us is to dig in more deeply there. And I want to be clear, there are folks who are ahead of us in doing this specifically around racial equity and social justice. So, folks like [ADPE, the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity, Upline Solutions], I mean there’s a function of other living a small number of them. And they do this all the time.

But what I think we don’t get to is actually where are people trying to do this and not doing it effectively, and what are the common mistakes. I mentioned earlier not putting somebody [unclear 24:41] in charge or not giving that person enough authority or we hear stories about people who make racial equity works in groups internally, but it’s only junior people, or it’s only senior people, or it’s only people of color. I don’t think I’ve heard examples of where there are no people of color. And all those things are deauthorizing in different ways. And so, there are things that you can do structurally that really do make a difference. I don’t want to dismiss structural solutions. That’s one piece.

I think one of the key things folks can, and this is the hypothesis that we’re exploring now. Can you actually reconfigure your organizational learning processes, so that not just emerging leaders, but actually communities, can participate at moments in the process where it actually makes a difference. And, can you set them up in [unclear 25:37] that you’re actually interrogating your core assumptions about the work and I’ll use scale as an example. I’ve used it before. I think there’s room for scale in the changes that we make in partial to scaling for what and for what reason. And if we just have many more housing units, we’d be in a better place. That’s true, but it doesn’t fix the housing market and our policies.

And, when we’re hearing from folks on the ground that that’s actually not what they need, is this actually changing what we’re doing or are we wedded to the way we’ve done it because that’s what we believe. And what’s more important. For me, I may be the Executive Director of EPIP, but I’m really the steward of a group of 1400 leaders, and so my job is to represent their collective consensus. And I think that foundations have more of a role like that than they realize, and, if that sounds like it’s pretty far afield from work around the emerging leaders, it’s all connected. And I think that’s the core message that we’re trying to drive.

Then, there’s some actual technical stuff. I’ve been helping to maintain our job board recently and I’ve been into really over-designed jobs where you’re putting too much into the job description or folks are saying they’re going to schedule things and develop a grant recommendations, “Oh, you need a Master’s Degree and five years of experience.” You are designing a job for someone who could be unhappy within two months. Or to say, “It’s a great opportunity to move up,” but the opportunity’s not really there and people’s best intentions – they really want that to be true, but as an executive, as you know, we live in the vision, but our staff lives in the reality. We fail to recognize that at our own peril, and unfortunately for our staff, at theirs.

Things like that, hiring people for jobs they don’t really want because they want to get into philanthropy – those don’t really help us either. Those are real examples of things that I’ve been thinking about, but our next step is going to be to, once we release this report, which will be happening this summer, really start reaching people and asking them, “Why are you getting stuck and where can your pilots around the company be helpful?” And then we’re going to follow that and you can bet we’ll be reporting back. 


I’m always about getting the scoop. We’re sharing some information with our audience as early as possible. So without giving up the goods in your report before you’re ready to, is there any one surprising, shocking, totally didn’t think that was going to come up in your report that did anything you could share here?


I’ve actually been sprinkling throughout the interview, so they’re in there. I just haven’t tied them directly to that one report. So, that’s the scoop.


Got it. You heard it here people, we’ve got it first. Tamir, I want to talk a little bit about people of color, women of color and LGBTQ as it relates to philanthropy. I know that often times, as for myself, I’m an African-American woman and sometimes and I’m the only one in the room that there’s feels like there’s a greater responsibility for me to make it happen, because I want to make sure that that experience is an option for someone else in the future. When we’re talking about the things that you shared, up until this point sort of talks about the emerging leaders, taking on a greater role, wanting to move things forward but there’s a burden with that. There’s the burden of sort of having to do the work and so it reminds me of the idea of the oppressed trying to show the oppressors like what to do. Has there been any conversations about that. Like I worry about people taking on that level of burden and responsibility and not having any real power, just from a psychological and emotional standpoint. Any thoughts on that.


Absolutely. And it reminds me of a story that somebody told me where she thought that whenever she was in a meeting and important decisions were going to be made, she would never go to the bathroom, because if she left the room, those decisions would be made without any perspective from somebody in her background. And so I don’t say that to explain it to you, perhaps your own experience, but just to represent how much that comes up in conversations with our membership and with other folks in the field.

And I could not agree with you more that it is both ineffective and morally wrong for us to expect people for marginalized communities to illuminate the path for the rest of us. And that’s not to fault people who choose to do that. I have a broader respect for those folks but if [unclear 30:38] but I think as white folks, speaking for myself, I have to be really aware of the toll that it takes on people. I should also say I am very fortunate to have had colleagues of color in my past professionally who have helped to show me the way when the way that I thought I was being supported was actually hurtful. And, I’m really grateful for that. And now that that’s been done for me, I feel the responsibility to do that with other white folks. So, for us grammatically what that means is our first revamp program is something called The People of Color Network. It had been a pilot in the past. We tried it a couple of different ways. We made a [POT] exclusive and then it airs like, “Come to this place where you don’t have to explain yourself.” Play [unclear 31:24] to people who may not understand. Not that that doesn’t also happen between communities of color, but at least you don’t have to education white folks in this space.

But the next thing that we’re going to be working on after our conference next month is called Including Leadership Programming, and that’s predicated on the idea that solidarity is everyone’s work. But particularly, for our white members, making sure that folks really understand how racial inequity shows up in the workplace, what they can do as folks who carry more power and privilege and how they can show up in settings so that all [these pieces] are anti-racist and anti-oppressive spaces. I talk about 45% of our members being people of color, where’s the other 55%, right? And that’s even just a fraction of people who are in philanthropy. My feeling is that if we are successful and our colleagues are successful and preparing folks to do this work, we can see a real sea change in philanthropy moving forward.


What would you say to someone, Tamir, who just – you talked about people who didn’t see themselves in the field, in the next two years or whatever timeframe. What would you say to someone who is at that point, it’s like, “I’m out.” Because you expressed a couple of points of optimism and so, if someone is has one foot out the door and doesn’t really want to leave but they they’re just frustrated. What advice would you share?


My first thing is just do what you’ve got to do. I don’t think it’s anybody’s responsibility to stay here and fight because you can fight from anywhere. You can fight from corporate America. You can fight from electoral politics. You can be a movement. And if you – I know people have different feelings about this – but if you want to go be an [ex-hat] somewhere and just lose your life, do what you need to do.

What I try to do with people in those situations, and it happens a lot, is just hear out where you’re feeling stopped and what resources are available to them, because part of my job is to keep people in the field, but not in a coercive sort of way. So, what I try to do is help understand where people are feeling stuck, what strategies are available to them to address the issues that are causing them to struggle. A lot of folks actually need to [look for fuel], and they don’t for different reasons, whether it’s access to power, whether it’s opportunity, pay scales is an issue. We’re not handling enough about that in philanthropy, and philanthropy is out sometimes with adverse with financial opportunities that not everybody can afford to sustain.

So, all that stuff, putting it on the table and letting people make it [unclear 34:20] about what they’re willing to go to bat for, what the risks are to them, how can they mitigate those risks and then what’s ultimately worth it. And then I will say a lot of folks end up staying, and I’m not trying to attribute this to me, I think this is what we do organizationally, finding peers who can help them strategize around this.


Has the political climate had any impact on membership or the number of people you see going into philanthropy? I’m just curious.


Going into philanthropy, I’m not sure. I think the thing that the political climate has really done is it’s made the bottom lines of equity really, really clear. When President Obama was being called the Deporter in Chief, philanthropy was not having conversations about immigration the way that it is now. But when some of the driving rhetoric behind that changed, that of the United Philanthropy forum, just yesterday released a tape saying, “Stop separating families now,” which is one of the most exclusive statements I’ve ever heard coming out of the philanthropic institution or philanthropy-serving organization. Full disclosure, I’m on their Board. But you know, it’s a powerful statement. 

And, so I think that’s changed things. I think people feel a greater sense of urgency around making things work because they don’t want to be on the sidelines or they don’t want to be living relatively comfortably when people are suffering, and to know that they could have done more but they were afraid to take a certain kind of risk or to speak out. So, I don’t think it’s brought more people into the field, I think it’s made people really want to be connected to movement in a way that was not as galvanizing three years ago.


Gotcha. I think this is going to be my last question, and of course you can add anything you’d like. What, based on all that you’ve done in the last two and a half years and all of the energy behind the members and building up this movement, what are your three- to five-year goals, or if you’re looking back at that time – 2020 are we 25 or 23, what would you like to see as far as progress with your movement and what EPIP is creating?


So, the big picture in five years, and this is not something EPIP’s going to do by itself, I want to see movement wielding real power in the halls of philanthropy, that there’s actual accountability to movements, which doesn’t necessarily mean that foundations stop funding everything they’re funding and only fund movements, but that there’s at least that honestly around what the paradigms are, what’s being funded and why, and ultimately how is community actually conveying that there is impact because of that, and that we are jettisoning this idea that communities and everyday people can’t be the architects of their own lives because they don’t understand all the things we went to school to learn. I find that incredibly insulting, and I always have. 

So, that said, for EPIP, for us success would look like our members are exerting real influence basically in service of that message, engaging with foundation CEOs, becoming foundation CEOS or moving into other capacities that enable them to really affect the flow in terms of dollars so that folks are better able to do this work with less inappropriate interference from philanthropy.


Thank you. Is there anything else you would like to add or share with our listeners?


One, I really want to thank you again and two, I just want to say again if you’re in a city within EPIP chapter and you want to get in touch with them, get in touch with me, because these guys, they are going to change the face of philanthropy in any respect. They literally already are, and so let’s get connected. Let’s get into [unclear 38:46] and really start working through some of these challenges at a field level.


Any events coming up to me, Tamir, that folks should be aware of?


As a matter of fact, our national conference it taking place in Detroit, July 30 through August 1. It’s called The Road Ahead: Leadership in Uncertain Times. And the theme is literally everything we just talked about, so how can folks re-imagine their leadership and how they carry out that leadership in the times we live in, and it’s organized around three themes: collaborative visioning, collaborative leadership and collaborative action. So, while we support the individual, it’s really all about what we do and how we harness our collective power. So, I hope to see everybody there.


Where can they go to get more information about the conference or EPIP in general?


At www.epip.org.


Perfect. Tamir, this was an absolute pleasure. I thank you for your time and we definitely will have you back on to check in a couple of months. 


I’d love that. Thank you for inviting me.


Thank you. Bye-bye.




One of the things I’m noticing in each of these interviews around philanthropy is just the commonality of the themes that people are sharing, equity, the importance of inclusion for marginalized groups and really the need for us to take a hard look – a close look – at philanthropic institutions and the environment that they’re creating for people to have impact and to share their insights and expertise in a way that can really help us to create change. I’m really appreciative of Tamir’s insights and thoughts, and one of the things that he said that was really interesting to me was this concept of shared leadership – thinking about how we can ensure that everyone has an opportunity to lead, to have input and to contribute to make sure that the organizations that are doing the work are able to really have outcomes that are beneficial to the groups that they serve. And so, I hope you enjoyed this interview, as I shared, we’re winding down the season and our final episode is next week. Enjoy.

Schedule a confidential consultation to learn how our strategic communications offerings can elevate your organization’s impact.