Every year a delegation led by the Veatch Board of Governors (VBOG) visits with local Veatch grantees and learns more about their work — this year, our delegation was thrilled to meet with grantees in the Washington D.C.-Virginia area from the 21st to the 24th of May.
These in-person visits are important and inspiring—and provide a rare and valuable opportunity to learn first-hand about how grantees build power with some of our country’s most marginalized communities. This relational approach to philanthropy is part of what makes UUCSR’s Veatch Program unique.
Due to Covid-19 precautions, this was the first in-person Veatch site visit since 2019. We were able to bring a wonderful delegation to learn about the impact of our grantees. We were joined by:
- Corinne Hayden, Barbara Grosmark, Rich Schwartz and Rebecca Smith (Veatch Board of Governors)
- Chris Hilke and Jane Weiler (UUCSR Board of Trustees)
- Rev. Dr. Natalie Fenimore (Ministerial Leadership)
- Joan Minieri, Eileen Jamison, and Domenico Romero (Veatch Program staff)
Throughout the site visit experience, we had the opportunity to learn from and about the various organizing, research, and labor organizations active in our nation’s capital—and the important role they play in advancing progressive causes at the national level. We also learned how community organizing groups in Virginia are building power and making significant inroads in protecting democratic institutions, encouraging civic participation, and advancing immigrant and workers’ rights at the local and statewide levels. Importantly, we learned how the struggle for racial justice in the D.C. area has impacted and contributed to social movements—not just in our nation’s capital, but across the country.
Please read on for specific examples and anecdotes from our memorable time together visiting with grantees in the Washington D.C. area.
The Power of Stories and Strategy
We visited with our longtime partner, Institute for Policy Studies (IPS)—a “think and do” tank based in Washington D.C. that supports many Veatch grantees in crafting narratives about how their communities are impacted by unjust policies. IPS trains local organizers to write and place op-ed pieces in local newspapers and digital outlets—which is particularly important in media markets controlled by news outlets that promote racist and anti-democratic views. We learned how Veatch’s long-term, general operating support has been critical to helping IPS address key issues of the time—from the Pentagon Papers decades ago to the rise of white nationalism in more recent years.
Continuing the Legacy of Labor Organizing
During a visit to the national headquarters of the AFL-CIO, we heard from a panel of Veatch grantees about how our support for worker rights organizations—including the national organizing network Jobs with Justice, philanthropic efforts like The LIFT Fund, and training programs like the Center for Innovation in Worker Organizing—is helping to sustain the current heightened momentum for labor rights throughout the country. The Veatch program continues to play an important role in supporting this fight—which has become all the more important as workers across industries step up their campaigns for good wages and safe working conditions.
Partnerships for Racial Justice
We had a very special opportunity to visit with All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington D.C. where we learned about the congregation’s commitment to and work with the local social and racial justice organizing communities—and the many priorities we have in common. Our delegation also visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture, where we took a deep dive into the history of racial inequality and oppression in the country. We also heard from Ron Goines, a leader from the Movement for Black Lives, who expressed deep appreciation for Veatch’s early support of this now 300-member national network at the very center of the fight for racial justice.
Sustaining Democracy in Virginia
We traveled to Virginia and met with Veatch grantees New Virginia Majority, VA Civic Engagement Table, and Tenants and Workers United—where we learned about the work of these groups to expand protections and build power for undocumented immigrants. As an example, we heard from three women immigrant leaders, who told us about their successful campaign to win valid driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants in the state. They described the fear they lived in each day prior to this win—never knowing if a simple car trip to work, or to pick up their children from school, would lead to deportation and family separation. Veatch’s long-term support of this work, through each of these organizations, helped contribute to this important campaign that has led to tangible improvements in the lives of undocumented immigrants in Virginia and their families.
Centering Grantees in Philanthropic Giving
We met with DC-based philanthropic partners Nat Chioke-Williams from the Hill-Snowdon Foundation and Anna Fink from the Amalgamated Foundation. We discussed the role of social justice-focused philanthropy at this moment in history. Both of our partners told us how their institutions have changed some of their practices and approaches in recent years to more fully center the needs of their grantees in their work. Still, each of us in this conversation recognized there is more we can all do to meet the needs of social justice organizing groups.
Site visit participants were inspired to learn about how Veatch grantees are putting UU values into action with such incredible optimism and strength—and we are all eager to continue to share our learnings and insights with the congregation. As the congregation continues to consider the structure that best allows the Veatch Program to fully achieve its mission, spending time on the ground with our grantees and partners is a powerful reminder of why our work matters in the world.