On Noticing

I am a fairly sloppy yoga practitioner – that is to say that I get on my mat once, maybe twice on a good week. I have no home practice, am not svelte, and my ability to meditate is limited. However, I believe myself to be a better person every time I end a class as I head to my car, smiling from ear to ear.

You may be wondering what yoga has to do with disasters and philanthropy. Please stick with me …

One of my favorite parts about yoga is mindfulness, specifically noticing. For me, being on the mat is the art of “bringing your awareness into the present moment, of noticing and accepting what is happening right now without judgment or reaction,” as Nora Isaacs wrote.

With Omicron and Delta swiftly crossing the globe; ongoing tornado, wildfire and hurricane recovery here in the United States; typhoon destruction in the Philippines; and countless complex humanitarian emergencies displacing millions, I will own that I am having trouble putting a positive spin on our entrance into 2022. Hope, Gratitude and Joy are my go-to aspirational sentiments, but I am struggling to muster those emotions up to the forefront.

Thankfully, my colleague Sally Ray, reminded me that the philanthropic sector learned SO much over the past two years. New practices were put into place owing to the pandemic and the racial reckoning that occurred after the murder of George Floyd. These practices are sound, and we, as a sector, will continue to support and DO them because they are strategic.

So, here is where the noticing part comes into play! My goal for 2022 is to simply notice the good being done in philanthropy. I’ll start with a list of five programs or initiatives that I think are applause-worthy:

  • The Trust-Based Philanthropy Project is driving us all to address power and build equity in philanthropy. This five-year, peer-to-peer initiative seeks “to address the inherent power imbalances between foundations and nonprofits. At its core, trust-based philanthropy is about redistributing power—systemically, organizationally, and interpersonally—in service of a healthier and more equitable nonprofit sector.”
  • The Council on Foundation’s Call to Action, signed by 805 organizations, encourages loosening or eliminating restrictions on grants and for new grants to make them as unrestricted as possible.
  • Northern California Grantmakers just concluded a six-part series, Foundations of Racial Equity, that dove into racial capitalism, how to advance racial justice, racial equity in your organization and culture, and grantmaking through a racial equity lens. I was fortunate to participate in the class and hope they will offer it again!
  • I learn something new and revealing every time I visit the Peak Grantmaking website. Beginning as an organization designed to connect grants managers to boldly lead the sector through #ProjectStreamline, it now drives the sector to be courageous in its grantmaking through five principles: 1) tie principles to values; 2) narrow the power gap; 3) drive equity; 4) steward responsibly; and, 5) learn, share, evolve.
  • The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) released its Race & Intersectional Equity Statement in 2021, asserting our long-term commitment to being an anti-racist organization guided by values that promote and nurture racial justice, intersectional equity, and the empowerment of disenfranchised and marginalized people and communities in all the work we do.

Perhaps this is “my year” to improve my yoga practice. Perhaps this is “our year” … for Hope, Gratitude and Joy to vigorously germinate.

Until then, I will make a point of noticing the stellar and awe-inspiring work that the philanthropic sector has done over the past two years – rising to the challenges of a global pandemic, racial reckoning and countless disaster events and crises.

Please join me in noticing the good that donors and grantmakers are doing, if you ever find yourself in Nashville, let’s grab a yoga class together!