What Equity Means to Me: Tania Bhattacharyya

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Equity. It is a term heard a lot these days. And yet, if you ask 10 people what it means, you might get 10 different answers. As OCG prepared for our 2020 Summit, “Equity in Action: Stories of Innovation & Collaboration” we are pleased to share with you how different members of our community understand, and most importantly, put into practice, equity. Together, we can move Orange County forward, implementing and aligning with the 10 +1 next steps as recommended in the OC Equity Profile.

Our second blog post in this series comes from Tania Bhattacharyya, Foundation Executive Director of New Directions for Women in Costa Mesa, CA. Tania received her BA in Psychology and Social Behavior from the University of California, Irvine. She is currently an active board member of Impact Giving, a women’s collective giving organization, and also serves on the OCG 2020 Summit Committee.

The OC Grantmakers Summit 2020 theme is Equity in Action.

It’s fitting because bringing all aspects of the philanthropy community to learn from each other addresses and heals inherent inequities in the philanthropy space itself.

I’m proud to be on the planning committee for this summit for three big reasons.

The Summit Fosters Connection and Abundance, rather than Competition and Scarcity

The ails of society are all interconnected. I work in substance use disorder recovery which is inextricably linked to homelessness, domestic violence, and criminal justice reform (among many other issues).

To make lasting impact, we should aim our collective power at fixing these issues holistically, rather than thinking about our specific cause or organization in a silo.

So often, scarcity mindset pits potential allies as competitors. A mentor once shared, “If you have competitors, you’re in the wrong business. You need to go sell shoes!”

At last year’s summit, I sat next to Lauren. She runs a nonprofit sober active community in Costa Mesa. Scarcity mindset (which I liken to the devil on my shoulder) says there’s not enough funding for both of our organizations.

It squeaks, “Protect your relationships! Hide your grants calendar! Don’t share your secrets!”

But leaning into an abundance mindset reveals the magic of collaboration. There are more than enough resources to support us all. The open conversations that started at that table allowed us to grow both organizations’ work,  ultimately putting the community of sober people we serve first and foremost – which is where the community served should always be.

There’s also scarcity mindset present in relationships between some funders and fundees, demonstrated in requiring lengthy grant reporting or only providing hyper-restricted grants (scarcity of trust). Vice versa, nonprofits fundraisers may feel stymied by intimidating power dynamics (scarcity of power).   

By gathering in community, we meet human to human. We can move closer to becoming trusted, equal partners with one another, whatever that looks like. After all, it’s all about relationships.  Speaking of …

The Summit Helps Build Equitable Relationships

Philanthropy is a person to person art. Building transparent relationships based on trust is a vital part of fundgiving and fundraising.

However, relationship access isn’t always equitable amongst nonprofits.  Sometimes funders or other powerful connectors are inaccessible to organizations working in marginalized communities, while other organizations are well connected by virtue of the space they work in. 

You need to have access to build key relationships but to gain access, you need relationships in the first place. A Catch-22.

In a setting where all areas of philanthropy come together in a spirit of openness, understanding and learning, we can ALL not only build relationships, but have honest and respectful conversations – including disagreements.  

The Summit Provides an Opportunity to Trust the Process

My friend Adriana’s company funds nonprofit work. She shared a poignant example where their in-kind gift of broadcasting a nonprofit’s Public Service Announcement led to a huge level of donation – 4x the “value” of the PSA itself.  

Am I the only one whose little Scarcity Voice pushes us to zoom in on potential gifts of cash? Do you ever find yourself going to an event with an agenda, feeling like you need to sit next to “so and so”? 

The Summit provides an opportunity to practice letting go of that hustle and enjoying the company of whoever you’re with (whether virtually or in-person).

The dynamics of the Summit have been set up where “asks” are not part of the process but learning from others is. The others in the room can create some lift, some runway, some soft introduction.

By trusting in the timing, we move away from a transactional experience of philanthropy to its intended nature – one where power and support flows freely and openly to support the community served.

The OCG Summit is equity in practice, providing a springboard to conversation, insight, and collaboration so we can all continue solving the issues together. In a world that feels fragmented at best, the timing could not be better!

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