For over fifteen years, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy has helped its members build skills, find and create leadership opportunities, and navigate their careers in the philanthropic world. EPIP grew out of frustration at the lack of networks for professionals in philanthropy; it came to Tides for fiscal sponsorship in 2010, with a strong vision but no structured strategy. Today, EPIP has sixteen chapters and an expanded team of four; it’s a member-led network with local representation that coordinates efforts across the country.
EPIP works to build up the leadership of groups underrepresented in philanthropy, helping its members to hone their skills, advocate for themselves in the workplace and better respond to the communities they serve. 10% of EPIP members identify as LGBTQ, 45% as people of color, and 65% as women; this represents a demographic makeup that differs from than that of philanthropy at large, especially in positions of power. For example, though people of color make up a third of foundation program officers, they represent only 10% of CEOs, according to data from the Council on Foundations. Spurred by these kinds of statistics, alongside rising consciousness of diversity and equity issues, EPIP announced its new strategy in 2017, titled “Powering Change in Philanthropy.” The strategy spells it out: recognizing the power of its members’ diversity, EPIP strives not only to help its members grow as leaders, but to help their organizations recognize and harness their potential. By doing so, it seeks to change the face of philanthropy.
“We’re in a much better place now than we were when we came to Tides. We’re still in many ways a startup, and we’ve benefited from Tides’ systems and support. Running an organization that has doubled in size, this frees me to focus on mission instead of administration. There’s so much I don’t have to worry about; we make decisions, and then we move forward.”
Tamir Novotny, Executive Director, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy
Because EPIP works both locally and nationally, it leans on Tides to provide customized tools for the unique needs of individual chapters, as well as for the network at large. In addition to operational support, like managing insurance needs and contracts for EPIP’s annual conference, Tides also checks in with the team on the organization’s high-level vision. From galvanizing new partners to increasing the visibility of the network, Tides is there to help with every consideration along EPIP’s path.
Tamir Novotny, EPIP’s Executive Director, grew into his role after years as a member and volunteer. During his time with the organization, he began to wonder if it could do more for its members. People would tell him how much EPIP had influenced them, how much they’d thrived as part of the network. Often, though, they’d gone on to work within the same flawed systems, facing the same problems. EPIP has shifted its direction in response: the organization continues to support individual development, but is also beginning to advocate and support its members’ workplace success, alongside equity in philanthropy as a whole.
In the 15 years since EPIP’s inception, American culture has changed. Topics like institutional racism and privilege have become more widely discussed, creating an opening for EPIP to take them on more formally through its work. Philanthropic professionals are becoming more aware these issues of the connections between them and the people they wish to serve.
Tamir takes great pride in the fact that EPIP’s new strategy reflects the participation of over 200 people – from EPIP’s conference in 2016, digital town halls, intensive editing sessions with chapter leaders, and even member revisions via open Google Doc. “At one point, I asked one of our chapters if they would want to formally approve the final strategy. They told me to just go with it, because they already felt that they had ownership. It was exciting to take this out into the world and have people say ‘This tells my story.’” The new strategy officially launched at the 2017 Change Philanthropy Unity Summit, where EPIP was a co-convener.
In addition to being EPIP’s fiscal sponsor, Tides is also an institutional member of the network, leveraging EPIP’s resources for its own employees. The two organizations share a commitment to social justice, alongside a preference for smart risks and empathy-based philanthropy; thus, Tides can appreciate and support EPIP’s work on many levels. For Tamir’s part, he’s energized by the organization’s success to date, as well as its potential to help shape the entire field of philanthropy. “Our new strategy, and stepping into ourselves as a social justice organization – it really elevated the leadership ask of our members, and they’ve risen to the challenge. I’m bowled over by the level of engagement that exists and is finding expression in EPIP.”