Empathy and Intention: Erika Owens reflects on her Giving Project experience

by Erika Owens, member of the Spring 2017 Giving Project

Bread & Roses is one of my favorite parts of Philadelphia. It’s such a remarkable organization, not only in the work that it supports, but also in the way that it embodies its values in how it functions. So it was no surprise how the Giving Project has developed as a way to combine community building, capacity building, fundraising, and grantmaking to amazing organizations.

Prior to participating in the Spring 2017 Giving Project, I was involved in Bread & Roses as a donor, grant recipient, and member of the Community Grantmaking Committee (a precursor to the Giving Project). I got to know so many incredible organizations and the organizing history and impact of organizations like ACT UP. So, I was thrilled to get the opportunity to participate in a Giving Project.

In addition to the incredible people and challenging conversations, I appreciated the facilitation strategies I learned through the project. I’m a bit of a facilitation nerd, and Aarati’s thoughtfulness in agenda setting and adeptly navigating those charged conversations was really inspiring. The entire team was so open with their personal experiences that it created a space for the rest of us to deepen our connections to one another, too. This modeling of how to communicate with empathy and intention is part of what I appreciate most about Bread & Roses.

Two people sitting at a table working on documents

Erika Owens, left, works with another Giving Project member at their grantmaking training in 2017

I aspire to embody these values in my own work. I’ve learned much of how to do that both through Bread & Roses, and many of the grantees they support, from Juntos to Asian Americans United to the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, my prior employer. In addition, the practice having 1-1 fundraising conversations prepared me for my workplace’s first individual donor campaign. I was able to confidently make direct asks, and support my colleagues in doing the same, because I saw how a community can really come out to support one another through the Giving Project experience. We met and exceeded our fundraising goal!

Nowadays, I’m a total Giving Project and Bread & Roses evangelist. I’ve sent links to funds in different cities to friends. I’ve told anyone new to the city and interested in social justice that they must check it out. I’ve counseled friends about their own thinking about philanthropy, while encouraging them to participate too. It’s hard to contain my excitement and gratitude for this organization and this pathway for learning, growing, fundraising, and giving. Thank you, Bread & Roses, and Social Justice Fund Northwest, for getting us all started!

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