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GCN stands with the Black community

Today, we want to reaffirm that the Georgia Center for Nonprofits (GCN) stands in solidarity with the Black community, and everyone across the country engaged in the fight for a more just and equitable society. 

We condemn the deeply-ingrained, systemic racism faced by Black people that has caused them unquantifiable pain over generations, and we recognize that more must be done by GCN, the sector, and each of us individually.

The disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on Black communities; the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick; the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, like so many other Black citizens, at the hands of police: These are clarion calls to those of us working to make the Beloved Community a reality, laying bare the devastating toll of inequity.

These are clarion calls to those of us working to make the Beloved Community a reality, laying bare the devastating toll of inequity.

The nonprofit sector embodies what is best about America: the freedom to work together for the common good and to translate shared beliefs into action. Our country’s highest ideals, boldest dreams, and noblest causes sit squarely in the mission statements of over 1.3 million nonprofit organizations – over 30,000 right here in Georgia. Across our state, we feed, heal, shelter, educate, nurture, and inspire people of every age, gender, race, and socioeconomic status.

However, we need to recognize – together – that this is not enough: We have fallen well short of actualizing our ideals.

For over 30 years, GCN’s mission has been to unleash the transformative power of nonprofits to create thriving communities across Georgia. In addition to our work helping nonprofits build their capacity and scale their impact, we gather the influence of our sector to affect change. As the CEO of GCN for more than 24 years, I recognize that we have not done enough.

I also recognize the exhaustion that our Black colleagues, clients, friends, neighbors, coworkers, family members, and fellow citizens must feel regarding nonprofits’ words, social media posts, and, yes, our mission statements.

The fact is that the entrenched systems keeping racism and inequity alive and well in society are also embedded in our own sector. As leaders, we must do more – and be more – before we can claim, truthfully, to be mission-driven. 

We are under no illusion that we can stamp out racism in the hearts of every individual, but we must stand up with a singular mission to stamp out racism in our systems.

The fact is that the entrenched systems keeping racism and inequity alive and well in society are also embedded in our own sector.

That means looking inward. Some of the questions I’ve been asking myself: How is our own organization complicit in perpetuating inequity? How are we working across organizational boundaries to lift people out of poverty? Are we leading hard conversations about structural racism? Who do we hear, and who do we allow to lead? How are we mobilizing resources and influencing decision-makers to support common aims?

It also means looking outward with a deeper sense of purpose. What is our common mission as a sector, if it isn’t to support the democratic pillars of opportunity, equality, and justice? We cannot possibly secure those ideals without understanding, and working to undo, public policies that thwart opportunity and erode, or outright deny, the most fundamental of democratic principles for Black people. That includes equal treatment under the law, equal access to justice, equal access to the ballot box, and equal representation in our public institutions.

The time for words is over. As leaders of, and within, organizations, we need to express our solidarity through action, taking account internally and working externally to right inequity and heal the damage it has caused. The only way to truly honor our missions is to embrace policy reform and advocacy as integral to and inseparable from our work, and to ensure that our own organizations are actively learning how our own structures, processes, and practices need to change.

We need to express our solidarity through action, taking account internally and working externally to right inequity and heal the damage it has caused.

Georgia’s nonprofits wield tremendous influence. Economic studies have proven, time and again, that our work is critical to the state’s economy: We represent 10 percent of Georgia’s private workforce; we generate two jobs in the for-profit sector for every one of ours; without the quality-of-life ROI we deliver – engaging citizens to get involved, improving conditions for workers and their families, providing the building blocks for thriving communities – Georgia would be unable to attract and retain businesses.

We are a sleeping giant. Let us awaken to our collective purpose as a sector and act.

Here are some steps that anyone reading this letter can take right now:

Here are some steps that nonprofit leaders can take right now:

Here is what you can expect of GCN:

Thank you for your engagement in our mission and your commitment to making our state more just, equitable, and prosperous for everyone.

Karen Beavor
President & CEO
Georgia Center for Nonprofits

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