Roadmap Sponsor Profile: Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

October 14, 2015
By The 2030 Group

Tamara Copeland Headshot

 Tamara Copeland is the President of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Tell us a bit about the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, its mission, and how your work ties into the work of the 2030 Group.

WRAG is the shorthand name for the mouthful that is the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers. We represent foundations and corporate giving programs that are focused on the National Capital Region—Northern Virginia, suburban Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Our job is to work with them to make their philanthropy more effective and responsive to regional needs.

Like the 2030 Group, we are focused on the region and we want to work with multiple stakeholders. Until recently, we have not been as connected to the business community. We want to change that.

Bottom line:  we are both working for a more accessible, sustainable, prosperous and livable region.

What were the key drivers behind your decision to support the Roadmap initiative?

There were two reasons:

  1. WRAG is concerned about our region’s over-reliance on the federal government for jobs, but perhaps for a less obvious reason. When the federal government shut down the last time, local social profit agencies with contracts connected to government were forced to lay off workers and cut back services to vulnerable populations. We care about the impact events like this have on our community and want to be as involved as we can in the effort to identify ways in which our regional economy can mitigate the effects of reduced federal funding on the area.
  2. Philanthropy wants to connect with the business community in a more deliberate and stronger way to make our region better. There is much work to be done in order to overcome our present challenges and prepare for those that lie ahead, and regional collaboration will help us get there.

One of the main areas of focus for WRAG is affordable housing. Do you see affordable housing as something we must improve in our region in order to provide a higher quality of life for those living in the region today and to attract and retain residents in the future?

Absolutely.  Affordable housing – be it rental units or houses for purchase – is a critical need in our region. Stories and reports about how unaffordable this region is are popping up on new sites on a daily basis. We have to fix this. WRAG wants  to make sure that there are housing options throughout our region for people at all income levels and we want to make sure that lower income people have access to the greatest asset that most of us will ever have: a home that we own.

My father was a real estate broker and he always told me that owning a home was a key part of the American dream. He said, you could live in it, rent it, or borrow against it. That lesson resonates with me as WRAG works on affordable housing.

Do you see affordable housing as a large obstacle for millennials?

I do, but I see it as a much bigger issue impacting more than just millennials.  Hard-working firefighters, retail workers, and tourist industry workers of all ages sometimes can’t afford the rent on an apartment in this region, much less afford the cost of purchasing a home.

What steps are currently being taken to address the housing affordability issues in our region?  And, what steps do you hope to see taken moving forward?

I’m excited about the establishment of the Greater Washington Housing Leaders Group (GWHLG), a group of public and private sector stakeholders concerned about the housing affordability crisis in our region and its potential impact on our economy and quality of life in the future. I am pleased that WRAG is one of the co-conveners of GWHLG, which, to my knowledge, is the first time that developers, both for profit and non-profit, have met with philanthropy, the social profit sector, government, and academia to determine how to address this situation that affects us all. This partnership is still in its infancy, but shows great promise. To learn more about WRAG’s work around housing and the GWHLG, click here.

In addition, WRAG has been encouraging philanthropy to consider impact investing as a vehicle for addressing the housing affordability problem.  Actual investments from philanthropy, not grants, can be a new form of capital available in our region and WRAG has been working with the Enterprise Community Loan Fund on this venture.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Well, yes. One thing I know for sure is that the key to addressing homelessness in our region is providing folks with homes. And, lastly, WRAG is delighted to work with the 2030 Group on the Roadmap project and to play a role in providing a high-quality of life for residents of the National Capital Region today and in the future.