Ep 27: Leadership in Times of Crisis with Tonia Wellons, President & CEO, Greater Washington Community Foundation
“We need to mobilize resources where they're most needed so we can bring up everyone to the same level of thriving.” Tonia Wellons is a fan of the African proverb "If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together." Except during the COVID crisis, Tonia has moved lightning-fast AND together, by galvanizing dozens of philanthropic organizations to drive unprecedented levels of coordinated resources to the most vulnerable of communities. She is brilliantly leading the strategic, focused efforts of Washington-area funders to mitigate the disproportional pandemic impact on communities of color. Tonia is intentional about leading a long-term, deep, systemic transformation in the world, starting with our community. And she is just getting started! What you'll learn How Tonia’s perspective as a leader has been influenced by historical, family and geographic factors, bridging generations and geographic boundaries - from ancestors in slavery to rural, community-focused upbringing, to work spanning the globe and social justice arenas. Why reflecting on history-defining events and people - from Doug Wilde to Rodney King to Nelson Mandela to George Floyd – compel her quest for social justice and hopeful perspective that light will emerge from darkness. How the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted inequities and disproportional impact on communities of color. Gifts and challenges of collaborating across philanthropic organizations and priority areas. Why Tonia and her colleagues have prioritized COVID giving in areas of: food security, domestic and community violence, legal services, medical care and access, housing and homelessness, education and education and youth. Reasons it’s crucial to support leaders of color whose organizations are consistently underfunded. Tonia’s perspective on how this crisis is different due to current cultural, governance, and democracy failures underpinned by racial inequities. Why police reform needs to become a focus in every jurisdiction. What each of us can do to contribute to the much-needed transformation in our country. And so much more! Links & Resources Greater Washington Community Foundation – amazing organization Tonia leads. Leadership Greater Washington - fantastic organization for leaders in the D.C. area Tonia and I belong to. Books, articles and videos referenced: Affirmative Action is a tool for Racial Equity, Tonia Wellons “The Case for Reparations”, Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates How to Be an Antriracist, Ibram Kandi White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo Color of Law, Richard Rothstein Nonprofits Led by People of Color Win Less Grant Money With More Strings (Study), Jim Rendon TED talks to help understand racism in America About Tonia Wellons Tonia Wellons is the President & CEO of the Greater Washington Community Foundation, the largest public foundation in the Greater Washington region. The Community Foundation's mission is to Build Thriving Communities by galvanizing philanthropy and investing locally to maximize community impact. Our vision is for a more equitable, just, and thriving Greater Washington for all, and especially for those who have been systematically marginalized in our region. Leading an organization with a staff of 30, $335 million in assets under management, and $60 million in annual grants, Tonia oversees the day-to-day business of the organization, serves as chief development officer, and works with the Board of Trustees and staff to determine the strategic priorities of The Community Foundation. Tonia has successfully launched and led programmatic and development efforts for several key initiatives at The Community Foundation, including VoicesDMV, the Resilience Fund, and the Partnership to End Homelessness. She also has purview over all grantmaking, community engagement, and strategic partnerships. Prior to joining The Community Foundation in July 2016, she served as a political appointee for the Obama Administration as head of global partnerships at the Peace Corps. Tonia was responsible for leading the agency’s relationships with other federal agencies, the private sector, international NGOs, and donors. Most notably, Tonia led bold cause-marketing partnerships at the Peace Corps for Let Girls Learn (an initiative of First Lady Michelle Obama). Tonia previously served as fund manager of a multi-donor initiative focused on financial access and inclusion at the World Bank Group. She also spent a significant part of her career working on USAID-funded capacity development initiatives during the immediate post-apartheid era in South Africa and the broader sub-Sahara region. In 2010, Tonia founded the Prince George’s County Social Innovation Fund (PGCSIF) in an effort to 'shift the narrative' and build social capital in the County. The Innovation Fund's flagship initiative, Forty Under 40 Prince George's, recognizes top talent in the County, and connects them to political, social, and economic opportunity all the while sharing the important story of amazing people - under the age of 40 - who live and work in Prince George's. Tonia is a 23-year resident of Prince George's County and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She has a master’s degree in Public Administration and International Development Policy from the University of Delaware, and a bachelor’s in Political Science from North Carolina A&T State University.