Lessons Learned: Assessing the Impact of Our Grants

Rainier Clubby Beth McCaw
President, Washington Women’s Foundation

Did you know that there are men serving on a committee at Washington Women’s Foundation? It’s true – on our Impact Assessment Committee.

Washington Women’s Foundation has been awarding grants since 1996 and has been formally reviewing the impact of those grants since 2003. That year, the Foundation formed its first Impact Assessment Committee “to create an understanding of the impact of our grants both by creating lasting partnerships with grantees and by collecting and maintaining historical records on grant impacts.”

Now, our Impact Assessment Committee works between October and June of each year, conducting post-grant site visits and meeting monthly to share with each other what they have learned. This past year, more than 40 members served on the Committee along with 12 Executive Directors, including 4 men. We invite Executive Directors to join the Committee as they bring expert insights and unique perspectives that further our learning as grant makers. 

Through our impact assessment process, we focus on three things:

  • Developing deeper relationships with our grantees
  • Learning about their successes and challenges
  • Identifying themes and trends that cross all five of our funding areas.

By communicating what the Impact Assessment Committee learns each year to the leadership of the Pooled Fund Grant Committee, we hope that we are becoming smarter and more strategic in our collective decision-making.

Each year we try to improve the way that we communicate these learnings to our broader membership. Our hope is that an upgrade to our website may help facilitate that in the future. In the meantime, here is feedback from the 2015-2016 Impact Assessment Committee:

  • We applaud the increased diversity that we’re seeing among grantees – geography and populations served, specifically.
  • Continue to look for grassroots investment opportunities and new organizations that have never sought funding from us before but also don’t forget about larger, established institutions with innovative ideas or projects that only private philanthropy can fund.
  • While WWF is beginning to fund more organizations outside King County, we would love to increase the number of grants going outside King County and metro Seattle, especially those areas with fewer resources and opportunities for funding.
  • Continue exploring the value of taking risks with potential grantees and define the degree of acceptable risk.
  • We often expect “to bat 1.000” with all of our grants but is this realistic? Is it keeping us from expanding our view of what success means? We saw several grantees this year succeed in unexpected ways, and we encourage members to remember that our uniquely flexible grants can allow grantees opportunities to “fail,” which often leads to important learnings.
  • When a grantee goes through an unexpected seismic shift, don’t be afraid to look at what happened, what we might have missed during grant process, what we could have asked, so that we’re better informed in future.
  • Succession planning for leadership is a big issue that crosses all parts of the not-for profit sector. Succession planning is more than just knowing who the next Executive Director is going to be. We need to know how our grantees are thinking about succession planning.
  • Keep up a willingness to look a second time potential grantees. Programs and organization will have changed since they first applied for a grant, so it’s important to look at them with fresh eyes.
  • WWF is funding more “springboards,” projects that can be replicated in other counties, which is an exciting trend. When looking at whether or not this is possible, though, note that resources and needs vary from county to county. It requires depth in organizational soundness to recreate successful programs in new locations.
  • We commend the Pooled Fund Grant Committee for bringing forward prospective grantees whose efforts may not necessarily come to fruition during the grant period. Entrenched problems require long-term thinking and long-term efforts. 
  • WWF’s willingness to make grants for general operating funds makes us relatively unique. We can continue to encourage potential grantees to apply for them as these unrestricted funds can be transformational.

Through our groundbreaking model of women-powered, collective philanthropy, Washington Women’s Foundation has awarded $16 million in transformative grants that have enabled not-for-profit organizations to improve lives, protect the environment, advance health and education and increase access to the arts throughout Washington state.

All women are invited to join our strong and inclusive collective of informed women influencing community transformation. The challenges ahead of us are never as great as the power behind us. www.wawomensfoundation.org

 

The Many Roads That Lead to Membership

ejpIMG_8353by Megan Davies
Director of Programs & Communications, Washington Women’s Foundation

Last week, the Member Engagement Committee of Washington Women’s Foundation hosted a New Member Social to welcome women who became members in the last 12 months. 18 women gathered at the Bellevue home of Member Engagement Committee member Anne Repass to get to know each other better over a glass of wine.

I am always surprised to hear the varied responses when you ask each new group of women, “Why did you join Washington Women’s Foundation?” I can almost guarantee – you’ll never hear the same story twice!

For example, new member LB Kussick joined Washington Women’s Foundation after retiring as the Executive Director of the not-for-profit organization PEPS. LB brought her expertise and valuable perspective to the Pooled Fund Grant Committee this year, and she reported that she was very happy to find that WA Women’s was respectful of the needs and limitations of small not-for-profits.

Here’s another example: new member Shelley Milne worked at Pediatric Interim Care Center when they received WA Women’s Pooled Fund Grant Award in 2002, and she described “falling in love” with the members who attended their Site Visit. 13 years later, Shelley joined. She participated on the Pooled Fund Grant Committee this year and, after 20 years of working in the not-for-profit field, she loved the new perspective she gained by being on the “other side” of the grant making table, as well as the comradery and various perspectives of the committee members.

And one more: Jane Hargraft took a new leadership job at Seattle Symphony in 2011, moving to Seattle from Toronto. She joined Washington Women’s Foundation this year because she wanted to meet more women in the community and because she was impressed with the integrity of WA Women’s grant making process.

We heard many more stories: a professional organizer who joined after sorting several clients’ “WA Women’s Foundation” folders, a former lawyer who joined before she could actively participate because she wanted to be a part of the movement of women’s leadership in philanthropy, an accountant who was ready to branch out of her normal industry social circles, a woman wanting to learn how to give more strategically – and many more.

In the office, we talk about the “secret sauce” of WA Women’s – what is it that engages you, our members, and what keeps us thriving as a collective of philanthropic women? I’m convinced that the secret sauce is our community, created through the opportunity to work collaboratively and learn from women who have diverse experiences, skills and interests.

The Member Engagement Committee and the staff are committed to creating more opportunities for our members to develop relationships with each other and to build a true sense of community and shared purpose within Washington Women’s Foundation.

IMG_5509

Our new members!


Through our groundbreaking model of women-powered, collective philanthropy, Washington Women’s Foundation has given out $16 million in transformative grants that enable not-for-profit organizations to improve lives, protect the environment, advance health and education and increase access to the arts throughout Washington state.

We invite all women to join us to make a more powerful impact in our community. The challenges ahead of us are never as great as the power behind us. www.wawomensfoundation.org 

Reflecting on Personal and Family Philanthropic Values

Rainier Clubby Beth McCaw
President, Washington Women’s Foundation

Recently I experienced the most-dreaded of working mother maladies – the child care provider’s vacation. In order to cobble together coverage for the week, I had to bring my nine-year old daughter, Cameron, to a not-for-profit Board meeting with me one evening.

During the meeting, I thought Cameron was deeply engrossed in her online math homework. However, after the meeting, before we even got to the car, she had me deep in a discussion about whether only people as rich as Bill Gates could donate money to make lives better (in addition to telling her that many people practice philanthropy, I felt compelled to remind her Melinda was just as rich as Bill!) and how she could help other children in her community.

While my husband and I do involve Cameron in our personal philanthropy, I realized then that she may be ready to participate on a deeper level. It turned out that my child care provider’s vacation was a gift to our family, because it offered another opportunity to discuss philanthropy and family values with my young daughter. 

Last week Anne Knapp, the Director of Philanthropic Initiatives at Woodland Park Zoo, offered the same opportunity to WWF members. Anne led a two-hour workshop for women interested in grounding their philanthropy in their personal values. Anne also gave us tools for broadening the conversation about values and philanthropy to include members of our families.

Anne’s workshop was based upon the research and writing of Dennis Jaffe, PhD (www.dennisjaffe.com). According to Dr. Jaffe, values are important because:

  • Values are the internal guides to our behavior.
  • Values are somewhat consistent but can change over time, as we grow and mature.
  • By reviewing out past and current values we can identify what values we want to guide our future actions.
  • Values are aspirational. People are never perfect. Values wouldn’t be important if they were easy to live by.

As I reflected on my personal values during the workshop, I was struck by how those values don’t always translate into my philanthropy. For example, I value life-long learning and education, which is why I enjoy learning new things and impress the importance of education upon my daughter. Interestingly, however, I donate more frequently to human services organizations than educational organizations.

What are your values? How do your values guide your philanthropic choices (or not)? How do your values show up in the work that we do collectively at Washington Women’s Foundation? How would you like for them to show up?

Selections from Anne Knapp’s Recommended Reading List

Cochell, Perry and Rod Zeeb. Beating the Midas Curse 

Gallo, Eileen, Jon J. Gallo, and Kevin J. Gallo. Silver Spoon Kids: How Successful Parents Raise Responsible Children 

Gates, William H. and Mary Ann Mackin. Showing Up for Life: Thoughts on the Gifts of a Lifetime

Gottman, John, Ph.D. and Joan Declaire. Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting

Grubman, James, Ph. D. Strangers in Paradise: How Families Adapt to Wealth Across Generations

Jaffe, Dennis, Ph.D. Stewardship In Your Family Enterprise: Developing Responsible Family Leadership Across Generations

Twist, Lynne. The Soul of Money: Reclaiming the Wealth of Our Inner Resources


Through our groundbreaking model of women-powered, collective philanthropy, Washington Women’s Foundation has given out $15 million in transformational grants that enable not-for-profit organizations to improve lives, protect the environment, advance health and education and increase access to the arts throughout Washington state.

We invite all women to join us to make a more powerful impact in our community. The challenges ahead of us are never as great as the power behind us. www.wawomensfoundation.org