Discovery Days Recap: Viewing Philanthropy Through A New Lens

Rainier Clubby Beth McCaw, President, WA Women’s Foundation

“A mind that has expanded to the next dimension, can never go back.” C. Davida Ingram closed the first session of Discovery Days this year with this quote from one of her mentors. The quote describes the hallmark of participation at Washington Women’s Foundation – individual members become changed by new ideas and by each other. We push each other to think beyond our current perspectives.

If you are planning to serve on the 2017 Pooled Fund Grant Committee, you are probably wondering how you can take what you learned at Discovery Days 2016 and apply it to our grant making. We believe at Washington Women’s Foundation that the various perspectives that we collectively bring to our grant making makes the process better. Your perspective is the lens through which you view the world. As Sue Sherbrooke, the retired CEO of the YWCA of Seattle-King County-Snohomish County, once told me, “If you only have one lens in your camera bag, then you’re viewing the world in only one way.” If you and five other women have different lenses in your camera bags, then together, you are able to look at the world in several different ways.

As a woman and the mother of a young girl, I have often thought about my philanthropy through a gender lens. How do girls experience certain situations as compared to boys? Which interventions work better for girls? Is an organization tracking outcome data based upon gender? However, this type of thinking is limited – it doesn’t acknowledge the intersectionality of gender, race and class – or any other factors, such as sexual orientation. So, with more lenses in my camera bag after Discovery Days, I instead might ask, “How do working class girls of color experience certain situations as compared to working class white girls?”

Discovery Days gave me these additional lenses through which to evaluate the philanthropic choices I make, and the Work Groups of our Pooled Fund Grant Committee can also choose to do their work with “more lenses in their camera bag.” With different lenses, here are some different questions you might ask:

  • Does the work described in the Letter of Inquiry (LOI) or proposal interrupt or perpetuate privilege? Ralina Joseph defined “privilege” as “a special right, advantage or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.” Ms. Ingram told us that there is a reciprocal relationship between inequity and privilege. “Unless you interrupt privilege, you can’t achieve equity.” So another question to ask might be: does the work described in the LOI or proposal advance equity or increase inequity? 
  • What history, systems, processes and practices are at play in creating the issues described in the LOI or proposal? Is the organization working “upstream” to address systemic or institutional racism? Ralina Joseph defined “institutional racism” as “the policies, practices and procedures that save the very best for white people and exclude people of color.” These policies, practices and procedures operate to my advantage, as a white women, and also give me immunity. Is this pattern being perpetuated or dismantled by the work of the organization?
  • Is the work described in the LOI or proposal addressing symptoms or the root cause of a problem or set of problems? For example, a food pantry addresses hunger but not the root causes of hunger. One is not necessarily better than the other. Just know how to distinguish between the two so you can decide strategically what you would like to fund.
  • Is the “solution” to the “problem” described in the LOI or proposal paternalistic or chauvinistic? Deconstruct what it means to “help” a community. Ingram cautions that if we are uncomfortable with proposals that involve community activism or organizing, then our philanthropic approach will likely be considered questionable from a community level.
  • When on a site visit, are you only speaking with white Board and staff leaders when the organization being visited primarily serves people of color? Are these white leaders defining the issues as well as creating the solutions for people of color? Where are the voices of color within the leadership of the organization? As Dr. Megan Bang asked us, “Are you giving the community the power and opportunity to tell its own story?”
  • What are the power dynamics in the room? Be aware of how you use your privilege – from taking up too much emotional space/airtime to disengaging.
  • What language am I using and does it perpetuate stereotypes, biases or harm? Mary Flowers recently asked a group of funders, “Would you ever call your own child at-risk?” How would it impact your child if every program or activity she participated in was described, repeatedly, as being for “at-risk youth” or “children in need”?
  • Who is part of our conversation? When you enter a room, notice who is not there and think about how we can change who participates next year. When you review LOIs, notice who has not applied and think about how to change that next year.
  • Does our process enable you to create authentic, mutual relationships? If not, what do we need to change? As Valerie Curtis-Newton said, “If we knew more about each other, we’d be better to each other.” The key phrase here is “each other.”

Whether you are serving on the Pooled Fund Grant Committee or not, you may still want to continue this work. What can you do? Ms. Ingram shared these suggestions for those of us just starting the journey:

  • Take this work on with a sense of urgency. Change may be slow but it should be approached with intentionality and rigor.
  • Think and reflect deeply about your privilege – whether is it class, race, education, ability, sexual orientation – and also how you have been acculturated into racism.
  • Don’t assume a universal subjectivity with women of color. A white woman and a Black woman don’t experience things (including sexism) in the same way just because they’re both women.  A Black’s woman’s experience of misogyny is experienced through her race as well as her gender.
  • Use your place at the equity table around gender to bring race into the conversation. If, as a white woman, you are given a “place at the table” to create “gender diversity,” take the opportunity to also bring race into the conversation. As a white woman, I don’t represent all white women and I certainly don’t represent women of color. But if I’m given an opportunity to show up as a woman, then I’m going to ask challenging questions about race as well as gender.
  • Participate in ongoing trainings about implicit bias. WA Women’s Foundation plans to offer more opportunities in the new year, but there are many classes and workshops currently available in the Seattle area. Some of your fellow members are already engaged, so talk to them or contact the office if you need suggestions.

On the second day of Discovery Days, Valerie Curtis-Newton issued a challenge to us that still rings in my head: “The end of racism is in the hands of white people. The end of homophobia is in the hands of straight people. When will conversation end, and the ‘doing’ begin?”

Twenty-one years ago, our founders created a new model of women-powered philanthropy, rooted in equality and community. What if our philanthropy was rooted in equity and our community was expanded to include those not currently in the conversation? We have the power to begin doing right now. The challenge is ours to accept.


Through our groundbreaking model of women-powered, collective philanthropy, Washington Women’s Foundation has awarded $16 million in transformational 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.wawomensfdn.org

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Advocating for Change: Sponsoring the Summit on Hate and Gun Violence

emilyfeichtby Emily Feicht, former Director of Operations & Donor Services at WA Women’s Foundation. Emily is currently the Assistant Director of Foundation Board Engagement at University of Washington.

At the Foundation’s June board meeting, board members engaged in a conversation about the role philanthropy can play in advocating for reducing gun violence. This year has heightened our awareness of the devastating disproportionate impact of gun violence on communities of color and the LGBTQ community. In the wake of the tragic mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, the Board of WA Women’s Foundation made a discretionary grant to support local community-led efforts to reduce gun violence.

alliance-for-gun-responsibilityWA Women’s Foundation’s grant provided funding for the Summit on Hate and Gun Violence hosted by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility Foundation in early October. Our sponsorship helped the Alliance bring together diverse voices to focus on gun violence prevention and programs in communities disproportionately impacted by gun violence, social isolation and discrimination. As their Executive Director Renee Hopkins noted:

While gun violence prevention work is vibrant and growing, it has not always succeeded at including all communities in the United States. We hope this conversation will help to build a more diverse and inclusive gun violence prevention movement. Your grant allowed us to dedicate October 7th to starting a crucial conversation within the movement in Washington and nationwide. Through innovative approaches to our work moving forward, we hope to fundamentally shift and open up the conversation on how to make all of our communities safer and more connected.

On October 7th, I attended this Summit along with 40 diverse community leaders. The Summit began with a panel of fellow community leaders working on the ground within communities disproportionately impacted by gun violence including: Kayla Hicks, Director of African American & Community Outreach at the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence and Dominick Davis of Seattle’s 180 Program. Their lively discussion focused on the root causes of gun violence and how best to engage communities of color in the work around gun violence prevention.

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A few takeaways:

  • We forget to look beyond the bullet. Gun violence is a symptom of a larger problem, and we have to get to the root of the cause.
  • Creating inclusive policy and advocacy is important. We must engage and make space for conversations within diverse communities to allow them to define their own solutions and actions.
  • Education and engagement are paramount to policy and social change.

I left the Summit inspired by the work already being done within communities disproportionately affected by gun violence and challenged to think beyond my own perspectives on this issue.

If you would like to learn more about the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, visit their website at gunresponsibility.org/our-alliance/.


Through our groundbreaking model of women-powered, collective philanthropy, Washington Women’s Foundation has awarded $16 million in transformational 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.wawomensfdn.org

And the Winner of the $15,000 Criminal Justice Diversity Partner Grant is…

by Ann Kumasaka and Donna Lou
Co-Leaders of the Criminal Justice Diversity Partner Grant
WA Women’s Foundation Board Members

It was an honor to serve as this year’s Diversity Partner Grant Co-Chairs and as always, it gave us the opportunity to meet and get to know so many more of our WA Women Foundation members, which in turn provides me with connections that will last for many years to come.

This year, the process for choosing the topic of criminal justice was timely and carefully planned.

Before the Grant

Our leadership team, led by President Beth McCaw, Grant Programs Manager Laura Ciotti and WA Women’s Foundation member Maura Fallon, put together a year-long program that culminated with the work of this committee. Earlier this year, all WA Women’s Foundation members were invited to read Brian Stevenson’s book Just Mercy followed by a discussion at The Seattle Public Library. Read more about the discussion here

Members were then invited to watch the final episode of the PBS series Race: The Power of an Illusion (2003). The episode called “The House We Live In” focuses on the ways institutions and policies advantage some groups at the expense of others.

The words “mass incarceration,” “Prison Industrial Complex” and the “School to Prison Pipeline” are now familiar terms to many of us. We at the Foundation wanted to become better informed about these social justice issues and take action toward addressing these issues.

As a result, this fall’s Diversity Partner Grant committee focused on Criminal Justice, and it had the highest number of members (24) participate out of all of our previous Partner Grant committees since the initiative began in 2011. Through fundraising and members’ participation, we collected $15,000 to award to one organization.

Our Process

Before the committee embarked on its work, we held a workshop called “Healing from Racism to Build Stronger Philanthropy” led by WA Women’s Foundation member, Maura Fallon. We felt that in order to have a better understanding of the issues we would be studying, we needed to be 1) aware of our own racial identity and its impact, 2) understand how race and oppression have operated individually, and 3) develop goals for becoming an ally through philanthropy.

social-justice-fund-nwAt our first committee meeting, Mijo Lee, Executive Director of Social Justice Fund Northwest (SJF), shared their approach to grant making and educated us about issues within the criminal justice system, about the types of organizations that SJF funds, and why they support grassroots community organizing.  It was an enlightening and humbling experience, and we are very grateful that Mijo took time out of her busy schedule this fall to share her expertise with us as our partner.

Our committee members reviewed proposals from ten Washington-based organizations who, earlier this year, applied for funding directly from SJF. In this way, we were able to hear from some very small organizations who may not otherwise have learned about. After reviewing the proposals, committee members selected 3 organizations that received site visits. We then came together last Thursday, December 1 to talk about our visits and what we learned. We then voted and the grant award winner was determined.

Our Three Finalists

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With its 44,000 members and a coalition of 2,500 small businesses, Washington CAN! is the largest community grassroots organization in Washington state. Since their founding in 1983, they have created and maintained a large, strong and diverse statewide community presence of grassroots leaders and community members working to achieve racial, gender, social and economic justice in Washington state and throughout the nation. They sought funding to support their work to reinstate the parole system in Washington which was eliminated in 1984, largely due to inadequate funding and now-disputed research that suggested rehabilitation-based sentencing fails. The funding would also support work to reform the system of Legal Financial Obligations, which are the extensive fines, fees, and costs imposed by the court on top of a criminal sentence. At our site visit, we met with extremely impassioned family members who are organizing and advocating on behalf of their imprisoned sons and brothers, and it was clear that Washington CAN!’s work in these areas gives much needed support for highly marginalized and impoverished communities under stress.

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T.E.A.C.H., which is “Taking Education and Creating History”, is a higher education program in the Clallam Bay Corrections Center run by the Black Prisoners Caucus designed to bring college-level education to prisoners. T.E.A.C.H. classes are available to every prisoner regardless of ethnicity or religious beliefs. The program provides many opportunities for prisoners to develop a broad range of skills to improve their lives — leadership, teaching and mentorship, curriculum development, parenting, problem-solving, introspection, and a deep understanding of the forces and decisions that have influenced their lives. At our site visit, we met with ten founding members on the T.E.A.C.H. board. Their passion for learning and their enthusiasm to share knowledge has greatly impacted their lives and has radiated outward into the community. State law prohibiting the use of public funds to support higher education for incarcerated people has increased their need for additional support to build a vibrant and sustainable program. Their focus on education and self-empowerment for prisoners is unwavering, and their success has been truly measureable.

Both Washington CAN! and T.E.A.C.H. are exceptional organizations, and both deserve recognition for their incredible service to our communities.

Now it is our great pleasure to announce this year’s $15,000 grant recipient, Colectiva Legal del Pueblo.

colectiva-3

Photo Credit: Myllie Vo

Colectiva Legal del Pueblo (CLP) was founded in 2012 by undocumented community organizers, activists and immigration attorneys working to build community power to achieve dignity and migrant justice through advocacy, education and legal support. Their mission is to provide a wide variety of direct legal services as well as community organizing, community-based trainings and workshops. These programs empower immigrant and undocumented communities to know their rights, de-mystify the legal process and build collective power. CLP employs these strategies to strengthen communities to defend themselves from deportation and detention, and to increase movement building to address immigration reform and systemic racism within immigration laws and policies, both locally and nationally. Dedicated to the abolition of migrant imprisonment that profits off the separation of families and exploited labor, CLP envisions a world in which migrant justice work is rooted in the right of free movement for all people, regardless of borders.

big-check-full-committee-cropped

A number of members from this Diversity Partner Grant Committee plan to stay in touch with each of the three finalist organizations. Many of us feel that a personal commitment, whether to volunteer our time or offer financial support, will help make a genuine difference in the lives of the people that these organizations serve. We invite you to join us and help to create transformational change in our community.

Thank you to the Diversity Partner Grant Committee: Kathleen Albrecht, Suzy Bruya, Susan Burke, Jean Carter, Amy Corey, Kathleen Davis, Lorraine Del Prado, Nancy Elliott, Maura Fallon, Sharon Hammel, Lori Harnick, Jill Hearne, Ann Kumasaka, Jana Mohr Lone, Donna Lou, Beth Morrison, Donna Murphy, Erika Olsen, Sarah Perry, Anne Repass, Paula Riggert, Charmaine Stouder, Brooke Witt, Leslie Yamada
 
A special thank you to leaders Ann Kumasaka and Donna Lou, and to Maura Fallon, who created and facilitated the workshop “Healing from Racism” for all committee members.

Through our groundbreaking model of women-powered, collective philanthropy, Washington Women’s Foundation has awarded $16 million in transformational 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.wawomensfdn.org