My Internship Experience at Washington Women’s Foundation

by Mika Day, WA Women’s Foundation Summer Intern 2017

As a college student, beginning a summer internship for the first time can seem like a very daunting task. Oftentimes around your circle of friends, you hear of experiences where someone nails an internship at a company of their dreams, only to be stuck getting coffee and carrying boxes of paperwork all summer. Due to these horror stories, I came into my internship this summer at Washington Women’s Foundation with an open mind, not entirely knowing what I was going to encounter.

GiveFest Photo

To my pleasant surprise, from the second I walked into the 2100 building and began working at Washington Women’s Foundation, I felt welcome by both the staff and the members of the Foundation. Working here throughout the summer, I soon discovered that the staff is full of incredibly hard-working, confident, intelligent women who carry a real passion for what they do. The work environment at the office is extraordinarily collaborative, dynamic, and fun because people who work here truly enjoy what they do and who they do it with. With this, the staff is also constantly looking for ways to make the Foundation better by evaluating the way that they do things and thinking of more innovative ways to do them in the future in order to widen the Foundation’s scope of influence. Their care for their grantees, their members, and for their non-profit work exudes through their dedicated and tireless efforts. Additionally, the women who work at WA Women’s Foundation are exceptionally focused on making their programming and events great experiences for their members, where women can both learn and expand their mind while formulating close-knit social relationships with other members. The relationship between the staff and the members of the Foundation are a large part of what makes the Foundation thrive, as both groups are steered toward the same goal of addressing the needs of the people, all while strengthening communities in Washington State.

mika

Being an intern at WA Women’s Foundation, I found myself to be an integral part of helping the Foundation achieve these goals. From sitting in and learning about DEI topics in Discovery Days Committee meetings to helping the staff organize letters of inquiry from various non-profits across the state, my duties as an intern were varied and exciting. My wide-ranging set of tasks that I had everyday opened my eyes to what working for a non-profit looks like and made my experience the well-rounded one that it was. Throughout my time here I have learned so much about the non-profit industry, the collective-giving model, the grant-making process, DEI, and many other topics all while learning other valuable skills like data-inputting, maintaining paper and digital organizational systems, events management, communication practices, Excel work, Salesforce basics, and general office and organizational skills. I value the talents and abilities I learned here so much as I can take them into my future endeavors as both a student and a future young professional in the workplace.

In conclusion, spending the summer as an intern at Washington Women’s Foundation was far from the coffee-grabbing and file-copying experience that I feared. My time here was so much more valuable than that. What I enjoyed the most about my internship is that I never felt like just an intern here. The work that I was doing felt important, the things that I learned felt unique to the Foundation, and colleagues at WA Women’s Foundation became friends and mentors. I leave this summer holding the staff and the members of WA Women’s Foundation in the highest regard and I hope that one day I can, in some way, shape, or form, be a part of the important work that they do at the Foundation every day.

Mika Day grew up in Redmond, and will be a junior this fall at Chapman University, where she is studying Business Administration with an emphasis in entrepreneurship and a minor in Women’s Studies

Advertisements

Membership Focus Groups

Rainier ClubLetter from the President

Dear WA Women’s Foundation Members,

As the summer comes to an end, the next phase of our strategic planning process is beginning.  As you will recall, in May we invited all of our members to complete an online survey.  More than 150 members took the time to complete the survey, and I shared a summary of the responses with you in my June President’s Letter.

Over the summer, the Board of Directors convened a Strategic Planning Task Force that is assisting us in determining what data we need from members and the community, how to make the process as member-inclusive as possible, and how to best structure discussions at the Board level.  The Task Force is being chaired by our Board Chair, Grace Chien, and meets on a monthly basis.  Many thanks the following members who are serving on the Strategic Planning Task Force:  Board members Jodi Green and Carrie George, Pooled Fund Grant Committee Chair Susan Heikkala, Patricia Kiyono, Jill McGovern and Julie Stein.

We also had a second task force meeting over the summer.  Earlier this year, thanks to the advocacy of our Board member Bo Lee, WA Women’s Foundation received a $30,000 grant from Bo’s employer, BNY Mellon, to launch a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative at the Foundation.  The grant did not lay out specific requirements or guidelines for this initiative, so our Board of Directors convened a second task force to research options, discuss opportunities and make a recommendation to the Board that could be folded into our strategic plan. Grace Chien, our Board Chair, also chairs this task force, which will be continuing to meet over the next few months.  Again, thanks to the following members who are serving on the DEI Task Force:  Board members Cherry Banks, Donna Lou, Martha Kongsgaard, and Bo Lee, and at-large members Maura Fallon and Diankha Linear.

1August Meeting

As part of the next phase of data collection for our strategic plan, our consultants Tara Smith and Barbara Grant of Crux Consulting are conducting staff and individual member interviews.  In addition, they will be convening member focus groups in mid-September.  Many members volunteered to join in these conversations, and we have arranged the focus group participants in separate sessions based upon their years of membership (3 years or less; between 3 and 10 years, 10+ years of membership). To those of you who volunteered for the interviews and focus groups, our deepest thanks.  We appreciate your commitment to the Foundation and your interest in helping us craft a vision for our future.

Aviva Stampfer, our Grants Program Manager, is also working with the Strategic Planning Task Force and has developed an online survey that we are going to send to all of our past grantees.  We are interested in hearing their opinions about the process of applying to WA Women’s Foundation for funding.  As a learning collective, we are always interested in process improvement.  We know that the grants application process is time-intensive and for smaller nonprofit organizations, can be a drain on already limited resources.  If you attended the first day of Discovery Days 2015, you may recall our speaker Vu Le encouraging funders to look at their grant making processes to determine whether they are “stacking the deck” against certain organizations, especially small, grassroots organizations serving communities of color and led by people of color.  We think it would be helpful to know this about our processes.  In addition, we are sensitive to the fact that an intensive process is often a barrier to a Foundation’s ability to be nimble and responsive to urgent and critical community needs.  If we want to increase our impact, we may need to become more nimble.

2

The grantee survey also is a vehicle for collecting more data that we haven’t necessarily collected in a systematic way in the past.  Obtaining this data will allow us to complete a “gap analysis” to better understand what issues, communities and geographic areas we have traditionally funded and which we have not.  This analysis will help us better define what impact we have had in the past as we think about what impact and influence we want to have in the future.

The Board of Directors has a full day meeting in September to review the survey, interview and focus group data.  I will make a report at the Annual Meeting of the Membership, which will be held on Wednesday, October 25, 2017, at noon in the 2100 Building. I do hope you will join us.  Click here to register for the Annual Meeting.  Our goal is to have a new strategic plan in place shortly after the Board’s annual retreat, which will occur next March.  As I mentioned in my previous President’s Letter, our overarching goal is create a plan to make the culture of the Foundation more inclusive, our educational programming more informative and our influence and impact more transformational. Thank you for helping us by sharing your thoughts and your vision for the future of WA Women’s Foundation.  Our collective thinking and action makes the Foundation stronger.

With Gratitude,

Beth McCaw, President, WA Women’s Foundation

IAC Year-End Report: Reflecting on Our Impact

Did you know that while the IAC may not be as visible as our Grant Committees, it is by far our largest committee with over fifty members participating on any given year? Why so many? We follow fifteen grantees— each of our annual five recipients— for 3 years with 3 to 5 members on each grantee team.

The Impact Assessment Committee’s charge is to “monitor the progress of Foundation Pooled Grants, communicate the impact of these grants to the Foundation’s membership, provide feedback to the Grant Committee and seek to strengthen the relationships with the Foundation’s grantees.”

A cohort of Executive Directors representing a wide range of our past grantees form a key part of the IAC, providing valuable insight into the challenges of operating a nonprofit.  Our deepest thanks to these Executive Directors who shared their time and expertise with us:  Brian Knowles (Bailey-Boushay House, 2012 Health Grantee); Daniel Petersen (Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra, 2012 Arts & Culture Grantee); John Floberg (WA State Parks Foundation 2013 Environment Grantee); Kelly Stockman McKee (Friends of the Children, 2008 Education Grantee); Stan Ledington (The Health Center, 2013 Health Grantee); Jorge Barón (Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, 2013 Human Services Grantee); John Bradshaw (Seattle Shakespeare Company, 2011 Arts & Culture Grantee); and Helen McGovern-Pilant (Emergency Food Network, 2010 Human Services Grantee).

At meetings, the Impact Assessment Committee focuses its discussion primarily on four key areas:

  • Organizational accomplishments with our grants;
  • Challenges faced and lessons learned;
  • Financial health and leadership stability;
  • Themes and trends that cross all five areas of our funding.

In addition to looking for sector trends that can better inform our work, IAC also is curious about the trends in our own grant making.  Which communities are we funding, and where?  Which groups of individuals are being served by the grants we make?  Where are gaps?  In response to these questions, our staff will be conducting an internal trends analysis over the summer, and we will publish those results in the early fall.

The following are highlights of what the Impact Assessment Committee observed and learned this past year:

  • Organizational change is inevitable. Successful organizations have the resilience to navigate change and manage adversity. In the future, members serving on the Grant Committee may want to consider if there are ways to assess an organization’s resilience, especially if unexpected change could prevent the organization from achieving goals related to our grant.
  • Partnerships are key to solving complex issues. If we’re funding an organization that needs to build partnerships to achieve its goals, we should consider the organization’s ability to build those partnerships.  Does that organization have the clout or reputation to build effective partnerships?  Why is it uniquely qualified?  Does it have the capacity to be the catalyst?
  • Sometimes United Way funding does matter. We don’t always have to fund organizations that also receive a lot of traditional institutional funding.  In fact, we often pride ourselves on being the first foundation funder that other institutional funders follow.  However, as the IAC learned from some of the Executive Directors on the Committee, in certain communities in particular, the lack of United Way support is an indicator of risks and challenges that we should fully understand and appreciate before making a funding decision.
  • Executive Directors suffer from serious burnout, which leads to turnover, and fundraising is often the greatest contributing factor, especially in small to mid-size organizations. Multi-year grants of general operating support help, but the sector needs more of these.  Capacity-building grants are also critical.  WA Women’s Foundation can help address this troubling issue by continuing to award grants of general operating support and investing in capacity-building.
  • Political events impact our grantees and their success. Uncertainty in funding sources can be a source of stress, especially for organizations that rely on federal grants. We can support our grantees by checking in with them about this topic throughout our relationship with them.

Through site visits and annual reports, we hear stories from our grantees about their triumphs and challenges. We share these occasionally in our weekly newsletters, highlight them on our Facebook page, and also would like to share some recent updates with you here.

Terrain Photo 3

Terrain, 2016 Arts & Culture Grantee

In their Annual report, Terrain shared that our “operating grant has helped build our capacity and deepen the roots that firmly plant Terrain as THE arts organization focusing on Spokane’s cultural vibrancy, creative economy, and artistic innovation.” They have hired staff to transition from being an all-volunteer run organization, launched new programs to cultivate the creative economy in Spokane, and continue to attract bigger and bigger crowds to their events.

eRP_FEPPS_048.jpg

Freedom Education Project Puget Sound, 2015 Education Grantee

FEPPS has had incredible success since the beginning of our grantee relationship. They shared, “In 2016 we had 4 graduates with Associate of Arts degrees.  In June 2017, we had 19 graduates, which was covered in the Seattle Times.  In 2018, we have over 30 women on track to graduate. All of our 12 alumni who have released from prison are enrolled in two and four-year colleges and universities upon release.” Additionally, they are working to increase advising for their students and hope to launch a BA program within the program soon.

WWT.PNGWashington Water Trust, 2016 Environment Grantee

WWT is growing strategically, and shared that our support “has given staff and leadership the flexible time to delve more deeply into professional development, creative and strategic thinking that will bring innovative solutions into focus”. WWT hired their first Investments and Partnership Officer in November 2016, built a customer relationship management system, and continues to expand into more geographic regions across the state.

whidbey_650_0.jpgForefront, 2015 Health Grantee

Our grant to Forefront was focused on bringing suicide prevention programming and support services to rural communities in Washington, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. In two years they’ve reached six rural counties, training hundreds of health and school professionals and individuals in suicide prevention. In a recent blog post, Jennifer Barron reflected “The WA Women’s Fdn grant is very community-focused. It made it possible to have collaborations with cross-sections of communities, to ask: “what can we do?”

Pillar -6691_-Edit.jpg

Amara, 2015 Human Services Grantee

In a recent report, Amara shared that “Since opening in December 2014, the King County sanctuary has provided a warm, home-like environment for more than 460 children.” Grandese’s Place (as the Emergency Sanctuary is known) helps decrease stress for children in transition to foster care, and has 118 trained volunteers. Amara continues to grow this successful program; in December 2016 they opened another emergency sanctuary, this time in Pierce County, to address an urgent need from the community.

Interested in serving on the Impact Assessment Committee? Openings will be publicized in the fall.


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