And the Winner of the Emerging Issues Partner Grant is…

By Donna Lou and Jennifer Sik

Co-Chairs, Emerging Issues Partner Grant Committee

The Issue

This year, the committee focused its learning and inquiry on the topic of Women’s Civic Leadership and Engagement. As a group, we explored what leadership means in a political and community context, and evaluated organizations focused on leadership opportunities for women in Washington.

The grant committee process began in mid-September and took a total of 12 weeks to complete. As part of our education on the issue, we recommended that the committee read Joanna Barsh’s book How Remarkable Women Lead, shared the Nonprofit AF post Progressive funders, you may be part of the problem and reviewed the Women’s Funding Alliance report The Status of Women in Washington. WFA Executive Director Liz Vivian and Director of Programs Aparna Rae both came to the committee to dive deep into the issue and share their expertise as well. If you’re curious to learn more, we recommend reading WA Women’s Fdn President & CEO Beth McCaw’s recent blog post titled Claiming Our Right to Not Only Elect, But Be Elected.

Our Partner


For those of you that are not familiar with our Partner Grant program, these grant committees differ from our larger Pooled Fund grants because we bring in an external partner. Working with an outside grant making organization assists us with locating potential grantees, and brings expertise to our committee in our focus area.

We chose Women’s Funding Alliance to be our partner in this effort. We thought this would be a good time to once again work with WFA as they were in the process of making grants for their LEAD Initiative. This initiative focuses on funding programs that help bring more women to the table as elected or appointed officials, candidates, voters and civic leaders.

Always interested in experimenting, we decided to try something new in how we structured our partnership this year. Funding for Partner Grants are usually generated by committee members who contribute, on average, $500 each towards the grant. This year because of WFA’s genuine interest in our committee’s work, they became an invested partner with our committee by not only contributing $20,000 to the grant pool, but also inviting WFA donors to join the committee. We were delighted to bring these new voices into our process!

We also had another partner this fall – Laird Norton Wealth Management.  For the second time, Laird Norton Wealth Management also generously contributed to the pool. Thus, the total amount of funds available for this year’s Emerging Partner Grant was $28,000.

Our Process

We reviewed seven proposals from organizations that had applied to WFA for their LEAD Initiative funding. By reviewing proposals that had already been submitted, we were able to minimize the impact on the organizations by not asking them to fill out another grant application. After discussing each proposal we narrowed our choices down to three organizations. We made site visits to all three organizations and then came back together for one last meeting, to discuss what we learned from our visits and vote on grant awards.

As a group, we put together some criteria to guide us in our proposal review as well as our final decision making. This criteria included focusing on underserved communities that would include some geographic diversity, programs that would be innovative, replicable and sustainable, and outcomes that would provide long term, actionable and impactful solutions.

The Grantees

Because we had three outstanding and compelling proposals and more funds then is normally the case for a Partner Grant, the committee decided to award funds to all three organizations. Read on to learn more about the three organizations that received funding from this grant.

Para Los Niños


This organization will be receiving a $20,000 grant from our Emerging Partner Grant Committee.

This grassroots organization is based out of Burien, WA. Para Los Niños leads a family literacy program and two summer programs that engage and involve nearly 200 Latino immigrant families on an annual basis. Their education programs provide an entry point for Latina mothers who might be reluctant to enroll in a program for themselves, but eager to participate in activities for their children. Through this program, Para Los Niños finds ways to build relationships and recruits participants for their Leadership Academy.

The Leadership Academy is nearly 10 years in the making and builds off of a foundational curriculum about the U.S. education and political system, advocacy and community organizing and individual leadership skills.

Although this grant does not cover the entire cost of running the Leadership Academy program, we are hoping that Para Los Niños can use this grant to leverage other funding.

La Casa Hogar

La Casa Hogar EIPG Photo

Our committee is awarding a grant of $7,000 to La Casa Hogar, a non-profit organization based out of Yakima, WA where an estimated 44% of residents are Latina/Hispanic.

La Casa Hogar provides a wide range of social and educational services for the Latina/Hispanic community and partners with local city and state organizations to help low-income families in the region.

La Casa Hogar plans to develop a leadership program that is open to all of their students using a promotora model by developing confidence, education, and civic engagement among 15 Spanish-speaking Latina women who would otherwise not access leadership education.

Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center


Our committee is also providing a $1,000 merit award to Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center based here in Seattle. IPJC is an interfaith non-profit organization that has put together a grassroots community organizing and empowerment program for low-income and underrepresented women through a unique model of organizing called Women’s Justice Circles. Each circle is made up of 10-15 women and meets weekly for eight weeks. Their focus is on identifying a common justice issue, developing collaboration skills, strategies for change and networks for action.

Committee Picture

Prior to our vote for the grant awards, we had a moment of reflection regarding the grant committee’s work over the past 12 weeks. It was heartening to hear how energized and positive committee members were feeling about the process and how many felt humbled and inspired by the amount of work being done by organizations with limited resources. The group enjoyed getting to know each other, and built new relationships between Women’s Funding Alliance and WA Women’s Foundation. We look forward to continuing our education about this women’s civic engagement and leadership, and invite you to learn more about our new grantees!

Thank you to the Emerging Issues Partner Grant Committee: Alison Kilkenny, Alissa Hersch, Amy Corey, Anne Repass, Ara Swanson Merkens, Brooke Walker, Carol Pencke, Donna Lou, Heather Cashman, Jennifer Sik, Lisa Packer, Nancy Elliott, Nicole Stellner, Piper Lauri Salogga, Rebecca Wilson, Tracy Shafer, Yvonne Hall


Claiming Our Right to Not Only Elect, But Be Elected

by Beth McCaw

Since Intersect last Thursday, I’ve been thinking a lot more about sharing power.  However, truthfully it has been on my mind since the 2016 elections, especially knowing that we are nearing the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.  That’s right, we were given the right to vote, thanks to a movement of women and men who demanded that that power be shared with us.

In last week’s elections, women were big winners across the country.  In a few weeks, Seattle will swear in a new female mayor, Jenny Durkan.  It’s only taken the city 91 years to elect a second woman mayor.  When Bertha Knight Landes was elected mayor of Seattle in 1926, she became the first woman to lead a major American city.  Where were the other women in those 91 years?

In terms of women’s political engagement and leadership, the numbers in Washington look pretty good when compared to the rest of the nation.  Women’s Funding Alliance commissioned a study by The Institute for Women’s Policy Research that found:

  • Women’s voter registration and turnout rates are higher than in the nation as a whole. In 2012, 69.9 percent of women aged 18 and older in Washington registered to vote, compared with 67.0 in the nation. More than six in ten women in the state (62.7% percent) went to the polls, compared with 58.5 percent of women in the United States overall.
  • In 2016, Washington ranked fifth in the nation for the number of seats in its state legislature held by women (48 of 147 seats, or 32.7 percent).

Source:  The Status of Women in Washington: Forging New Pathways to Leadership and Economic Opportunity (Institute for Women’s Policy Research & Women’s Funding Alliance 2016).

However, as is often the case when the bar for comparison is set low, Washington’s numbers don’t measure up when we look at representation relative to women’s share of the total population and the historical rate of progress.  The Women’s Funding Alliance Report finds that if progress continues at the current rate, women in Washington will achieve parity in their representation in the state legislature in the year 2038. That further assumes that we don’t lose any ground gained between now and then.

Creating opportunities for women to lead in the civic realm, whether at the grassroots level or in political office, will have long-term impact on our state as a whole. As noted in the Women’s Funding Alliance Report, “Political participation allows women to help shape laws, policies and decision-making in a way that reflects their interests and needs, as well as those of their families and communities.  By running for office, voting, and serving as leaders in their communities, women can make sure their priorities are reflected in public policy decisions and debates.”

Washington Women’s Foundation is committed to amplifying the voices of women, particularly in conversations about important issues facing our communities – climate change, homelessness, gender-based violence, immigration.  To this end, we convened the Emerging Issues Partner Grant Committee this fall and invited our members to examine how to best invest in increasing women’s civic engagement and leadership throughout Washington state.

Through this Committee we are working in direct partnership with Women’s Funding Alliance, using their research and a Request for Proposal they issued to statewide organizations working to prepare women for and position them in civic leadership roles.  Women’s Funding Alliance seeded the Emerging Issues pooled fund with $20,000 and additional contributions have been made by those members of WA Women’s Foundation who are serving on the Committee as well as Laird Norton Wealth Management, a long-time corporate partner of WA Women’s Foundation.

For the first time ever, we have expanded the membership of the Committee – it includes both WA Women’s Foundation members as well as women who are major supporters of Women’s Funding Alliance.  The Committee is being led by WA Women’s Foundation Board member Donna Lou and WFA Board member and WA Women’s Foundation member Jennifer Sik.

Group of Washington Women's Foundation members and Women's Funding Alliance donors

2017 Emerging Issues Partner Grant Committee

Washington Women’s Foundation is a strong and inclusive collective of informed women who together influence community transformation.  We know that there is power in our collective and that there is power in partnerships with other values-aligned organizations, corporations and women in our community.  This partnership feels like we are truly living our mission of being more informed, more inclusive and more influential.  But after Intersect I’m also asking how can we share our combined power with the women who will benefit from the grant this Committee awards?

Please join us to continue this conversation and our collective learning at the Emerging Issues Partner Grant Showcase on December 7th.  We’d love to see more members in this movement.

Membership Focus Group Highlights

Letter from the President

Rainier Club

Dear WA Women’s Foundation Members,

We have completed another phase of this year’s strategic planning process, and I wanted to share some results and data points with you today.  Thank you to the members who participated in interviews and focus groups convened for us by Crux Consulting in mid-September.

Focus groups were organized based upon members’ years of membership (3 years or less; between 3 and 10 years, 10+ years of membership). Not surprisingly, many common themes emerged out of the three groups:

  • The Importance and Relevance of Being a Collective of Women
    Participants expressed a strong commitment to women and the need to organize, support, and empower women in today’s political climate – now more than ever.
  • Appreciation and Respect for the Foundation
    Participants shared an appreciation for the personal learning and growth made possible through the Foundation and also for the multiple ways in which they can be involved and engaged in our collective work and learning.  They also expressed pride in the impact of our grants.
  • Change
    Participants expressed a strong curiosity about change and an openness to strategic evolution by the Foundation.  Some shared specific ideas about how the Foundation should change.  Interestingly, for some participants (mainly those who have been members for 3 to 10 years) there was an expressed expectation or need for change.

Participants also were asked, “In your time as a member, what has WA Women’s Foundation done that matters?”  Again, there were some common themes:

  • The Foundation Has Made Impactful Grants
    The impact was described as twofold – both the dollars we give away (“giving away a lot of money strategically”) and the visibility our grants bring to organizations and issues.  It also was noted that “the Foundation takes risks with who we fund.”
  • The Foundation Has Contributed to Personal Learning 
  • The Foundation Has Helped Build Personal Relationships & Community 
  • The Foundation Has Given Women a Voice

When asked what they would like to see change or evolve through this next strategic plan, participants identified the diversification of our membership, specifically to include more women of color, and tools to tell our collective story better out in the community.

The Board of Directors had a full day meeting in late September to review the focus group data and begin working on the specific elements of our strategic plan.  At that meeting, the Board also reflected sentiments similar to those of the focus groups:

  • A commitment to elevating or amplifying the power of women; and
  • A belief that women are a powerful force for change.

While we are still in the early stages this planning process, we are still committed to having a new strategic plan in place shortly after the Board’s annual retreat, which will occur next March. We also are committed to reporting on our progress on a regular basis and including as many members as we can in different aspects of the process. So there’s more to come.

IMG_1974Fortunately, it hasn’t been all work and no fun this fall at WA Women’s Foundation.  Over the course of just a few weeks we hosted two luncheons.

The first luncheon was for our Founding Members.  Did you know that of the initial investors of WA Women’s Foundation (members who joined in the fall of 1995 and spring of 1996), 60 are still active members of the Foundation today? These women have truly been a powerful force for change!

IMG_2739The second luncheon was for members celebrating their “five year anniversaries” as members.  No, John Floberg, Executive Director of Washington State Parks Foundation has not been a member of WA Women’s Foundation for five years!  However, he has been a member of our Impact Assessment Committee for 2 years, and as his organization received a grant from WA Women’s Foundation in the year that this class of members joined our collective, we invited him to share lunch and stories of the impact of our grant with us.

Looking at the women in these photographs, I feel confident about our fearless future, because I know that it is rooted in the ground-breaking spirit that has always been a part of our DNA. I’m curious to see where it takes us next.  Thank you for your membership in our collective and your commitment to ensuring that the Foundation remains a dynamic, women-powered force for change in our community.  We’re on this journey together!

With gratitude,
Beth McCaw, President, Washington Women’s Foundation

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.


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

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.


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.


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.

Membership Survey Results

Rainier Club

Dear Members of WA Women’s Foundation,

In May we invited all of our members to complete an online survey.  The survey collected several important points of data that will be helpful to the Board of Directors and staff as we develop the next strategic plan for the Foundation.  Because more than 150 members took the time to share their thoughts with us, I wanted to highlight some of the survey results.

Membership – Why Join?

The vast majority of the respondents joined WA Women’s Foundation because a friend, family member or colleague is or was a member of the Foundation.  Not only was it one of the factors influencing the decision, it was ranked by about half of the respondents as the most compelling factor.

Of those who indicated that an event was an influencing factor, most mentioned Discovery Days, the Grant Awards Celebration and the Annual Philanthropy Celebration at SAM.  Thanks to those of you who recently attended our Grant Award Celebration at SAM and brought guests with you.  We hope many of them will join the Foundation before the end of the year!


We also wanted to better understand what women hoped to gain by joining our collective. The following are the top five reasons respondents joined the Foundation:

  • I wanted to learn about important community issues.
  • I wanted to increase the impact of my individual giving.
  • I wanted to meet and work with like-minded women.
  • I wanted to learn about not-for-profit organizations active in my community.
  • I wanted to influence community transformation.

Membership – Why Renew?

The responses indicate that the Foundation is delivering on our promises – women are renewing because we increase the impact of their individual giving and they have learned about important community issues through Washington Women’s Foundation.

What’s Important to You?

We heard once again that having the time to participate is a challenge, especially for working women.  For that reason, we are trying to have fewer events in the morning, host more over the lunch hour and find late afternoon times that are not challenged by traffic. This year, two of the five Pooled Fund Grant Committee Work Groups met in downtown Seattle, and one met at the end of the work day. This fall, we are planning to schedule our Partner Grant Committee meetings in the late afternoon as well.  If you are looking for evening or weekend meeting times, let us know that specifically.  When we have tried some of those in the past, they were not well-attended.


In terms of our grant making, the survey respondents told us it was very important that we make five $100,000 grants each year and that we give $2,000 Merit Awards to each of the 5 organizations not selected for the 5 Pooled Fund Grants. In fact, many comments encouraged us to increase the size of the Merit Awards.  This could be a possibility, depending upon your financial support of the Foundation.  This was the first year that member contributions fully funded the Merit Awards; in past years, the Board has used operating reserves to fund the awards at the current level.

Values – Collaboration, Connection, Education, Equality, Impact, Inclusiveness & Leadership

Like our Board of Directors, the survey respondents had a very difficult time ranking our organizational values, especially since they have not been specifically defined.  When the Board ranked the values, their top three were:

  • Impact
  • Inclusiveness
  • Collaboration

When members were asked to rank the values in order of importance to their experience as a member of the Foundation, the top three responses were:

  • Impact
  • Collaboration
  • Education

When asked to rank the values in the order of importance to our mission, survey respondents’ top three values were:

  • Impact – by a significant margin; it was ranked the top by 48% of the respondents
  • Collaboration – also by a fairly significant margin
  • Inclusiveness

A number of respondents commented on the value of “equality,” which was given the lowest ranking each time.  One member noted that equality was important “internally” but that “equity” was a more important “external” value. Another commented on the importance of the concept of “equity” in the fulfillment of our mission.

Next Steps

As many of you who have served on Boards know, the strategic planning process has many phases.  Last year, as we refreshed our brand, we also updated our mission statement.  Next, we’ll be discussing our organizational values and determining a process by which Board members and members can agree upon shared definitions for our values.  Reaching agreement around our values will allow us to make values-based decisions about what goals we want to set and what strategies we will implement to pursue those goals.

We also want to hear more from you as well as from our grantees. At least one survey respondent asked for more “substantive ways” to contribute to the strategic planning process. As we noted when we distributed the survey, we view it as simply the first step and one tool in a process that will take many months. To that end, the Foundation has engaged a strategic planning firm to help us determine how to best involve as many of you in these conversations going forward with the hope of reaching shared agreement about how to make the culture of the Foundation more inclusive, our educational programming more informative and our influence and impact more transformational.

With Gratitude,

Beth McCaw, President, WA Women’s Foundation