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

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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.

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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.

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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

Member Reflections: Seattle Center Outing

July 21st was a beautiful summer day in Seattle. 30 WA Women’s Foundation members gathered at Seattle Center for the unique experience of visiting 3 past grant recipients on their home turf:

Intiman Theatre, 2016 Merit Award Winner, hosted us for a lunch where members connected with Intiman’s diverse summer cohort of Emerging Artists. The Intiman Emerging Artists are 70% people of color and 60% identified as female. More on the program in the reflections below.

The Vera Project, 2006 Pooled Fund Grant Award Winner, led us on a tour of their concert and arts creation space for young people that our grant helped to fund. The Vera Project provides classes, camps and working space for teen and young adult artists to create visual art and music.

Seattle Shakespeare Company, 2011 Pooled Fund Grant Winner, led a discussion about their touring productions our grant funded, which help bring Shakespeare to life for high school students across Washington State – some of whom have never before seen live theater.

Read post-event reflections from two WA Women’s Foundation members below.

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Grantee Site Visit: Amara

On May 5th, members of WWF visited our only two-time Pooled Fund Grant Award winner Amara’s brand new office space in South Seattle. Amara works to ensure that every child in foster care has the love, support and comfort of a committed family – as quickly as possible, and for as long as they need.

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John Morse, Amara’s Executive Director, gave us a sneak peek at two new initiatives Amara is working on:

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HR 101 for Board Members

As a nonprofit board member, you are probably aware of your basic fiduciary and governance responsibilities. But how can you help your nonprofit protect one of its most valuable assets – its people – while protecting the organization and yourself from potential corporate – and personal – liability? Washington Women’s Foundation presented a special 3-part “Human Resources 101” series to help board members and executive directors navigate this topic.

Here are a few best practices shared by series presenter Aviva Kamm that nonprofits and their leaders can take to minimize and manage legal issues:

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