By Donna Lou and Jennifer Sik
Co-Chairs, Emerging Issues Partner Grant Committee
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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