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

Advertisements

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

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

And The 2017 Pooled Fund Grantees Are…

Yesterday, Washington Women’s Foundation members named five organizations to each receive a $100,000 grant from the Foundation’s Pooled Fund, totaling $500,000. In the 22 years since the Foundation’s inception, our members have influenced transformation in communities across Washington State by collectively granting over $17 million. We are delighted to introduce you to this year’s WA Women’s Foundation Grantees and Merit Award Winners!

2017 Pooled Fund Grant Award Winners

Copy of 12244256_1108079419211650_6388223093394342773_oArts & Culture: The Seattle Globalist
The Seattle Globalist is a daily online publication that covers the connections between local and global issues here in Seattle. They highlight diverse voices and train the next generation of media makers. Our funding will help them continue to break down the barriers of entry into media for women and people of color, offering mentorship, guidance and connections as a powerful launchpad for new voices in Seattle.

 

west seattle outdoor preschoolers exploring fungus.jpgEducation: Tiny Trees Preschool
Tiny Tree’s mission is to use outdoor classrooms to make a quality education in reading, math and science affordable for families and to give children a joyful, nature rich childhood – one full of play, exploration and wonder. Our  funding will help them continue to respond to the soaring costs of childcare and its disproportionate effects on low-income families and communities of color by leading the movement for affordable, high quality preschool.

 

RF Workshop BC.jpgEnvironment: ReUse Works
ReUse Works was founded on the simple premise that there is economic opportunity in both the products and the people that our society has discarded. Our funding will help them continue to increase the Ragfinery program’s capacity to provide job training services, sustainable textile recycling, educational outreach about textile waste, and inspiration for creative reuse, while moving Ragfinery toward economic self-sufficiency.

 

IMG_2006 (2)Health: FEEST
FEEST empowers low income youth and youth of color in White Center and Delridge to become leaders for healthy food access, food justice and health equity. They organize 40-45 high school youth once a week to cook an improvised dinner using fresh vegetables from local markets. These community dinners serve as a pipeline to recruit and develop emerging food justice leaders for their year-long internship program. Interns develop and implement campaigns that seek to increase access to healthy foods for students and their families. Our general operating funding will support this work and the continued implementation of their ambitious strategic plan.

 

20150929_BEST_Employers_Alliance_053Human Services: Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking
Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) aligns and equips leaders to use the power of business to prevent human trafficking. Through training, consultation and collaboration, they work with businesses to drive behavioral change and improve the lives of the victims involved. Our funding will help them continue to reduce trafficking in our region by changing the attitudes, perceptions and behaviors that enable human trafficking to flourish.

 

2017 Merit Award Winners

Washington Women’s Foundation presented a $2,000 Merit Award to each of our other five finalist organizations in recognition of the time, effort and goodwill they invested in our rigorous grant making process. This year’s Merit Award Winners are:

Students on Educational Tour, near The Wing.JPG

Arts & Culture: Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience

Wing Luke’s mission is to connect everyone to the rich history, dynamic cultures and art of the Asian Pacific Americans through vivid storytelling and inspiring experiences. Wing Luke aims to create more informed citizens, especially around issues of civil and constitutional rights, immigration, labor history and refugees, through the development of an Asian Pacific American history curriculum, web portal and teacher training.

 

RVC fellows.jpgEducation: Rainier Valley Corps 

Rainier Valley Corps promotes social justice by cultivating leaders of color, strengthening organizations led by communities of color, and fostering collaboration between diverse communities. Their fellowship program recruits, trains, mentors, and supports 10 emerging leaders from diverse communities of color and places them in people of color-led Community Building Organizations to develop the organizations’ capacity.

Spill Kit Training Caption.jpgEnvironment: ECOSS
ECOSS educates and empowers businesses and diverse communities to implement environmentally sustainable practices. ECOSS works to advance environmental equity by providing multicultural environmental outreach, engagement, resources and technical assistance to businesses and communities in the Puget Sound Region that encourage urban redevelopment and a healthy environment. 

 

YBB Pic 2

Health: Yoga Behind Bars
Yoga Behind Bars brings yoga and meditation to prisons, jails, and detention centers to promote rehabilitation, personal transformation, and a more just society for all. They work to help to build safer communities and contribute to the reform of the corrections system through trauma–informed yoga and meditation classes at correctional facilities throughout Washington State. 

It Takes a Village

Human Services: La Casa Hogar

La Casa Hogar’s mission is to connect and educate Latino families, and to transform lives in Yakima Valley. La Casa provides a range of educational opportunities that are specifically suited to the immigrant population in Yakima. Many of these families are at-risk from language, income and education limitations, eroded self-esteem, reduced mobility, few marketable skills, and a scarcity of available resources. Classes offered include English/Spanish literacy, adult basic education, digital inclusion, financial literacy, health education, parenting, pre-school preparation for children, and citizenship education.


Through our groundbreaking model of women-powered, collective philanthropy, Washington Women’s Foundation has awarded $17 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.wawomensfoundation.org

Member Experiences: Deep Dive into Leadership

In fall 2016, 12 WA Women’s Foundation members signed up for our pilot “Leadership Institute” series. The Leadership Institute provided a “deep dive” into leadership training in the style of WA Women’s hallmark grant making curriculum – with hands-on, cohort-based, experiential learning.

WA Women’s Foundation member Janet Boguch led our inaugural Leadership Institute on the topic of “Leading Greatly.” The curriculum was based on Dr. Brene Brown’s research and books Daring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfection and Rising Strong. Click here to see Brene Brown’s TED Talk “The Power of Vulnerability.”Participants worked on connection, courage, vulnerability and what it takes to live a “wholehearted life” as a leader, parent, friend and person in the world.

Scroll down to read from two of these participants, Elizabeth Curtiss and Liz McGrath, about their experiences.

Continue reading

Top 25: Pooled Fund Grants 2017

It’s that exciting time of year again! Over 60 members serving on our Pooled Fund Grant Committee have selected 25 Washington State not-for-profits to move forward in our grant making process.

Want to know this year’s Top 25? Scroll down to read more!

Need a refresher on WA Women’s grant making process ? Our large-scale, strategic approach to collective grant making is a national model that has been tested and refined over the last 21 years. The goal of our grant making and programming is to challenge and educate our members, who then use their collective power to influence community transformation. Together, we have invested more than $16 million through our Pooled Fund Grants, our Partner Grants and individual grants.

Here’s a quick recap of our annual Pooled Fund grant making process:

  • January – LOIs: The Grant Committee studies ~300 Letters of Inquiry (LOIs) and prioritizes 25 to move forward to submit proposals.
  • March/April – Proposals: The Grant Committee evaluates 25 formal proposals and selects 15 organizations to receive site visits.
  • May – Site Visits: Teams of WA Women’s Foundation members visit 15 organizations and report their findings to the full Grant Committee. The Grant Committee then selects the final 10 organizations to appear on the ballot.
  • June – Member Voting: All 475 members of WA Women’s Foundation vote by electronic ballot to determine which 5 organizations will receive our large impact Pooled Fund Grant Awards of $100,000. The grantees are announced at our Grant Award Celebration on Tuesday, June 13.  Mark your calendar now to join us at this special event to be held at the Seattle Art Museum.

And, without further ado, we present the 25 organizations that have been invited to submit full proposals this year:

ARTS & CULTURE

Intiman Theatre: To challenge the notion that the American theatre industry is a white institution by creating and strengthening a pipeline of up-and-coming, diverse artists who are capable of contributing nontraditional viewpoints to the cultural capital of King County.

Pongo Publishing: To break the cycle of trauma both for incarcerated youth and for adults suffering from substance abuse and long-term homelessness through the power of creative expression and mentorship.

ProForum: To forge creative alliances with diverse communities, bring inspiring filmmaking to new audiences and make the art of filmmaking an integral part of social change through Seattle’s only Social Justice Film Festival.

The Seattle Globalist: To break down the barriers to entry into media for women and people of color, offering mentorship, guidance and connections as a powerful launchpad for new voices in Seattle.

Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience: To create more informed citizens, especially around issues of civil and constitutional rights, immigration, labor history and refugees, through the development of an Asian Pacific American history curriculum, web portal and teacher training.

EDUCATION

Greater Seattle Techbridge: To close the wage and opportunity gap for girls, particularly under-represented minorities in low-income communities, by building girls’ interest – and confidence – to pursue STEM pathways.

OneAmerica: To increase immigrant families’ economic mobility and students’ success rates by removing barriers to immigrant parents’ school engagement through contextualized instruction in English language acquisition and digital literacy.

Rainier Valley Corps: To amplify the voices of communities of color in policy-making decisions by cultivating leaders of color, strengthening the capacity of communities-of-color-led nonprofits and creating space for collaboration between diverse communities to effect systemic change.

Tiny Trees Preschool: To respond to the soaring costs of childcare and its disproportionate effects on low-income families and communities of color by leading the movement for affordable, high quality preschool.

University Beyond Bars: To fight mass incarceration, reduce recidivism and end inter-generational cycles of violence and poverty through providing prisoners access to higher education.

ENVIRONMENT

ECOSS: To advance environmental equity by providing multicultural environmental outreach, engagement, resources and technical assistance to businesses and communities in the Puget Sound Region that encourage urban redevelopment and a healthy environment.

Front and Centered: To address the disproportionate impact of climate change and environmental degradation on communities of color and low-income people by advocating, educating, engaging and mobilizing communities of color throughout Washington State.

PCC Farmland Trust: To preserve land, feed local communities and grow businesses in Pierce County by connecting new and expanding farmers with land opportunities.

ReUse Works: To reduce both waste and unemployment in Whatcom county by providing the skills, tools, materials and resources needed to divert textiles from waste to supplies and upcycled goods.

Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility: To reduce the threat of nuclear war by using health-based advocacy and developing a broad West Coast coalition to encourage members of Congress to maintain the international ban on nuclear testing.

HEALTH

Food Empowerment Education Sustainability Team (FEEST): To increase health in communities of color by raising up youth leaders who can educate their peers and families about healthy eating, while simultaneously advocating for systemic change that increases access to healthy foods.

HopeSparks: To reduce the access gap for mental health services in Pierce County by providing more high-quality services for low-income families that would otherwise have no place else to turn to address their family’s mental health needs.

Kindering Center: To respond creatively to increased demand and urgency for vital therapies and interventions through remote audio/video sessions for children with disabilities who are unable to receive services in-person or at home.

University of Washington Foundation – MOMCare: To improve the care of pregnant women on Medicaid, especially those facing antenatal depression, through an evidence-based treatment program that helps reduce depression during pregnancy, prevents postpartum depression and improves parenting and social functioning.

Yoga Behind Bars: To promote rehabilitation, help to build safer communities and contribute to reform of the corrections system through trauma–informed yoga and meditation classes at correctional facilities throughout Washington State.

HUMAN SERVICES

Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking: To reduce trafficking in our region by changing the attitudes, perceptions and behaviors that enable human trafficking to flourish.

La Casa Hogar: To combat the leadership gap among Latina women in the Yakima Valley using a culturally and linguistically competent model that has proved effective to build leadership skills within the Latina/o community.

Room One: To address a primary barrier to financial stability and family wellbeing in the Methow Valley by creating a collaboratively developed childcare center that integrates wrap-around support for families.

Sound Outreach: To help build wealth among Pierce County’s unbanked and underbanked consumers by providing low-cost, low risk financial products to people who otherwise could not qualify.

Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence: To improve housing stability, health and well-being among Native survivors of abuse and their children and to establish evidence to influence policy, practice and funding nationwide.


Washington Women’s Foundation is a strong and inclusive collective of informed women who together influence community transformation.  We do this through:

  • individual and collective discovery,
  • high-impact grant making,
  • and respecting and listening to all voices in our community.

We invite all women to join us to make a more powerful impact in our community. The challenges ahead of us are never as great as the power behind us. www.wawomensfoundation.org 

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