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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

Controlling Nervousness for Public Speaking

Did you know that public speaking is thought to be as stressful as divorce?? Yikes!

And yet, it is one of the most important professional skills that leaders can have. So how can we calm our nerves, reduce our stress and succeed as public speakers?

Last week, we welcomed back Arden Clise, the Pacific Northwest’s resident expert in business etiquette, to share her secrets for getting more comfortable with public speaking. Here are Arden’s top 10 ways to control nervousness:

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9 Business Etiquette Tips for Women Leaders

Arden-Clise-loresWe were thrilled to welcome Arden Clise, the Pacific Northwest’s resident expert in business etiquette, to share her knowledge with our members and guests. As more women are stepping into leadership roles than ever before, the essentials of business etiquette are critically important in order to help make any professional, networking or board-related interaction more effective.

Here are Arden’s 9 takeaways for women leaders :

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