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Seattle Foundation Celebrates Record Year of Community Philanthropy

Nearly $100 million invested in 2015 and total grants hit $1 billion since Seattle Foundation’s inception.


January 21, 2016

In a record-setting 2015, Seattle Foundation, in partnership with community philanthropists, invested nearly $100 million into the region and hit $1 billion in total investment since the foundation was established 70 years ago.

“The generosity of community philanthropists and partners and the commitment by nonprofits to tirelessly work towards creating a stronger, more vibrant region is truly humbling,” said Seattle Foundation President and CEO, Tony Mestres. “Together, we reached important milestones this past year and while we celebrate these accomplishments, we know there is much yet to be done to create the community that we’d like for all the residents of Greater Seattle.”

“While we have a booming and diversified economy, a highly educated workforce, and a progressive approach to social issues,” said Mestres, “there continues to be growing needs and disparities in our region. We need to invest in reinventing the systems that perpetuate chronic inequity and this is where the power of philanthropy can truly move the needle to make our region a stronger, more vibrant community for all.”

Grants made through Seattle Foundation in 2015 totaled $99.2 million, benefitting 3,200 local, national and international organizations.  In part, Seattle Foundation’s annual community philanthropy day GiveBIG brought in $16.3 million over a 24-hour period for nonprofit organizations serving Greater Seattle.

Under the leadership of Tony Mestres, Seattle Foundation has increased its level of civic engagement and community partnerships, using its philanthropic expertise to develop targeted strategies that quicken the pace of progress toward equity and opportunity for all. Examples of this work include:

  • Communities of Opportunity – This initiative supports community-identified goals that increase equity – health, social, racial and economic – and positively influence policies, systems and practices.

  • Leading for Impact – Offered in partnership with Bridgespan Group, this initiative is a comprehensive capacity building program to engage and increase the level of effectiveness of nonprofits in Greater Seattle.  Fifty local organizations are enrolled to participate in this two-year program.

  • Impact Investing – Seattle Foundation is a local leader in catalyzing philanthropic dollars as investments (rather than direct gifts) in organizations and programs. Using funds to generate both a financial return and a social good, impact investing is fostering greater venture philanthropy in our region.

  • GiveTogether – This effort enables community philanthropists to increase impact through collaboration.  In 2015, it generated $1.8 million in grants to address homelessness, foster education for living-wage careers, expand out-of-school learning opportunities, address climate change, prioritize mental health, integrate immigrant and refugee communities, increase access to arts and culture, and empower women and girls globally.

In 2015, Seattle Foundation publicly supported King County’s Best Starts for Kids levy which passed on November 3.  This levy was the first ballot measure Seattle Foundation has endorsed in its history. The levy will increase public investment in early interventions so that more children and youth in King County reach adulthood healthy and ready to succeed.

Philanthropists’ gifts into the Foundation also neared $100 million for 2015.  Forty new community philanthropy funds, scholarship funds and nonprofit endowments were established during the year by local families, businesses, and nonprofits. Seattle Foundation manages more than 1,200 active and legacy philanthropy funds.

Seattle Foundation was founded in 1946 with an initial endowment of $289,000. In its early years, Seattle Foundation focused solely on capital improvement grants. Early gifts from Seattle Foundation supported development of Swedish Hospital and the construction of Overlake Hospital on the Eastside. Starting in the early 2000s, Seattle Foundation expanded its investments in the community with general operating support and unrestricted funds to the growing number of nonprofits that contributed vital services to this region.

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communities of opportunityeducationearly interventionGiveBIGcollective givingeconomic opportunitygrantshealthy community frameworkGiveTogetherimpact investingphilanthropistssocial equality

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