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Seattle Foundation's Moment of Max Q

President and CEO Tony Mestres reflects on a dynamic 2017 and the future of our community


January 30, 2018

By Tony Mestres, President and CEO

I recently learned about the concept of "Max Q" in a conversation with an engineering friend. It struck me how this technical aerospace term is a fitting analogy for Seattle Foundation today and our organizational velocity in furthering our bold mission.

Max Q stands for “maximum dynamic pressure” and is the moment during the launch of a rocket when it undergoes its maximum mechanical stress. It’s the point at which the rocket experiences extreme physical pressure from traveling through the atmosphere at incredible speed. Following a tumultuous ride as it gains speed, Max Q is the instant when the rocket accelerates rapidly and it is propelled into orbit.

For Seattle Foundation, and our regional community, I believe we are reaching our own Max Q. For the Foundation, this is an intentional approach to live our mission to its fullest on behalf of the community. We are collectively approaching a moment where, if we stay focused, align our assets and push through together, the positive velocity for our community will carry us forward to increased racial equity and economic opportunity for all.

As we anticipate that moment of breakthrough, it’s important to reflect on the milestones and achievements that have brought us to this point.

Over the past few years we have executed on major evolutions of our value proposition, voice, community impact model, philanthropist engagement, and our approach to achieving organizational excellence. We have clearly defined our core values, the first of which is courage and heart. For SeaFdn, this means we stand up for the needs of the community and we work with passion and determination. 

Here are some of the developments in 2017 that have propelled us to this moment:

  • Investing nearly $100 million in grants with the philanthropists we support, across the spectrum of community needs, locally, nationally and internationally.
  • Developing more impact investment options for our philanthropists, including new funds with Forterra, Craft 3 and Global Partnerships, which are all generating strong investment and social impact returns.
  • Welcoming 66 new funds, a 40 percent increase over the prior year, with high-impact philanthropists and corporations, bringing our total assets to nearly $1 billion.
  • Driving systems change through innovative partnerships, such as the King County Accountable Community of Health project to transform Medicaid in our region, the Seahawks Players Equality & Justice For All Action Fund, and the Seattle Times’ Project Homeless initiative to find solutions to this chronic challenge.
  • Igniting a powerful philanthropic agenda and attracting new social investors to increase racial equity and economic opportunity through our Community Investment Portfolio.
  • Generating $19 million in community giving to nonprofits through GiveBIG, one of the largest online giving days in the country.
  • Guiding philanthropists and influencing effective giving through dynamic conversations and learning events with leaders including Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, and the Pew Charitable Trusts, many of which were held at our new community event and gathering space.
  • Promoting economic inclusion and family-wage jobs through innovative partnerships with the private and public sectors through the Seattle Region Partnership and SkillUp Washington.
  • Partnering with our board of dynamic, talented leaders that represent incredible organizations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Facebook, the University of Washington, Microsoft and Deloitte.

What’s behind these results is greater rigor and discipline, the strong leadership of a committed board, and a deep, yet humble, commitment to increased racial equity and economic opportunity. We are investing in the long game, backing programs and policies with the potential to truly reshape how our society creates pathways to opportunity. One of those fundamental pathways is the ability to engage in our political process, with a passionately nonpartisan commitment to build bridges. In 2017, Seattle Foundation led multiple efforts to help under-represented communities be heard and seen, to defend their rights and protect their access to opportunity. Through our Vibrant Democracy Initiative, together with King County Elections, we invested in Voter Education Fund grants for 22 local nonprofits that are increasing democratic participation and voter registration in marginalized communities. Through our Resilience Fund, the Foundation and our partners invested more than $900,000 in grants to organizations that are helping community members address discrimination and challenges that have come from changing federal policies and funding.

These results reflect Seattle Foundation’s ongoing evolution, which has, in turn, fueled greater connections with partners and attracted new investors. Among our many important collaborations, we work with the Ballmer Group, Jeff and Tricia Raikes, Brad Smith and Kathy Surace-Smith, Matt Griffin and Evelyne Rozner, Maggie Walker, and Bill Lewis on Leading for Impact, a multi-year initiative to increase the capacity of local nonprofits to go from good to great. We partner with Amazon in efforts to engage its employees in learning about and supporting local nonprofit programs. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation invests in the work of our Center for Community Partnerships to support resident-led initiatives focused on increasing community members' power and influence to increase health, social, economic and racial equity in King County. These collaborations, and many others, signal the growing affirmation of Seattle Foundation’s strategies and role as a civic leader driving positive impact.

SeaFdn is now embarking on our next era of impact. As we look to the coming year, we see our Max Q moment arriving. It’s time to push even harder, increasing the speed of change as well as our impact, propelling our community forward.

None of this would be remotely possible without the impact and continued engagement of the philanthropists we support. We learn from them and they make us better every day. I thank our partners, board, staff and community for the opportunity to lead this Foundation and for the hard-driving efforts to push against gravity, break through barriers and lift our community even higher. 

 

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philanthropistsRacial equityVibrant Democracy InitiativeCenter for Community Partnerships

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