Seattle Foundation Blog

Partnerships Powering Change

2018's Bold Investments and Collaborations Further Equity and Ready SeaFdn for Greater Impact in 2019

April 02, 2019

The Lake Serene Trail, located in the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest off Route 2 near Index, is aptly named. Situated near a crystal blue jewel of a lake and ringed by rock faces and white snowfield patches, this cherished hiking path in Snohomish County will remain serene through the power of partnership — between friends, Seattle Foundation, nonprofit Forterra and the community.

This story begins on a summer day in 2016 when 26-year-old Myranda Meyers joined longtime friend Dylan for a last hike together. Friends for more than a decade, the two had endured a lot together as young adults but nothing greater than Myranda’s battle with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare cancer. Their hike together to Lake Serene, after she had stopped treatment and devoted herself to spending time with family and friends, inspired an amazing gift to our region.

A few days following Myranda’s death in 2017, Dylan heard a call on the news for donors to help save the Lake Serene trailhead. This young Seattle Foundation philanthropist is one of six grandchildren working to preserve her grandmother’s legacy, and, when she heard the call, Dylan thought of that special day hiking to the lake with Myranda.

Dylan decided to approach Forterra with a key gift of $100,000 from her Community Philanthropy Fund to help the organization meet a deadline to purchase the forest land surrounding the trail. Dylan’s gift preserves the land for others to enjoy and later this summer, Forterra will construct a bench in Myranda’s honor, a fitting memorial where someone could find respite and soak in the majestic views.

This partnership is one of many that demonstrate how Seattle Foundation is working to make our region a stronger, more vibrant community for all. Together with philanthropists, community members, nonprofit partners, and business and government leaders, we address the myriad challenges facing Greater Seattle. In 2018, the power of partnerships drove significant growth in all areas of the Foundation, moving us boldly forward as a civic leader, convener and catalyst for greater equity and opportunity.

Lake Serene trail  Lake Serene. Photo courtesy of Forterra.

Partnering to Drive Philanthropic Ambitions into Action

In 2018, Seattle Foundation invested a record $141 million through 7,400 grants and our community day of giving to support a broad range of local, national and international causes. As our impact grows, more people and organizations seek our support to put their philanthropic ambitions into action. We attracted incredible partners in 2018, establishing new collaborations and receiving a record $129 million in investment from philanthropists, corporations and nonprofit organizations. Amongst our valued new partners is the Perigee Fund, a national philanthropic endeavor advancing work in the field of early childhood mental health; the F5 Corporation Fund, working to further STEM education for women and girls; and the Five Angels Foundation, created to build health centers in rural Ethiopia.

In 2018, the Foundation exceeded $1 billion in total assets and we are poised for even stronger growth in the year ahead, supported by investments from local philanthropists as well as national partners such as Ford Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Raikes Foundation, Ballmer Group, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Satterberg Foundation and Hilton Foundation. All of these funders and more are invested in the impactful programs we launched with our partners to advance racial equity and economic inclusion.

Recognizing that our investment portfolio is a powerful channel to drive forth these values, our Investment Committee adopted a diversity policy to ensure strong performance through proactive consideration of investment management firms owned and managed by people of color and women. Inspired by the Association of Black Foundation Executives and its investment manager diversity pledge, this action attracted national attention as a model for other organizations to emulate.

Partnerships power investment to build community.

Domestic worker organizers celebrate victory at the City Council offices  Domestic worker organizers celebrate victory at the City Council offices. Photo courtesy of Casa Latina.

Taking Bold Action to Drive Greater Equity

Seattle Foundation uses our voice as a trusted community leader to drive community change. When we speak out on inequities, we amplify our partners’ voices and build broader support. When we act, people step up and invest with us. With our words and actions, we bring together our region’s brightest minds, its most courageous leaders and, most importantly, the community residents whose lived experience is the key to addressing the most complex challenges of our day.

In 2018, we sharpened the focus of our community impact work with the launch of our Climate Justice Impact Strategy. A first-of-its-kind effort from a community foundation, this initiative was shaped with leaders from our region’s environmental sector and earned immediate support from many philanthropists.

Our Communities of Opportunity partnership with King County made a pivotal investment in nonprofit Casa Latina that led to the passage of the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, making Seattle the nation’s first city to extend these basic protections to household helpers. The county achieved a record-breaking voter turnout of 74 percent in the midterm elections due to a high number of new voters from underrepresented communities registered through Seattle Foundation’s partnership with King County Elections.

Leveraging 20 years of service to the community and our organization, Michael Brown took on an influential new role as the Civic Architect of Seattle Foundation’s new Civic Commons, launched with initial support from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Commons begins with two key initiatives: You Belong Here will address the root causes of barriers to health and well-being, such as structural racism and extreme income inequality. The Regional Indicators Dashboard will support a data-driven approach to measure growth, readiness and economic inclusion to assess the region’s overall well-being.

Our civic leadership earned important community recognition in 2018. We were honored and humbled to be named Nonprofit of the Year at Seattle Business Magazine’s Community Impact Awards in October. Earlier in the year, we received the Municipal League Foundation’s James R. Ellis Leadership Award for our Communities of Opportunity partnership with King County. We share these honors with the many partners who stand with us every day.

Partnerships power our work with community.

Girls view an art exhibit  An exhibit by a Creative Equity Fund partner. Photo courtesy of Jenny Crooks, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.

Creating Collective Action for Complex Challenges

Seattle Foundation was proud to be around the table for the creation of numerous impactful, community-wide partnerships in 2018. Among them were the Pearl Jam Home Shows, which raised $11 million to address homelessness and drive greater awareness of this deeply entrenched and complex challenge in our community. We were also proud to support the Seahawks Players Equality & Justice for All Action Fund, now in its second year fighting injustice and inequality through leadership and education.

Leveraging the power of media, we’re also a key partner in national technology news site Geekwire’s Geeks Give Back campaign to spark charitable giving in the tech sector, as well as The Seattle Times’ compelling Project Homeless reporting, which aims to research and report on the region's problem of homelessness. A exciting new partnership is the groundbreaking Creative Equity Fund, a Seattle Foundation alliance with Macklemore, Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture, Microsoft, ArtsFund, and others to support arts and culture strategies combating racism.

Partnerships power collective action across community.

This summer will mark five years since I stepped into the role of Seattle Foundation’s President & CEO, joining the social impact sector after more than 20 years in technology. One constant through this humbling and metamorphic transition has been my belief in the power of partnerships not only to accomplish great things, but to accomplish the right things with the right people.

In 2019, Seattle Foundation will move forward boldly as a civic leader, convener and catalyst for greater equity and opportunity. I, for one, can’t wait to see the change our partnerships will power in the year to come.

With gratitude,

Tony Mestres' signature

Tony Mestres, President & CEO



Community Issues


communities of opportunityClimate justicephilanthropistsRacial equity

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