Seattle Foundation Blog

Investing in Nonprofit Effectiveness

Our support for capacity-building now prioritizes communities of color. Applications are open.


September 30, 2019

By Ceil Erickson

Seattle Foundation is committed to creating an inclusive community where all residents have equitable access to the benefits of a thriving and prosperous region. As Seattle Foundation has evolved, we have focused and prioritized our investment strategy on achieving greater racial and economic equity in the region so that all residents have fair and equitable opportunities to reach their full potential.

This evolution includes modifying our approach to our Nonprofit Effectiveness program. Going forward, while we will continue to support local capacity-building organizations, we will specifically prioritize investing in programs that increase the effectiveness and long-term stability of nonprofit organizations serving or based in communities of color.

This approach ensures that our investments align more closely with our commitment to advancing racial equity and economic inclusion. It also allows us to explicitly address philanthropy’s chronic and historical under-investment in organizations for and led by communities of color and communities most impacted by injustices.

Further information about our funding priorities is below. We are currently accepting proposals from nonprofit organizations providing programs that increase the effectiveness and long-term stability of nonprofit organizations led by, serving or based in communities of color. Applications are due Nov. 1, 2019. Download the full RPF.

Capacity-building organizations

We believe a racial equity lens and strategies of targeted universalism are necessary to improve outcomes for all.

We will continue to invest in organizations that build capacity of local nonprofits that have the experience and cultural competency to implement programs that align with our commitment to racial and economic equity. Our racial equity frame helps ensure that nonprofit organizations serving communities of color are meeting their missions and working toward creating communities where every person has equitable access to services, and where geography, race or other group identities are not a predictor of life outcomes.

In our efforts to focus our nonprofit effectiveness grants, we:

  • Acknowledge systemic racial disparities, both historic and current.
  • Adopt an equitable approach to nonprofit effectiveness that addresses the priorities and challenges of organizations led by, serving or based in communities of color. 
  • Ensure equitable access to opportunities and promotion of culturally responsive programming.
  • Focus investments to mitigate the consequences of systemic racism.

Seattle Foundation grantees

The organizations we partner with most closely to achieve our vision and mission are often under-resourced and understaffed, and yet they support communities experiencing the greatest inequities and are seeing increased demands for their services. These groups and their leaders have had less access to financial supports that allow them to focus on building their internal operations or structures, including fundraising, communications, staff and board development, developing plans for the future, or cultivating leadership and future talent.

We will invest in current Seattle Foundation grantees to help them achieve their goals, increase their capacity and resiliency needed to navigate the uncertainties and challenges we face today.

Investments will target unmet capacity-building needs that are self-defined by our grantees that would further position them to have even greater impact. Possible investments include fundraising strategies and sustainability, leadership and board governance, strategic planning, communications, evaluation and organizational learning, and advocacy for changing public policies.

We believe that investing in our grantees to help continue building their core strengths will help maximize their impact and enhance their ability to respond to the significant threats and opportunities we are facing. As a result of this work, we expect to see healthier and more resilient nonprofits that are well-positioned to address systemic causes of economic and racial inequities.

These grants are open to current grantees of Seattle Foundation and are offered by invitation only. By investing in effectiveness of our current grantees we hope to enable our nonprofit partners to focus on capacity-building, which often gets neglected or deprioritized because of competing program priorities that may be viewed as more urgent and critical.

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