Seattle Foundation Blog

Building a Pipeline of Community Leaders

Seattle Foundation’s Engagement Pipeline grant program builds leaderful movements across the region

December 15, 2020

By Dionne Foster and Bao-Tram Do

Three years ago, Seattle Foundation launched our first cohort of Engagement Pipeline grantees. Our Engagement Pipeline grant program supports leadership development within communities to increase their influence and mobilize community members toward positive change. This program is part of the Foundation’s broader Vibrant Democracy Initiative, which strengthens the voice and participation of underrepresented communities to allow for more equitable systems change. At the time of its founding, we could not quite imagine the ways our country would transform over the coming years. However, we were certain that many of our communities faced renewed threats, particularly targeting immigrants, refugees, and communities of color.

We knew that we wanted to support communities, build a strong voice for people most impacted by systemic and historic inequities, and do so in a way that creates a sustainable and leaderful movement. In an effort to make impact in those areas, we launched the Engagement Pipeline Program, a three-year investment of approximately $100,000 per organization annually. In contrast with more traditional leadership programs, the Engagement Pipeline Program invests in individual leadership development, coupled with broader organizing strategies. We selected our first cohort (2017-2020) of eight grassroots, People of Color-led leadership development programs, housed at the following organizations:

We believe deeply that philanthropy must help nurture leaders who fuel policy change. Investments in community-designed and culturally relevant leadership supports those with lived experience, powerful voices, and critical relationships to leverage their power and effect change. If we know and acknowledge that philanthropy has historically underinvested in Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) organizations and community infrastructure, then we must invest in leadership development as a strategy to begin shifting resources in light of historic, chronic underinvestment.

Seattle Foundation continues to learn from our grantees to improve the ways we resource communities. It is our hope that, through sharing these stories, we can celebrate the incredible work of our first Engagement Pipeline cohort and highlight the need to invest in leadership development as a critical component of fueling systems change.

We are so proud of the work our grantees have accomplished over the last three years. Through their Engagement Pipeline efforts, they have fueled powerful and positive change in our region. They have developed leaders to mobilize their community in the electoral process; cultivated diverse representation on public boards and commissions; changed state policies related to workers' rights; inspired a new generation of community journalists; and addressed inequities for practitioners of color in the medical field.

We were fortunate to work with graphic facilitator Maketa Wilborn, who designed visual story maps to illustrate the narratives surrounding these grantees and the impact they are making in our region. We are delighted to share those images linked here.

Investing in leadership to meet our new challenges continues to be critical – especially as we approach another shift in our country and work towards a more equitable future beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

To learn more about our Engagement Pipeline program and how you can support strengthening community leadership, please contact Bao-Tram Do at

Engagement Pipeline Program - Storymaps

PDF | Flipbook



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