Seattle Skyline. Photo credit: tuan nguyen

An Update for Our Community

This update seeks to provide the latest information about our ongoing work to review our current grantmaking policies, and consider ways we can ensure these policies align with our collective commitment to address the widening disparities in our region.

Following a historically challenging year of crisis, we are grateful to everyone who joined in bringing life-saving relief to our community. Together, with partners across our region and our state, we helped mobilize over $125 million in emergency relief for communities most impacted around Washington State. Through our COVID-19 Response Fund, we supported nearly four hundred different community organizations to help people in immediate need. We led with principles centered on racial equity and directed resources to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, including additional resources for Black-led organizations following the murder of George Floyd and countless other lost Black lives, including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Manuel Ellis and most recently, Daunte Wright – and the calls for racial justice that ensued.

Alongside our partners, we’re learning how we can pivot from emergency response to a focus on longer term recovery and reinvention. This includes an acknowledgement that many in our community are grieving—grieving the loss of loved ones due to the pandemic, and unfortunately due to the rise in racist and hateful violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. We hold them in our hearts.

We acknowledge there is much more work to be done in order to swiftly address the systemic inequities that have been exposed through the pandemic. We also acknowledge this work must be done shoulder-to-shoulder with communities of color through active and ongoing dialogue. To that end, this update for our community seeks to provide the latest information about ongoing dialogues with our Stakeholder Advisory Community. This Committee is a cross-sector group of leaders who are collaborating with Seattle Foundation’s team and Board to review our current grantmaking policies and offer recommendations on ways we can ensure these policies align with our collective commitment to address the widening disparities in our region.

Throughout the summer, we conducted community-led research to identify ways we can accelerate our region’s ability to overcome the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 and rebuild towards a more just society. With that, we recently launched the Fund for Inclusive Recovery, which is guided by the following principles:

  • BIPOC Community Investment: This pooled fund will invest in further building the capacity of BIPOC-led organizations and movements and increase the civic influence and power of BIPOC communities as a pathway to a more equitable region.
  • Community-led Change: In the early days of the pandemic, we saw how organizations led by and rooted in communities most impacted by the virus were critical to meeting local needs. With this in mind, a community advisory group, consisting of BIPOC leaders with deep community insights, is guiding our grantmaking for the Fund for Inclusive Recovery.
  • Rethinking Philanthropy: As our communities build back from the COVID-19 pandemic, we face an important decision. We can maintain the status quo of deepening inequities, or we can reimagine our region as a better, stronger, and more equitable place.

We’re eager to share these learnings through virtual gatherings with our philanthropists. Relief and recovery are not only about physical needs. Many also feel the passage of what was once “normal.” At the same time, our social crises showed us more clearly how our old “normal” included broken systems that harm some disproportionately compared to others, often on the basis of race.

As we examine these broken systems and philanthropy’s role in perpetuating them, we were called to evaluate our own approach to grantmaking, which includes a set of policies that go beyond the IRS definition of legal 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. On October 31, 2020, we shared an update with our community about the work we had underway to re-evaluate our current grant policies, as well as a process to initiate an anti-discrimination grants policy review, including components that also focus on anti-hate and anti-harm specific policies and practices. As part of this process, Seattle Foundation formed a Stakeholder Advisory Committee comprised of 24 community members (listed below) who work for a variety of organizations, including many grounded in communities affected disproportionately by racist systems and violence.

  • Aneelah Afzali, Executive Director, American Muslim Empowerment Network
  • Dana Arviso, Director, Unite:Ed Initiative, UW College of Education
  • Diana White, Philanthropist, Founder, Teachers of Color Foundation (Edmonds)
  • Dominique “Dom” Davis, CEO, Community Passageways
  • Evelyne Rozner, Philanthropist
  • Gregory Davis, Managing Strategist, Rainier Beach Action Coalition
  • Janeen Comenote, Executive Director, National Urban Indian Family Coalition
  • Rev. Jimmie James, Being Empowered through Supported Transitions (BEST)
  • Kiyomi Fujikawa, Co-Director, Third Wave Fund
  • LaNesha DeBardelaben, CEO, Northwest African American Museum
  • Michael Ramos, Executive Director, Church Council of Greater Seattle
  • Regina Elmi, Executive Director, Somali Parents Education Board
  • Roxana Norouzi, Deputy Director, OneAmerica
  • Sili Savusa, Executive Director, White Center Community Development Association
  • Taffy Johnson, Executive Director, United Territories of Pacific Islanders Alliance (UTOPIA)
  • Trish Millines Dziko, CEO, Technology Access Foundation
  • Wendy Goffe, Partner, Stoel Rives
  • Rabbi Will Berkowitz, CEO, Jewish Family Service 
  • Representative, Divest SPD
  • Representative, Divest SPD
  • Ed Taylor, Vice Chair, Seattle Foundation Board
  • Janet Levinger, Trustee, Seattle Foundation Board
  • Steve Hill, Trustee, Seattle Foundation Board
  • Tony Mestres, President & CEO, Seattle Foundation

This Committee has been meeting and in regular communication since January 2021. Seattle Foundation is proud to have relationships with many diverse stakeholders including grantees, other funders, community partners, and philanthropists, who will be represented on the committee or asked to provide input.

The Stakeholder Advisory Committee’s purpose is to provide a recommendation or set of recommendations to Seattle Foundation’s Board of Trustees expediently. These recommendations will include potential changes to our grantmaking policies and practices, including but not limited to, the documented policy governing both donor directed grants and Foundation directed grants, as well as supporting practices and methods to adhere to those policy recommendations. We are aiming for that stage of the process to be completed in the coming weeks. Subsequent to that, we will further communicate to the community.

In order to do so, the Committee is focused on:

  • Examining current anti-discrimination grantmaking policy applied to Foundation directed grants and current grantmaking policy applied to donor directed grants
  • Understanding the context facing community foundations as they consider applying new policies to donor directed grants
  • Reviewing examples of grantmaking policies and practices from peer foundations, including components of anti-discrimination, anti-hate, and anti-harm
  • Discussing potential changes to SeaFdn grantmaking policies, including new policies which could be applied both to donor directed grants, as well as to Foundation directed grants

Our senior leadership team is currently revising draft policy language based on feedback from the Committee, which will be reviewed and discussed shortly to advance our review process. Based on this draft language and suggested revisions, the Committee will put forward a set of recommendations regarding ways of advancing equity through improved policies and procedures – to be provided to our Board of Trustees for their review and consideration. We also continue to work with an outside consultant, Angela Powell, Imago LLC, to assist us in the grant policy review process as a thought partner, facilitator, and in support of bridging among diverse community voices.

We can’t deny or undo the vivid examples of injustice that came to the surface in 2020. But with a clearer view of the problems, we’re also invigorated by the knowledge and belief that we can solve them. We invite people to continue work together and with us advancing collective progress – towards a new “normal” in which Seattle is a thriving region of shared prosperity, belonging, and justice where all individuals and communities have equitable access and outcomes, regardless of race, place, or identity.