What research can I use to help make my giving?
Partnering with Seattle Foundation gives philanthropists access to expert counsel and community knowledge to elevate your philanthropy from transactional checkwriting to transformative social investment. Our blog and our Heart & Science publication brings together a wide array of qualitative and quantitative data, including featured stories on nonprofit organizations, information about local and global issues and strategies for effective philanthropy.
What is a community foundation?
Seattle Foundation is among the largest of more than 700 community foundations in the United States. Community foundations are tax-exempt public charities that serve local philanthropists who wish to take an organized approach to giving. Community foundations are public nonprofts so their philanthropists enjoy increased tax advantages not available to private foundation donors. Community foundation philanthropists also receive professional support without hiring staff. Unlike private foundations, community foundations invest and administer a pool of funds contributed by numerous philanthropists. Together, these philanthropists create an endowment—in essence, a community savings account—designed to ensure the long-term health of the nonprofit community. To learn more, visit the Council on Foundations and read more about the history of Seattle Foundation.
How does Seattle Foundation invest its funds?
As stewards of the community’s funds, Seattle Foundation invests for the very long term. Our portfolio is highly diversified and has shown to produce outstanding long-term results. We are pleased to retain Colonial Consultants as our primary investment consultant. Colonial has a wealth of experience advising endowments and foundations, and is unique among investment consultants for its familiarity with community foundations in particular. Read more about our investment strategy and our most recent investment report.
Can philanthropic funds established at Seattle Foundation benefit organizations outside of King County?
Yes. We help donors achieve their philanthropic goals in King County and beyond.
How do I contact Seattle Foundation?
You can also contact us by:
- Calling us at 206.622.2294
- Emailing us at [email protected]
- Completing this online form
Is this site secure?
Seattle Foundation’s online account system employs the latest security technology utilizing SSL encryption as well as hardened servers. Read more about our privacy policies.
Does Seattle Foundation have an anti-discrimination or anti-hate policy?
As part of our commitment to continuously improve and align our policies with our mission and vision, Seattle Foundation periodically reviews and updates our policies and procedures to ensure legal compliance, as well as adherence to best practices in the field. Seattle Foundation shares these updates with our philanthropists, community partners, and other key stakeholders. As it relates to discrimination and hateful activity, our grant policy can be found here.
Does the Foundation publicize its grant awards?
We publicize many of our grant awards on our blog and often also promote them to local news outlets.
How can I open a fund?
We are pleased that you are interested in taking the steps to learn more about opening a fund. Our philanthropic advisors are here to assist you in your philanthropic journey. To get started, please fill out our Fund Inquiry Form and one of our philanthropic advisors will be in touch shortly.
How can I get in touch with my philanthropic advisor?
One of the benefits of working with Seattle Foundation is access to personalized philanthropic advising. You can find contact information and a bio of your philanthropic advisor on our team page. If you do not know who your philanthropic advisor is, please reach out to [email protected].
How does the grant approval process work?
There are two tracks for grant approval. For organizations who regularly receive grants from Seattle Foundation funds and who have been vetted through our due diligence process, grants are pre-approved by the Board of Trustees on an annual basis. For new grantees, due diligence must be completed at the time of the recommendation and the Board’s Grants Committee approves the grant within the week due diligence is completed.
Can I buy a ticket to a nonprofit event from my fund?
It is illegal to receive any personal benefit as a result of making a contribution from a Donor Advised Fund. Therefore, event tickets, auction items and other such benefits cannot be purchased through your fund. You may certainly sponsor a nonprofit event through your fund, but you must purchase your ticket separately.
Can I recommend a multi-year grant from my fund?
It is possible to set up a multi-year commitment from a Seattle Foundation fund. However, this has to take the form of a letter of intent from Seattle Foundation and the grantee. Seattle Foundation cannot honor any pledge commitments from a donor to an organization. If you plan to make a multi-year commitment that will be paid out of a Seattle Foundation fund, it is crucial that you work with us from the outset and do not sign any pledge documents.
Can I recommend that grants be made anonymously?
Yes, absolutely. You may choose that your name, the name of your fund, or both remain anonymous in the transmittal letter that accompanies your grant checks. It is a simple process, and we are keenly aware of the importance of maintaining anonymity for our philanthropists who request it.
How current is my fund balance?
We strive to keep the information displayed in your fund balance as current as possible. Typically, fund balances are updated on a monthly basis, with gift and grant transactions updated as they are processed. In the Fund Summary section at the top of the Your Account page, you’ll find the date through which your fund balance is current. Read more detailed information about our investment management.
How long does it take for a grant check to reach a recipient?
For grantees that are pre-approved by the Board, checks are cut within a week of the recommendation. For new or less common grantees, the process typically takes two weeks. There can be complications to the due diligence process that result in grants taking longer, though these are extreme cases.
How often are fund statements produced?
Fund statements are produced quarterly for the preceding quarter.
When are administrative fees assessed?
Administrative fees are assessed monthly. Learn more (pdf) about Seattle Foundation’s fees.
When are investment returns allocated to my fund?
Investment returns are allocated monthly. All allocations are usually completed by the 20th of the following month. At year end, this will typically take a few additional weeks.
Can I make a donation to my fund online?
Yes, you can make direct debit contributions to your fund through your online account. For access to your account or for other ways to make contributions, please contact your philanthropic advisor. You can also contact our philanthropic services team at 206.515.2111 or [email protected].
When will I see my gifts to my fund online?
Gifts are processed weekly. You will typically see a gift appear online the week after it is received in our office. Some types of gifts, such as real estate or private securities, may take longer.
What is the best way to make a grant recommendation?
There are a number of ways to make a grant recommendation and the easiest is through your online account on the website. Of course, you can always email [email protected] to inform your Philanthropic Services team that you wish to make a recommendation.
Can I get a grant from a donor advised fund?
Donors that have established charitable funds that make grants to nonprofit organizations based on their own areas of interest. Typically, these funds do not accept direct requests from individual nonprofit organizations. However, through our our in-depth consulting services to individual donors and their families we share our community knowledge with philanthropists and act as a matchmaker—connecting philanthropists to local nonprofit organizations.
When should my organization apply for a grant?
View our current grant opportunities page.
How does the Foundation communicate with nonprofits?
The best way to stay in touch with Seattle Foundation initiatives is to sign up for our newsletter.
What can my nonprofit do to keep in touch and stay connected to Seattle Foundation?
Your nonprofit can engage in the following:
- Sign up for our mailing list
- Visit our website to learn more about the programs we are operating and how to access them, including our current grant opportunities.
- Respond to staff requests for updates on your organization’s work, which will inform our work with donor giving circles and philanthropist consulting.
What is the Center for Community Partnerships?
Seattle Foundation founded the Center for Community Partnerships to focus directly on targeted efforts to achieve greater racial and economic equity. Understanding that social problems are products of networks of cause and effect at a policy level, the Center focuses on advancing systems change as the most effective way to advance this goal. Neighbor to Neighbor, Communities of Opportunity and Vibrant Democracy Initiative all fall under the Center for Community Partnerships.
My organization just changed its name or changed its primary contact. How do I update information with Seattle Foundation?
Please share any organizational updates by emailing [email protected]. If you have legally changed your organization’s name, which will be reflected on your tax status as a 501(c)(3) organization, we can make the change in our records. We will require an updated copy of your 501(c)(3) determination letter that includes the new organization name.
You are also welcome to let us know any dba (doing business as) names for your organization, but this will not be reflected in checks or our other accounting. If your organization has undergone a leadership change, please send us the updated information of the primary contact for your organization (usually the executive director or board president.)
What is a fiscal sponsor and how do I get one?
A fiscal sponsor is an organization with 501(c)(3) IRS tax-exempt status that agrees, in writing, to be responsible for the fiscal management of a particular program or project that does not have its own tax-exemption status with the IRS.
When applying for a Seattle Foundation grant, the fiscal sponsor needs to provide the required attachments as well as a letter signed by the executive director that indicates they are acting as the fiscal sponsor for the “sponsored” organization. This information must be submitted with the application attachments.
Seattle Foundation does not extensively fiscally sponsor organizations. To learn more about fiscal sponsorship and look for a sponsor, explore the National Council of Nonprofits’ list of resources.
Why does the name of a fund appear on our organization’s notification letter or grant record form?
Grants made through Seattle Foundation Grantmaking Program are supported by a variety of funds—including unrestricted funds, area of interest funds, and partnerships with donors. Many of these funds were established through wills and bequests, and are endowed to fulfill the donor intentions over time through our Grantmaking Program.
Why don’t I receive email messages from you about upcoming nonprofit events?
If you do not receive emails from us and would like to, please sign up for our mailing list. You can also email [email protected]. Also, you may want to check with your IT department to make sure that your organization accepts emails from @seattlefoundation.org. They may be blocked or could be going into your junk email folder.
For Professional Advisors
As a professional advisor, can I consult with the Philanthropic Services team?
Yes. We provide advice and support to Seattle Foundation philanthropists and their advisors, including attorneys, CPAs, wealth advisors and insurance professionals. We are happy to discuss options for giving, provide more detail regarding our services and prepare illustrations of possible philanthropic structures. Please contact the Philanthropic Services team at [email protected] or 206.515.2111 for more information.
How can Seattle Foundation help my client with the philanthropic aspects of their estate plans?
We offer a variety of planned giving vehicles that may be of interest to your clients. Seattle Foundation has the great privilege of being named as a beneficiary in a number of wills, life insurance policies and IRAs. We would love to have the opportunity to consult with your clients on the philanthropic portion of their estate.
My client would like to convert their private foundation into simpler structure. Can you help?
Yes. Seattle Foundation can absolutely help your client convert their private foundation into either a Personal or Family Foundation or a Community Philanthropy Fund at Seattle Foundation. This situation comes up fairly often when clients find the administrative burden, tax reporting and/or required distributions no longer fit with their goals. We are quite familiar with the process of converting a private foundation into a fund held at Seattle Foundation.
What information can I give my clients about Seattle Foundation?
Most of the Foundation materials are provided online and are available in print by request. You may order print materials by calling Cherlyn Cloy at 206.505.2108.
What options are available for philanthropists who wish to give during their lifetimes?
Personal or Family Foundation – Utilizing the popular structure of a donor advised fund, a Family or Personal Foundation provides engaged philanthropists – individuals, couples or families – the structure and advisory support to create and activate a strategic giving plan over time.
Community Philanthropy Fund – Also using the donor advised fund structure, and including philanthropic advisory services, a Community Philanthropy Fund provides philanthropists with an effective and efficient structure for grantmaking.
Read more about both type of funds.
What services do your philanthropic advisors provide?
Seattle Foundation’s team of philanthropic advisors can provide a wide range of services, from working with your clients to help identify their philanthropic interests or devising a giving plan to facilitating multi-session family or personal philanthropy engagements to bring families together across the generations in support of shared interests and values. Our team is the largest and most extensively-trained philanthropic advisory group on the West Coast. Services provided can be specifically tailored, depending upon your clients’ needs and preferences. In addition, our advisors have extensive experience in the nonprofit community and can be an invaluable resource for identifying nonprofits and initiatives that have an impact on the issues that matter the most to your client. Please contact the Philanthropic Services team at [email protected] or 206.515.2111 for more information.
Why should my client establish a fund rather than create a private foundation?
While there are certain situations in which a private foundation may be the ideal choice for your client, there are a number of reasons why our philanthropists have chosen to open a fund at Seattle Foundation instead. Partnering with Seattle Foundation to set up a Personal or Family Foundation or a Community Philanthropy Fund is faster, easier and less expensive than establishing a private foundation, and includes the opportunity to engage with our experienced philanthropic advisors. Many donors also prefer the benefits of the donor advised fund platform, including the freedom from annual distribution requirement and annual Form 990-PF filings. Plus, grants can be made anonymously, an option that is not available with a private foundation.
Why shouldn’t my client give directly to the organization(s) they wish to support?
Giving directly is one option; however, there can be a variety of benefits for clients who choose to establish a fund at Seattle Foundation and make their philanthropic gifts via their Family or Personal Foundation or Community Philanthropy Fund:
- If a client has a high-income year (due to a fluctuation in earnings, the sale of a business or property, etc.) he or she may wish to “pre-fund” future charitable giving by contributing an optimized amount to a fund with us. She or he would then benefit from a larger-than-usual charitable deduction, which can be taken in the year of contribution to a Family Foundation or Community Philanthropy Fund, to offset his or her higher income tax obligation. Plus, she or he would have funds set aside to use in future years for her ongoing charitable giving.
- If a client wishes to become more strategic in his philanthropy, and move beyond transactional check-writing to more focused, impact-driven giving, he or she may want to take advantage of the advice and consulting services provided to Seattle Foundation philanthropists by our experienced team of philanthropic advisors to develop and implement a giving plan that meets those goals.
- Some clients prefer to remain anonymous when making some or all of their charitable gifts. A fund at Seattle Foundation permits them to make grants to the organizations of their choice while keeping the source of the grants confidential.
- Seattle Foundation’s online donor portal makes it easy to keep track of grants made throughout the year, and can be a useful tool in ensuring that a client’s giving is distributed across the desired organizations and in the desired amounts. Plus, there is only one “contemporaneous receipt” generated upon each contribution to the fund, which may simplify the client’s record keeping at tax time.
Will you serve as a trustee of my client’s charitable remainder trust or charitable lead trust?
We are able to serve as the trustee of CRTs or CLTs in many situations. We would be happy to discuss your client’s specific situation to determine whether engaging Seattle Foundation as trustee of a charitable trust is the right choice. Please contact the Philanthropic Services team at [email protected] or 206.515.2111 for more information.