Letter from the President: A Moment of Opportunity

Formal headshot of Beth McCaw of Washington Women's Foundation“[The summer] brought racial disorders to American cities, and with them shock, fear and bewilderment to the nation.” 

Esteemed legal advocate Marian Wright Edelman began her recent Child Watch® column, Unfinished Business, with the quote above. Though it is an excerpt from a report by the National Advisory Committee on Civil Disorders (the “Kerner Commission Report”) issued after the Commission studied the events of the summer of 1967, Edelman noted that these words could have been written today.

Almost fifty years have passed, and our communities of color are still burdened by racism, poverty, inequity and injustice. Mothers in our own community – women who have joined us at WWF events this past year – have told me how they fear every day for the lives of their black sons. Other mothers are fighting for the rights of their transgender children, for better schools, for access to quality health care, for equal pay.

For over twenty years now, the members of Washington Women’s Foundation have tried to be allies in this struggle, funding responses to urgent and critical needs, bold new ventures and new approaches to ongoing problems. Have we been focused in the right direction?

The Kerner Commission Report concluded by issuing three recommendations:

  • To mount programs on a scale equal to the dimension of the problems;
  • To aim these programs for high impact in the immediate future in order to close the gap between promise and performance;
  • To undertake new initiatives and experiments that can change the system of failure and frustration that […]weakens our society.

The Report stated, “[T]hese programs will require unprecedented levels of funding and performance, but they neither probe deeper nor demand more than the problems which called them forth. There can be no higher priority for national action and no higher claim on the nation’s conscience.

We may be focused in the right direction – making high impact grants and taking strategic risks with the intention of changing the systems of failure in our community. But there is more that we can do and that we should do if we want our community to look dramatically different another fifty years from now. THIS IS A MOMENT OF OPPORTUNITY.

So let’s seize the opportunity by taking action. Because collective action is at the heart of all that we do at Washington Women’s Foundation, last week I joined more than 100 presidents from foundations throughout the United States by adding my name to a campaign spearheaded by Darren Walker, President & CEO of the Ford Foundation. The campaign was publicly launched weekend before last in an advertisement that appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. Through the campaign, together, we aim “to encourage people across the country to break through the darkness and find a path toward our ideals of dignity, equality, and justice” by sharing our stories, our #Reasons for Hope.

The Board of Directors of Washington Women’s Foundation also recently pledged to use our collective strength and influence to help convene members of our own community. After the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Board voted to make a grant from our general funds to help underwrite a summit on the intersection of gun violence and hate crimes to be hosted in Seattle this fall. More information to come on this new grant.

But you can act now.

  • Donate to support your fellow members on our Diversity Partner Grant Committee this fall. The Committee, co-led by WWF members Donna Lou and Ann Kumasaka, will be building on the discussions we had together this spring about institutional racism, sparked by our reading of Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson and our viewings of the third episode of the PBS documentary, Race: The Power of an Illusion. (Read and watch if you haven’t already.)
  • Give to an organization that is working at the intersection of poverty, gender and race.
  • Listen to and respect voices in our community that often go unheard.

These discussions are uncomfortable, the problems are deeply rooted. However, I see complex problems motivating our members every day. When we come together as Washington Women’s Foundation, the challenges ahead of us are never as great as the power behind us. 

THIS IS A MOMENT OF OPPORTUNITY. How will YOU respond to it?

Through our groundbreaking model of women-powered, collective philanthropy, Washington Women’s Foundation has awarded $16 million in transformative grants that have enabled not-for-profit organizations to improve lives, protect the environment, advance health and education and increase access to the arts throughout Washington state.

All women are invited to join our strong and inclusive collective of informed women influencing community transformation. The challenges ahead of us are never as great as the power behind us. www.wawomensfdn.org

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