Letter from the President & CEO: Moving WA Women’s Fdn Boldly Forward

Formal headshot of Beth McCaw of Washington Women's FoundationFor over a year, our Board of Directors and staff have been working with various groups of members to think deeply about the future of WA Women’s Foundation. During the course of this lengthy strategic planning process, we have surveyed members, convened member focus groups, interviewed past grantees, and surveyed grant recipients as well as past grant applicants. Our strategic planning consultants met with our Committee Cabinet as well as the Impact Assessment Committee, the Member Engagement Committee, and our 2018 Pooled Fund Grant Committee leadership, including work group leaders.

Much of the feedback we received from you and our grantees is summarized in my April 27, 2018, Letter from the President. I also invite you to read recently posted community reviews of our grant making process on GrantAdvisor.org/WAWF.

We have appreciated your participation in this process as we have worked to create a plan to make the culture of the Foundation more inclusive, our educational programming more informative and our influence and impact, as a collective of women philanthropists, more transformational. As you know, so much about our community and our place as women in it has changed since WA Women’s Foundation was founded more than 20 years ago. In addition, many of you, our members, are wanting the Foundation to change – to become more responsive to community needs, more nimble and flexible, more focused on reducing disparities and advancing equity, and more adaptable to your emerging interests and busy schedules. Our Board of Directors believes that to respond to these changes we need more than a “typical” nonprofit strategic plan. We require a strategic framework for the transformation of the Foundation – and that is what the Board of Directors has adopted.

martin luther king jr quoteOur Strategic Framework 2020 is grounded in our mission, which remains the same. We are committed to being a strong and inclusive collective of informed women who together influence community transformation. We do this through individual and collective discovery, by respecting and listening to all voices in our community, and through high-impact grant making. In other words, together we learn, listen, and act in order to be inclusive, informed, and influential in our collective work.

Our Strategic Framework 2020 also reflects the fact that our founders established this organization to challenge the conventions of philanthropy. Their mantra was, Charity fills a need. Philanthropy makes change happen.” To make change happen, philanthropy must not only seek to alleviate the effects of injustice and inequity, it must eliminate the causes of it. For this reason, the Board of Directors adopted a strategic framework that incorporates bold objectives for our community as well as for our membership:

  • For Our Community – We will focus on reducing disparities and increasing equity in Washington state
  • For Nonprofits – We will fuel a thriving nonprofit sector working to advance equity
  • For WA Women’s Foundation – We will create an organizational culture and structure based upon partnership and power-sharing
  • For Our Membership – We will grow an inclusive community of powerful agents for change

These objectives will require us to do some things differently. For the past 23 years, WA Women’s Foundation has funded organizations that have demonstrated that they are responding to urgent and critical needs, are launching bold new ventures or are innovating through new approaches to ongoing problems. Together, we have invested more than $17 million dollars into community-based organizations meeting these three criteria. At this year’s Grant Award Celebration, held on June 19th, we awarded an additional $525,000 in Pooled Fund Grants and Merit Awards, the largest single total amount granted in our history.

darren walker quoteIn spite of these investments, we are seeing inequality continuing to grow at unprecedented levels in our communities – not just economic inequality but disparities in education, access to health care and housing, environmental impacts, creative expression, political participation and civic engagement. We also are confronted with the ways in which institutions and systems marginalize people of color, Indigenous people, immigrants, refugees, and women.

For this reason, in adopting our Strategic Framework 2020, the Board of Directors also voted to sunset our current grant making criteria and for 2019, establish new criteria focused on increasing equity and reducing disparities. This was the recommendation of our Strategic Planning Grant Leadership Task Force; that Task Force met again this month to develop more specific funding criteria which we are now “workshopping” with nonprofit and Foundation leaders from our community.

The new grant making criteria, focused on increasing equity and reducing disparities, will be finalized in August and will be published for the membership before we open our 2019 Letter of Inquiry process in September. These changes mean retooling our curriculum for our Pooled Fund Grant Committee as well as the information sessions we host for prospective applicants, which are being done by Aviva Stampfer, our Grants Program Manager, and our 2019 Grants Leadership Team, Christine Atkins, Lorraine del Prado, and Susan Heikkala.

Our new strategic framework also contemplates additional changes to our grant making processes, our financial model, and our organizational culture and structure, all of which will be phased in over the next 2 ½ years. The Board of Directors has not yet made decisions in all of these areas. To support the decision-making process, I have developed a work plan that identifies additional key decisions to be made and ways in which to gain member input and feedback in the decision-making process.

If you have questions about our Strategic Framework 2020, I’ll be hosting monthly Q&A sessions, starting in August. The dates and locations will be announced in next Friday’s e-newsletter and registration will be open on our website. You also will have a chance to learn more at our Annual Meeting at noon on October 31. We appreciate your patience as we have moved slowly and intentionally through this process, and look forward to continue to engage members’ and community voices in the decisions ahead.

By the time we celebrate our 25th Anniversary in 2020, we expect that WA Women’s Foundation will be operating a bit differently. How can it not, if we are committed to continuously learning, listening and acting? Our Strategic Framework 2020 will better help us grow into a truly strong and inclusive collective of informed women who wield the power to influence community transformation.

2 responses to “Letter from the President & CEO: Moving WA Women’s Fdn Boldly Forward

  1. I look forward to asking questions and learning about the plan to “transform” WWF.
    A few comments before August 15th:
    The terms “equity” and “disparity” are catchphrases in the political and social climates today. It will be useful to fully define these terms for our purposes and how this will change the grant decision making process for interested non-profits.
    Is it our intention to use our grants to “reward” groups who focus on making changes to create more equity and less disparity with the populations they intend to benefit, or are we looking at the management of the non-profits to determine equity among staff?
    Are there current inequities among WWF members that you intend to change?

  2. Susan, I look forward to discussing your questions later this week and sharing with our members the working definitions for these and other terms developed by our Grant Leadership Strategic Planning Task Force as part of our new criteria. We also are asking other Foundation and nonprofit leaders to provide their feedback as well. In all aspects of our new Strategic Framework, we are seeking to become more informed as a collective, more influential in our grant making and more inclusive as an organization.

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