Transforming Together 2020: Annual Meeting Recap

Formal headshot of Beth McCaw of Washington Women's FoundationThank you to the many members who attended our Annual Meeting on October 31, 2018. It was the largest attendance we have had in the four years since I joined the Foundation staff, and I truly appreciated the engaging conversation.

In this week’s e-newsletter you will find a copy of our 2017 Annual Report. At the Annual Meeting, I also reported on 2018 grant making activities and our current membership count, and announced a change to our business model that was decided upon by our Board of Directors in September after many conversations with members during our strategic planning process.

Here are the highlights from the Annual Meeting:

  • The 2018 Pooled Fund was the largest in our history. Even though we had around 470 paid members as of December 31, 2017, this bold group of women collectively contributed $513,000 to the 2018 Pooled Fund. In recognition of that support and having heard your desire to increase the size of our Merit Awards, the Board of Directors allocated another $12,000 from our cash reserves to the 2018 Pooled Fund. Because of your investment, at this year’s Grant Award Celebration, we were able to award a record-setting $525,000 – five $100,000 grants and five $5,000 Merit Awards.
  • 2017 Emerging Issues Partner Grant Committee at Washington Women's FoundationThe 2017 Emerging Issues Partner Grant Pool was the largest partner grant fund in our history. Last fall, we renewed a long-standing partnership with the Women’s Funding Alliance for our 2017 Emerging Issues Partner Grant. For the first time, our partner contributed funds to the pool as did Laird Norton Wealth Management, another long-term corporate supporter. As a result, we awarded record amounts for a Partner Grant last year – $20,000 to Para los Niños de Highline, $7,000 to La Casa Hogar and a $1,000 Merit Award to Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center.
  • In 2018, we maintained a strong overall financial position. The Foundation received another clean audit for 2017, and as of December 31, 2017, our balance sheet remained strong, with total assets exceeding total liabilities.
  • Our revenue increased in 2017. Last year, we had more than $2 million in revenue, compared to $1.5 million in 2016. The vast majority of that revenue is the revenue that we receive and then distribute out as grants. The change in revenue last year is primarily attributed to the generosity and thoughtfulness of two members who passed away and left legacy gifts totaling more than $400,000 to Washington Women’s Foundation. The Board of Directors elected to place these bequests in our investment accounts, so that we may benefit from the growth and income from these gifts for many years.

WE STILL NEED YOU! As of the week before the Annual Meeting, our membership count for next year was 209 women (meaning $209,000 for the 2019 Pooled Fund). Many more of you have recommitted to our collective work since last week, but we need everyone to help us build on the great momentum of 2017 and 2018. Please renew today and invite other women that you know to join us. We know that together we are influencing transformation in communities throughout Washington state, and the larger our influence, the stronger women’s voices will be in framing and fixing the critical issues of our time.

We also are going to challenge you to double-down next year as we build our 2020 Pooled Fund for our 25th Anniversary. From the start, the co-founders of Washington Women’s Foundation set a high bar for us, and for the past six years, we have consistently granted $500,000 from our Pooled Fund. However, we know that women reach higher when the bar is raised, and it’s time to give all that we can.

When WA Women’s Foundation started 23 years ago, our co-founders adopted a vision of changing the course of women’s philanthropy through the power of collective giving. They also sought to motivate women to give at the major donor level – thus, the Individual Grant of $1,000 each of you has the opportunity to make through the Foundation each year.  $1,000 was and is the starting point for “major donor” giving at most organizations. You all have stepped boldly into this space, and women are now recognized as donors in their own rights. We want make a bolder statement together – to significantly increase our grant making ability as a collective.

So when women join next year or when you renew your commitment in 2019 to create our Pooled Fund for 2020, we are going to ask you to go all in – to make a $2,500 investment in the community through Washington Women’s Foundation. To put all of your $2,500 annual investment into our collective work. 

For some, this change may feel like a big ask. When I was thinking about this ask in preparation for the Annual Meeting, I came across an adapted version of the Hummingbird and the Forest Fire, originally told by Dr. Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist and 2004 Nobel Prize laureate for peace, who had heard the story line while she was traveling in Japan:

There was a raging fire in the forest and all the animals watched it in horror and fear – except for a hummingbird, who was flying back and forth between the river and the fire.  Each time she brought water in her tiny beak and dropped it on the flames before returning to the river.  An elephant said to her, “What do you think you’re doing? You can’t possibly think you are going to put the fire out with that tiny bit of water!”  She responded, “I’m doing all that I can do.” After this, the elephants and other animals began to help her and eventually they put out the fire.

The story reminded me of how, together, we have already influenced how other foundations and individual philanthropists invest in our communities. But it also challenged me to think of how we could do more. Are we doing all that we can? We know which of our neighbors are facing the fire. We are asking you to do all that you can do – and to do it together, because our collective power is greater than what any one of us can do alone.

Thank you for being a part of WA Women’s Foundation, and thank you for rising to the challenges facing us today.

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