Letter from the President & CEO: WA Women’s Foundation Contributes to COVID-19 Response Fund

Headshot of Beth McCaw of WA Women's Foundation

In my last post, I reported that the Foundation’s staff and Board of Directors were researching different COVID-19 Rapid Response Funds and evaluating our available resources to contribute beyond the funds you contributed last year to the Foundation for our collective grantmaking. I am pleased to announce that our Board of Directors has authorized a $50,000 contribution from our operating reserves to the Washington Census Equity Fund COVID-19 Response Fund, being administered by Philanthropy Northwest.

Grants from the Washington Census Equity Fund COVID-19 Response Fund will be given as general operating support to organizations working to improve Census participation in parts of the state that have historically been undercounted and now, are at even greater risk of being undercounted this year. There also will be a greater focus on ensuring that funds are getting to grantees operating in parts of the state in which there is little philanthropic reach, especially in rural communities and among grassroots organizations.

Due to the generosity of many members, Washington Women’s Foundation is privileged to have an endowment fund and other investment assets, which financially support our operations. We determined that we did have additional funds in reserve that we could immediately grant in response to the impacts of COVID-19 without diverting funds from our 2020 Pooled Fund or other equity-based grantmaking priorities.

As we have been sharing with you each week in our weekly e-newsletter, there are many COVID-19 response funds being organized throughout Washington State, and most of them are geographically centered on a particular city or county. Almost all of them also are narrowly focused on a particular area of interest, such as education or food security. Because Washington Women’s Foundation awards grants on a statewide basis and across very broad issue areas, we looked for an opportunity that provided a broader geographic reach, aligned with our strategic focus on advancing equity and reducing disparities, and had a potential impact across all five of our funding categories. This is why we selected the Washington Census Equity Fund COVID-19 Response Fund.

As you may recall, Washington Women’s Foundation made a very modest contribution to the Washington Census Equity Fund last year, and as a result, we had the opportunity to help develop the Request for Proposal, and some of our members served on the grant review committees. Approximately 80 organizations, programs, and tribes received $1.5 million in grants to raise awareness of the Census and ensure each and every person in Washington is counted. Among the grant recipients were some of Washington Women’s Foundation grantees, including La Casa Hogar in Yakima.

The pandemic had immediate impacts on the ability of the grantees to execute their programs and plans as originally designed. Some groups and organizations were able to quickly change course before Census Day on April 1, but others were not, and for all, it is expected that over the next few weeks and months costs will likely be higher and there will be greater challenges in reaching historically undercounted communities, especially in tribal and rural area of the state.

As noted by Philanthropy Northwest, a complete Census count is critical to Washington’s democracy. In addition to determining the political representation of our communities for the next decade, the results will inform the distribution of vital government resources, including future COVID-19 relief and recovery funds. We cannot think of a more leveraged way to put the resources of Washington Women’s Foundation to work in immediate response to this crisis.

Washington Women’s Foundation – and some of our grantees and colleagues at other local foundations – are interested in knowing how you are using your philanthropy to respond to the impacts of the pandemic.  Please take this two-minute survey to let us know how you #UseYourInfluence. Hearing from you will help support efforts to better coordinate community responses to the pandemic. Thank you for making a difference!

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