Transforming Together 2020: New Grantmaking Initiatives

Headshot of Beth McCaw of WA Women's Foundation

Since the first of March, the Foundation’s Board of Directors has had two virtual meetings, a 7-hour video conference “retreat” (in lieu of our annual Board and staff retreat) and a special meeting earlier this week. The primary focus of these meetings has been determining the allocation of funds contributed by our members last year for grantmaking this year.   

As you may recall, members contributed approximately $700,000 last year for 2020 grantmaking. Of this amount, $525,000 was allocated to this year’s Pooled Fund. To inform the Board’s decision about how to allocate the remaining $175,000, Beth and the Board initiated an inquiry process at last October’s Annual Meeting and invited all members to participate. Members were asked to provide feedback on nine different ideas about how these funds could be used to advance our strategic priorities through grantmaking.  

Over the course of four and a half months, more than 125 members engaged in this inquiry process – at the 2019 Annual Meeting, by attending listening sessions hosted by Beth, and by completing in an online survey. In addition, the Impact Assessment Committee submitted a written proposal to the Board. 

Now that we have completed the inquiry process and the Board has deliberated and decided, I am pleased to announce the following: 

  • First, the Board of Directors is allocating an additional $25,000 to the 2020 Pooled Fund to increase the size of Merit Awards granted this year. This allocation increases the 2020 Pooled Fund to $550,000, which makes it the largest Pooled Fund in the 25-year history of WA Women’s Foundation. In a few weeks, you will receive electronic ballots to select which 5 organizations will receive $100,000 grants this year and which will receive $10,000 Merit Awards. This allocation aligns with the expressed preference of a large number of our members and also is intended to help this year’s grant applicants respond to the immediate impacts of the pandemic. 
  • Next, the Board of Directors is allocating $100,000 as seed funding for a new pool from which a new committee of WA Women’s Foundation members will award capacity-building grants, starting this fall. This allocation aligns with the proposal from the Impact Assessment Committee as well as other members and, more importantly, is centered upon the expressed needs of our grantees and the broader nonprofit community. Capacity building helps nonprofit organizations become more nimble, adaptable, and resilient by providing funding for, among other things, leadership and professional development, organizational planning, acquisition and implementation of new technology, and collaboration with other organizations. This type of funding better positions organizations to respond to future challenges and crises. 
  • Finally, the Board of Directors is allocating $50,000 to a new issue-focused Grant Committee. Over the past 10 years, through our Partner Grants program, we have realized the value of a more intensive focus on a particular subject matter. Whether learning about the criminal justice system or organizations working to empower girls or increase women’s civic engagement across Washington State, our members have repeatedly expressed an appreciation for the deeper learning that comes from a more focused grantmaking project. We also know that systems change requires a more intense focus and committed multi-year funding. This Committee will pilot an approach that WA Women’s Foundation has not historically used for our larger-scale grants to try to address the root causes of inequity. 

WA Women’s Foundation still remains committed to our Pooled Fund grantmaking process and to our existing Partner Grant program. These new initiatives, like the Partner Grants when first introduced more than 10 years ago, are meant to expand your learning opportunities and make our collective work even more responsive to the emerging and changing needs of nonprofit organizations working in communities across Washington State.   

We look forward to involving you and members of our broader community in the design thinking for these new initiatives in the next few months. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact me or attend the upcoming Q&A Session with our Board of Directors on April 22, 2020. Thank you for helping us fuel a thriving nonprofit sector working to advance equity in Washington State. 

Image of various grantmaking categories at WA Women's Foundation
This infographic details our collective grantmaking portfolio, and includes the new grantmaking initiatives detailed in this blog. Click the image to see a bigger version.

3 responses to “Transforming Together 2020: New Grantmaking Initiatives

  1. I just read in your blog that $50,000 will be earmarked to a new issue focused grant committee. Sounds intriguing. Are there any details related to that???????????

    1. Sarajane, we’ll be convening a task force of members over the summer to help design the details and process for that committee, but we are expecting that the full membership will be engaging in selecting the issue for our focus. We are excited about this new initiative!

  2. On your issue-based work, I wonder if you might build into that a commitment from members to advocacy, aligned with the kinds of effort that Sonia Campion has challenged boards to take on via Stand for Your Mission. That may be part of your model already, but when I think of systems change and what you can do with $50k, that outreach could be exponentially powerful.

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