Revising Pooled Fund Grant Criteria for Greater Clarity

This fall, we start our third year of grantmaking focused on increasing equity and reducing disparities. Each year, we understand more deeply what it means to apply an equity lens to our grantmaking and gain greater clarity about how to articulate what we’re looking for. Feedback from grant applicants and committee members continues to inform this work, and today we’d like to share a few changes we made to the grant criteria in response to that feedback.  

For our 2021 grantmaking year, we invite Letters of Inquiry from organizations that meet all the following criteria: 

  1. Is focused on providing services to people affected by inequity due to race and/or gender identity.  
  2. Is accountable to the people being served. “Accountable” can mean one or more of the following: 
    • Ensures that people being served are visibly leading;
    • Develops leadership of the people being served;
    • Engages the people being served in ongoing decision-making, planning and assessment; and/or 
    • Draws on the strengths, assets, and lived experience of the people being served.
  3. Has an understanding of the root causes of the issues facing the people being served. 
  4. Can demonstrate progress towards reducing disparities and/or achieving more equitable outcomes. 

In the first element of the criteria, we initially included “providing services to people affected by inequity due to race, gender identity, and/or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination and/or exclusion.” Over the past two years, it has become clear that it would be helpful to be more explicit about our priority to fund organizations that focus on race and/or gender identity. We know that inequities compound, so we bring an intersectional approach to understanding the many ways different forms of inequity interact. However, we know that race and gender identity are key factors that create inequity, and for that reason have updated the first part of our criteria to reflect that priority. 

In the past two years, the last part of our criteria was defined under the umbrella term “expertise,” looking for an organization that “has the expertise to do the work.” Last year, we added language about lived experience, to acknowledge that there are many forms of expertise. In reviewing feedback this year, we realized that the term “expertise” can imply a top-down approach, using the framework of the “expert.” We decided to explain what we were looking for separately in an effort to be less vague and move away from the traditional interpretation of expertise.  

We believe that an organization that has an understanding of the root causes of the issues facing the people being served will be better able to address those issues. Previously, we asked about an organization’s “track record of success” in reducing disparities. We realized that success can be interpreted many ways, and that this work takes time. We’ve shifted to ask about demonstrated progress, so we can better understand the impact an organization has made so far.  

Members, we hope you’ll join for the 2021 Pooled Fund Grant Committee! This is your opportunity to put this criteria into action. If you’re ready to sign up, click here.  

Nonprofits, if you have further questions, we encourage you to attend of our upcoming information sessions. At these sessions, we’ll explain our grant process and give you an opportunity to hear from staff, volunteer leadership, and current WA Women’s Fdn grantees. We also posted the following updated FAQs on the “For Nonprofits” section of our website for easy reference: 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Does WA Women’s Fdn fund Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives? 
While we believe that integrating DEI practices into your work is key for all organizations, for this grant process we are focused on organizations that already meet the above criteria. For that reason, we are not funding DEI initiatives with this grant.  

Does my organization need to meet all four elements of the grant criteria? 
Yes, we believe that all four elements will help us assess an organization’s fit with our goal of funding organizations working to increase equity and reduce disparities in Washington State. 

My organization is open to everyone, and because of that, we do provide services to people affected by inequity. Does that work?  
We are looking for organizations that intentionally work with people affected by inequity due to race or gender identity, not organizations that work with the general population, and thus, happen to provide services to people affected by inequity. We believe this focus on providing services to specific communities indicates your organization’s understanding of the disparities experienced by people affected by inequity and your organization’s resolve to help reduce these disparities. 

What about other kinds of inequities? 
We have intentionally decided to prioritize funding organizations that provide services to people affected by inequity due to race and/or gender identity, because we know that race and gender identity are key factors that create inequity. Within this priority, we approach proposal review from an intersectional lens, and acknowledge the many ways other characteristics historically linked to discrimination and/or exclusion compound to create more inequity.  

What do you mean by providing services? 
We know that services can include many different kinds of community support. If you consider your work to be service providing, please apply and make the case. We will not be funding advocacy work with this grant process, but your organization is still eligible if it does both advocacy and service provision work. 

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