Transforming Together 2020: Annual Meeting Recap

Thank you to the many members who attended our virtual Annual Meeting this week. I am pleased to announce that the membership elected three new candidates to join our Board of Directors as of January 1, 2021. They are:

  • Julie Burg, a member since 2018 and a senior consultant with Nygren Consulting, a boutique consulting firm which focuses on governance, strategy, and leadership.
  • Kris Kaminishi, a member since 2007 who is just completing a two-year term as Cabinet Chair. Kris is a 20+ year development professional and grant writer and has worked with startup organizations and large institutions throughout Puget Sound.
  • Stephanie Ellis-Smith, who originally joined Washington Women’s Foundation in 2003 and after moving back to Seattle, rejoined in 2013. Stephanie currently is the owner of the philanthropic advisory firm Phila Engaged Giving, working with individuals, families, foundations, and corporations to enhance their giving in light of their goals and incorporate best practices in the field.
Screenshot of Zoom call with WA Women's Foundation and grantees
2020 Pooled Fund Grants Committee Leadership with a few of our 2020 Pooled Fund Grant grantee organizations

Also re-elected to additional three-year Board terms were Chris Charbonneau, Cedra DuFlon-Heide, Maura Fallon, and Barbara Fielden. Fortunately, this year is unique in that there are no current Board members reaching the limits of permissible terms under the Foundation’s bylaws.  Continuing on the Board in 2021 are the following directors: Sue Bennett, Jodi Green, Yvonne Hall, Melinda Herrin, Patricia Kiyono, Ann Kumasaka, Bo Lee, Patti Meyers, Jane Searing, Jennifer Sik, and Amy Zimerman.  Christine Atkins has been appointed as the new Chair of Cabinet and as such, she will join the Board of Directors in an ex officio, voting capacity on January 1.

In this week’s e-newsletter you will find a copy of our 2019 Annual Report, which I reviewed at the Annual Meeting. Here are a few highlights from the Annual Report:

  • In 2019, we maintained a strong overall financial position. The Foundation received another clean audit for 2019, and as of December 31, 2019, our balance sheet remained strong, with total assets well in excess of total liabilities.
  • Funds contributed by members in 2019 allowed us to set another record in single-day grantmaking in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic did not keep our Pooled Fund Grant Committee from keeping to its original work schedule. While we gave organizations additional time in which to submit proposals in March, the Work Groups kept to their deadlines after moving all of their meetings and site visits to video conference. In January, our Board of Directors voted to allocate $525,000 to the 2020 Pooled Fund for grants and Merit Awards. Then, in response to the pandemic, the Board doubled the size of the Merit Awards, increasing the 2020 Pooled Fund to a record level $550,000. We awarded these grants and Merit Awards on schedule at our first-ever virtual Grant Award Celebration. Our total grants collectively awarded since 1996 now exceed $19 million.
  • We awarded a $50,000 special response grant to the Washington Census Equity Fund COVID-19 Response Fund. While there are many COVID-19 response funds in operation across Washington State, 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.

Our Annual Meeting also has traditionally been a time of celebration, a moment to reflect on the accomplishments of the past year as well as the challenges that have caused us to roll up our sleeves and work more closely together. While we could not be in community together this year, there were still things to celebrate:

  • Our 25th Anniversary and our founders, Colleen Willoughby, Anne V. Farrell, Faye Sarkowsky, Sue Lile Hunter, and Rhoda Altom.  These women shared an audacious vision – to build on their collective 30+ years of civic engagement and leadership to transform philanthropy through the power of women’s collective grantmaking.
  • The women who have been members of Washington Women’s Foundation consistently for 25 years: Eve Alvord, Connie Ballmer, Julia Calhoun, Paula Clapp, Laura Domoto, Kathy Edwards, Sharlee Eising, Libby Gates MacPhee, Ginny Gilder, Anne Gittinger, Suzanne Hittman, Kate Janeway, Beverly Jefferson, Carolyn Kelly, Debbie Killinger, Carol Lewis, Carla Lewis, Karen Lytle, Leslie Magid Higgins, Carla Nichols, Eleanor Nolan, Jeannie Nordstrom, Elizabeth Runde, Catherine Eaton Skinner, Maggie Walker, and Alison Oresman Wilson.
  • PowerUp! The Spark That Ignites Change. More than 380 women philanthropists representing organizational members of Philanos, the national network of women’s collective grantmaking and giving organizations, joined us for a 3-day conference in late February 2020.  More than 60 members of Washington Women’s Foundation helped plan and execute the Conference. A special thanks to our members who co-chaired the Conference, Laura Midgley and Bo Lee.

This past year, we also moved forward a number of important initiatives that are part of our Strategic Framework 2020 and stretched our own capacity to take advantage of unexpected opportunity to expand our grantmaking portfolio. As a result, Washington Women’s Foundation is concluding 2020 with three new funds in various stages of design and implementation:

  • Capacity-Building Fund. With dollars contributed by members in 2019 and building upon a proposal from our Impact Assessment Committee, the Board of Directors of the Foundation allocated $100,000 to a new fund to provide capacity-building support to nonprofit organizations working to advance equity in Washington State. The Capacity-Building Grant Committee, chaired by Kris Kaminishi, held its first meeting on October 27 and will award grants before the end of December. The Board’s intention is to replenish this fund each year for at least two more years, at which time, we will evaluate the pilot phase of this new initiative.
  • WFA Fund for Women. After 30 years, Women’s Funding Alliance ceased operations in early 2020 and asked Washington Women’s Foundation to carry on its legacy of grantmaking to support women and girls across Washington State. WA Women’s Foundation received a terminating grant from Women’s Funding Alliance and created the WFA Fund for Women. After conducting focus groups with former WFA donors and grantees this year, we plan to begin making grants from this new fund in 2021. We are already raising additional dollars for this Fund from both members and non-members of the Foundation.
  • Issue-Based Fund.  Another idea that resonated with members last year was the creation of a new fund to make grants to organization working on a specific issue selected by vote of the membership. The Board of Directors allocated $50,000 from members’ 2019 contributions to this fund at this beginning of this year, but design and implementation has been delayed until 2021 due to the pandemic, the current racial reckoning sweeping our country, and the upcoming leadership change at WA Women’s Foundation.

In March, the global pandemic changed the way we worked, the way we lived, and at the Foundation, the way we did grantmaking. Then came the civil uprisings that began this summer after the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

When we changed our grantmaking criteria in 2018, we committed to funding racial and gender identity equity.  We committed to examining our privilege and sharing power.  When we adopted our Strategic Framework 2020, we committed to the following values:

  • To embrace discomfort
  • To be bold
  • To counteract the systems built and maintained by oppression
  • To support and celebrate each other
  • To be in community
  • To elevate and amplify the power of all who identify as women 

This summer, when we looked back at our 25-year history of grantmaking, we saw clearly that our track record of funding the Black community, and especially organizations led by Black women leaders, was, like that of institutional philanthropy in general: very poor.

This realization and our desire to live truly in our values led the Foundation’s Board of Directors to decide to allocate from our unrestricted investment funds $850,000, which, with another $150,000 contribution from a member, creates a new $1 million fund dedicated to supporting Black women leaders. We acknowledge that this new fund does not make up for what we have failed to do in the past and that it is still a very small gesture when compared the total amounts that we have moved for other communities. 

We want to move with urgency but also at the speed of trust. Because we are committed to centering the needs of these leaders in our grantmaking, we are not launching this fund until we know that we, as a collective, can truly show up in support of Black women leaders.

WA Women’s Foundation is and has always been a learning organization. Our founders built that into our DNA. We have started work on this new fund at the staff and Board level in collaboration with Black women leaders. We are committing 2021 to further listening, to learning, to building trust, to repairing harm and avoiding further harm from careless mistakes, all with the goal of transforming collective philanthropy so it is responsive to Black women leaders. That’s the mission of Washington Women’s Foundation – to influence community transformation through individual and collective discovery, through high-impact grantmaking, and by listening to and respecting all voices in our community. Thank you for being a part of this mission and our collective work. It is needed now, more than ever.

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