Transforming Together: 2021 in Review

In 2018 the board of Washington Women’s Foundation (WaWF) approved an ambitious Strategic Framework that was meant to guide us through 5 years of planning and transformation. By the time I arrived as your President and CEO in February of 2021, many items on that Strategic Framework had been seen to: We had engaged nonprofits in ongoing dialogue about their needs and sought continuous feedback and evaluation from them as we reconfigured our granting criteria and began reshaping our processes. We had delved into the world of advocacy with our Use Your Voice programming. We had kicked off pilot projects to test participatory grantmaking, capacity-building grantmaking, and issue-focused grantmaking.  

And then came 2020. 

COVID-19’s arrival had a wholly unforeseeable impact on our forward momentum in adhering to this framework. Pandemics, uprisings, fires, floods, an election fraught with unprecedented rancor… As the madness of 2020 ticked on we longed collectively for a return to “normalcy”. But too much has shifted now for a reprise of all that came before. The world pre-2020 is lost to us. We find ourselves here, in 2021, with an imperative to create together a new and better normal.

Ah yes, 2021. In January, people violently stormed the Capitol Building of the United States of America. The largest number of Americans in our history quit their jobs. Over 700,000 of our fellow citizens are dead of a virus none of us had even heard about in 2018 when our Strategic Framework was created. That our 3½ year old plan is still relevant – indeed, not only relevant but critical – and directed precisely where we still need to be directed, given all that has happened since its approval, is a testament to how forward-thinking it truly was. 

At WaWF we find ourselves in the remarkable position of still following a path we were already walking down, despite – well – everything. We already knew that we wanted to get to a new normal. We were already looking at gender inequity and the barrier racial injustice placed on people in our community. We were already talking about how to share power. We were already embracing the concept that change was critical for our communities to thrive. 

2021 has come and with it, unsurprisingly, more change.  

We have had staffing changes. 

Beth McCaw and Morgan Dawson left our staff – but Isabelle Shively and myself arrived! Kathy Wehle retired, but we then welcomed Deborah Houseworth as our new CFO. A shout-out to Aki and Aviva, who stayed our constants!

We have changed our granting structure

In accordance with our Strategic Framework, we created a structure that took into account the feedback from our nonprofit community, incorporated suggestions from our members, and embraced new ways of thinking about philanthropy and power—who has it and how it is wielded. We incorporated an advocacy grant, and have a new targeted grant to support women and girls. And we altered the number, size and kind of grants we meted out.  

This upcoming year we’ll be implementing our new granting and learning process – and ironing out the inevitable wrinkles that will appear. I ask you all for grace and kindness when those bumps make their inexorable appearance. In this region of start-ups and innovation we all know that entrepreneurial thinking is both wildly exciting and occasionally unpredictable. As you innovate and reimagine, sometimes you land in new places you do not anticipate!

That said, I also know that if you are still reading this blog you – be you a member, a trustee, a staff person, a nonprofit professional, or just an interested party – you are here because at some level you care about WaWF. You know that we are here to work and build together that next iteration of an already successful and dynamic foundation. 

We are about to enter another great learning and granting time. I urge you to approach this year of transition with a sense of joy in discovery and a hearty embrace of that spirit of collective generosity and community care that our foundation is known for. I can’t wait to be there alongside you, every step of the way! 

Click here for our 2020 Annual Report 

Click here for more reflections on 2020 & 2021 

2 responses to “Transforming Together: 2021 in Review

  1. This is a great message, Maria. I’m going to share it with a couple of member prospects.

    Miss our frequent meetings.

  2. Thank you, Maria – “A year of transition with a sense of joy in discovery and a hearty embrace of that spirit” indeed!

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