Navigating Change at Washington Women’s Foundation 

In 2018, amidst strategic planning sessions and deep reflections on our purpose, the Board of Directors of Washington Women’s Foundation crafted a Theory of Change, a theory that evolved into our 2020 Transforming Together Statement illustrating how we believed Washington Women’s Foundation moved through the world: 

Our Members – a growing, inclusive collective of powerful change agents – working through a Foundation committed to partnership and power-sharing and fueling a thriving Nonprofit sector working to advance equity, can create together a more Equitable Washington State. 

Today, in our rapidly shifting world, it is imperative we revisit this theory, recalibrate our trajectory, and reexamine our role as so-called change agents within our community. 

Here are a few of the questions and conundrums we discussed at our forum (and that we will soon be asking you to weigh in on): 

Adapting to Changing Demographics. As demographics shift and philanthropic impulses evolve, it is critical that we meet the women of today where they are in their giving journey. Yet understanding their philanthropic inclinations amidst a rapidly changing political and philanthropic landscape remains a challenge. How can we adapt and innovate to resonate with the aspirations and values of contemporary women? 

Meeting the Fierce Urgency of Now. In an era characterized by urgency and upheaval, the role of philanthropy in addressing pressing social and political issues cannot be understated. Are we rising to meet this moment with the vigor and determination it demands? How can we use our collective strength to bring about meaningful change in our communities?  

Balancing Systemic Change with Direct Service Support. As the call for systemic change grows louder, we find ourselves at a crossroads between tradition and evolution. Our members, both new and seasoned, are beginning to call for a deeper focus on systemic issues in addition to – and sometimes in precedence over – direct service support. We know systemic change demands sustained commitment, but this is a demand our current model does not adequately accommodate. Are we prepared to engage in this pivotal conversation and embrace the long-term commitments needed for systemic change? What does that mean for our current focus on still-critical direct service? 

Stabilizing Membership Costs and Revenue. The sustainability of our foundation hinges on a delicate balance between membership engagement and financial viability. Unlike many other foundations, we do not have an enormous endowment to draw down or lean upon. We give what we raise. Over the years, however, while our membership contribution has remained stagnant our costs have continued to escalate, posing a growing challenge to our annual budget. The question arises: Do we need to reimagine our revenue generation model to ensure the longevity of our mission? What is our best path or paths to sustainable fiscal health? 

Grappling with Internal vs External Enthusiasms. Certain grant programs like our Wellness Grants, Rest and Repair Awards, and Women & Girls Grants have garnered widespread acclaim and driven much of our new member recruitment. Meanwhile, interest in our Collective Grants has been less robust, even internally. These various reactions to our grants drive questions about our recruitment strategies and the alignment of our members’ interests with our philanthropic endeavors. Does our grantmaking capture the imagination from both inside and outside the foundation? 

Embracing a Spirit of Discovery and Experimentation. As we set out on this journey of foundational self-discovery and reimagining, I ask that you embrace with me a spirit of “I wonder, what if, let’s try” as we contemplate the path forward together. 

Your insights, perspectives, and aspirations will be invaluable as we guide our foundation through the complexities of our changing landscape. Together, let us harness the power of collective imagination and innovation to shape a future that reflects our shared values. 

As you engage with our survey, let your imagination run wild, entertain bold ideas, and dare to envision possibilities beyond the constraints of the present. For in this spirit of curiosity and experimentation, we will unearth the seeds of transformation and chart a course towards a brighter, more equitable tomorrow—together. 

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