During her first six months on the job, Philanthropy Northwest’s new CEO Jill Nishi has met with members in our network, spoken with community partners and settled into her new role. Looking forward to 2023, we sat down with Jill to get her thoughts on the first six months leading the organization.
1. In your first six months as CEO, you’ve been meeting with our members and network partners throughout the region. How would you describe the Philanthropy Northwest network in one word?
Dynamic. In this region, I feel like there is a high value on innovation and the ability to do things differently, and that includes philanthropy. Our members aren’t afraid of taking new approaches when it comes to the work we do. Whether they’re looking at how they give, rethinking how engagement with the community is structured or shifting governance practices, there’s a sense that we can always do better. That’s why I say dynamic.
2. As you’ve been meeting with members and listening to our network, what is something new that you’ve learned?
Increasingly many of our members are taking the time to understand what sits beneath so many of the very persistent inequities in our communities. And I think it’s so important to understand what is underneath the surface to inform how philanthropy can best respond to the symptoms, as well as the causes. Doing this effectively is going to take a combination of self-reflection and looking at our systems.
On my visits, I’ve also tried some regional food and have come to a few conclusions: Boise has some of the best farm-to-table restaurants, Portland has the best avocado toast and Missoula has tasty huckleberry jam that I enjoy every morning with my toast. Delicious!
3. What themes are emerging for you about what is top of mind for members in our region?
I am inspired by philanthropic leaders in the region who are thinking deeply about how philanthropy can further center community voices, foster grantees’ power and agency, and how they can impactfully invest more in communities historically furthest from economic, educational and social opportunity. There’s a level of attentiveness there I really respect. Not to mention, the new landscape that is our workplace. We’re all learning how to rebuild our teams, organizations and culture as we navigate hybrid workplaces, the fluidity of our home and work lives and hiring remotely. Am I the only one that wonders if it’s okay to wear sweatpants to the office?! I hope I’m not.
4. We’re coming into the holiday season, a time of connection and celebration in ways that are meaningful to us. What does connection mean to you?
Connection to me is about being in community - holding authentic relationships with one another, relationships where we can confidently share our greatest hopes and fears. Through these connections, there is a sense of belonging, acceptance and reassurance.
On a lighter note, I think it’s easy to get caught up with all the gift shopping, and I’ll admit I’m always giddy to find a great sale or deal! But I’m constantly reminding myself of the many gifts I possess that you can’t find at your favorite outlet – family, enduring friendships, my health and the privilege of the work I get to do.
5. Looking toward the future, what has you feeling energized in our work in the new year?
Next year we are embarking on a strategy development process to better understand how we can partner with members in our region to foster more equitable, inclusive and thriving communities. I’m looking forward to channeling the energy, ideas and innovation of the Philanthropy Northwest team and the funders in our network in service of the communities we all seek to support.
I’ll also say that in the Lunar New Year, 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit, who is the luckiest out of all the twelve animals. I think that’s a great sign, right?