News and Insights

Place-Based Philanthropy Supports Urban Sustainability


Mitchell Thomashow, Catalyst Fellow | Cities consist of many communities tied together by proximity, infrastructure and networks. But what happens when some communities are overlooked, when neighborhoods are gentrifying or otherwise going through changes that may not necessarily be in everyone's best interest? How do you prevent this from happening — or how do you deal with it when it does? Place-based philanthropy can ensure the sustainability of urban development efforts by providing long-term strategy, mobilizing patient capital and connecting funders with grassroots community leaders. In the Northwest, I recently visited three extraordinary urban sustainability projects that demonstrate the power of place-based philanthropy as a convener and catalyst: Yesler Terrace in Seattle, Living Cully in Portland and the Puyallup Watershed Initiative in greater Tacoma. more »

Welcome New Members and Partners


Paul Kim, Member and Donor Program Associate | Between the changing political landscape, our membership renewal cycle and planning for major programs, the first two months of this year have kept us busy at Philanthropy Northwest! Before we continue at this rapid pace and scale — adding the next edition of Trends in Northwest Giving and the second cohort of our Momentum Fellowship to the mix — we'd like to pause for a moment to welcome five new organizations to our network this year: Beneficial State Foundation / Beneficial State Bank, The Sheri & Les Biller Family Foundation, Idaho Community Foundation, Legal Foundation of Washington and Washington Research Foundation. more »

Lifting Up Community Foundations to Elevate Communities


Gloris Estrella, Program Manager | When I started working at Philanthropy Northwest last year, things like donor-advised funds, grant committees and financial advisors were a foreign language that I had to learn quickly while coordinating our Washington Community Foundations Convening. I'm still absorbing many intricacies that make community foundations special, but you don't need native fluency to see that they are, above all, leaders in our communities. Some states, including Alaska and Montana, have one main community foundation serving as an umbrella for smaller funds throughout the state. In Washington, however, almost every county has its own community foundation. This allows each foundation to have a strongly place-based mission, focusing closely on its county's unique needs — but it also means each has to raise most of its funds from the community it serves, with a small staff and limited resources. Through Philanthropy Northwest's Washington Community Foundations Convening, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we connect all these foundations to discuss their challenges and opportunities. more »

Food Systems Research Reveals Funding Opportunities


Tim Crosby, Cascadia Foodshed Financing Project | If we want to catalyze a thriving food economy in the Pacific Northwest, where should we invest our philanthropic funds? We commissioned research into the production costs of six categories — no-till grain, grass-finished beef, organic greens, organic storage crops, pastured chicken, and hoop house pork — to identify differentiated and viable production systems aligned with our project's five overarching principles of health, social equity, family wage job creation and preservation. The results have revealed intriguing insights for our regional food economy, venture philanthropy and impact investing. We want to achieve system change to increase more sustainable food production and to build resiliency in rural communities. We want to support enterprise success so that rural communities can generate livable wage jobs and investors can at least preserve capital. We now know where we can do each; we seek the opportunity to do both. Now we're asking a new question: How can we advance system change by supporting success at the enterprise level? more »

Virtual Roundtable: Philanthropic Banks


Our "virtual roundtable" interviews feature a group of leaders from across our network who work on a common issue area, illuminating the diversity of place-based approaches to the shared topic. We kicked this series off in February with the CEOs of five healthcare conversion foundations, then continued in March with the Pacific Northwest's seven statewide nonprofit associations, April with four arts funders and May with five rural funders. For June, we interviewed representatives of four banks engaged in Northwest philanthropy: First Interstate Bank, Pacific Continental Bank, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo. more »

Embracing a Place-Based Approach to Our Work


Mitchell Thomashow, Catalyst Fellow | For each of us, our community, landscape and identity create a fluid concept: place. Environmental thinkers use place as a common ground for deepening local awareness of ecological relationships, with bioregionalism as a compelling manifestation of that impulse, suggesting that political boundaries, governance and public policy must be considered within the natural connections of geographic settings. We regard place-based thinking as the foundation of community relationships as well as the appropriate scale for civic engagement; this concept has also become part of the literature in anthropology, economics, education and political science. We believe it has an important role to play in philanthropy, as well, as The Russell Family Foundation and other Philanthropy Northwest members have demonstrated in their place-based community partnerships. more »

Gates Foundation CEO: Northwest Is Our Learning Lab


Nicole Neroulias Gupte, Senior Communications Manager | At a May 24 Seattle gathering of three dozen social media influencers, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann answered questions about the foundation's views of taking risks and applying new knowledge to solve some of the world's biggest problems. Most questions focused on aspects of Desmond-Hellmann's recent open letter to the community, her first such message since joining the foundation two years ago, sharing examples from the foundation's global health and national education work. On behalf of Philanthropy Northwest, I had an entirely place-based query: "I'd like to hear more about the foundation's home being here in the Northwest. How does that influence the culture and what kind of risks are you able to take here at home?" more »

Microsoft, Boeing & Starbucks Top Corporate Philanthropy List


Nicole Neroulias Gupte, Senior Communications Manager | The Puget Sound Business Journal honored 75 companies for corporate philanthropy, based on 2015 cash giving in Washington state, at its annual Corporate Citizenship and Healthy Community Champion awards luncheon, in partnership with Seattle Foundation. In the large category, focused on companies with revenue exceeding $500 million, three Philanthropy Northwest members topped the list: Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks. We will be exploring these and other corporate giving models in a June 6 discussion on The ROI for Corporate Social Responsibility. more »

Funders: How Will You Lead on Leadership?


Danielle Garbe, Sherwood Trust & Caroline Miceli, Satterberg Foundation | The greatest assets the social sector has are its people. Human capital is one of the most important — yet often underfunded — investments that foundations can make to ensure the success and vitality of nonprofit organizations and our communities. To understand how to make smarter investments in organizational leadership, 10 foundations committed to strengthening Washington's nonprofit sector through a Statewide Capacity Collaborative spent months asking nonprofit leaders about what's needed to further develop the skills required to lead the teams, organizations and movements making positive change in our communities. The resulting Washington State Leadership Scan is a tool for funders, in any region, to consider the needs and opportunities for investing in leadership capacity. more »