News and Insights

The Secret Sauce of Civic Engagement Philanthropy

08/30/2016

Remy Trupin, Catalyst Fellow | Philanthropists agree: Seattle's civic health is strong. But what makes it that way, and how can we support this in other parts of our region and country? What are the conditions that support this recipe? We reflected on the elements, particularly of culture and identity, that explain this civic dynamism? At the recent meeting of Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement. a national network of funders investing in civic engagement and democracy, some speakers suggested that the “secret sauce” in the Puget Sound region boils down to our traditions and culture. more »

Generation Indigenous: Why Native American Youth Can't Wait

08/19/2016

Edgar Villanueva, Native Americans in Philanthropy | Like other youth of color, Native American and Alaska Natives in cities and communities across the United States face challenges. Natives Americans have endured a history of racism and colonialism that has resulted in multi-generational trauma. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among Native youth between the ages of 15 and 24 — and that rate is two and a half times the national average. Native youth are five times more likely to end up in the criminal justice system than whites, where they receive disproportionately harsher sentences, and are more likely to be killed by police than any other racial group. Moreover, Native Americans are often categorized in data and reports as "statistically insignificant" or "other," erasing their very existence as a disadvantaged minority. As a result, too many programs, policies, and systems — not to mention philanthropy — ignore or overlook them. I urge philanthropy to see the tremendous potential in our Native communities. And I extend an invitation to all grantmakers to join us at the White House on August 26 for Generation Indigenous: Raising Impact With Innovation and Proven Strategies, where we will seek to engage the philanthropic community in a dialogue about expanding support for Native youth. more »

Philanthropy Can Help Heal Our Democracy

08/11/2016

Remy Trupin, Catalyst Fellow | When Philanthropy Northwest and the Kettering Foundation published the first edition of Philanthropy and the Renewal of Democracy: Is It Time to Step Up Our Game?, the wounds and diseases afflicting our body politic were already causing concern among rising numbers of citizens, including philanthropists. Two years later, as we lurched through one of the strangest election seasons in modern American history and demand for this publication grew, our question became even more urgent. As Daniel Kemmis points out, the relationship between philanthropy and democracy is a matter of both social compact and law. Given the state of our democratic institutions, it’s become crucial to think about philanthropic activity’s place within our political framework. It is clearly time to step up our game — but in what way and how to do so without abusing our power and privilege? Philanthropy has an opportunity to choose a more constructive and optimistic path. more »

From Skeptics to Champions: Getting Board Members on Board with Advocacy

05/18/2016

Sheila Babb Anderson, Campion Foundation & Remy Trupin, Catalyst Fellow | Our polarized climate may discourage nonprofits and foundation leaders from engaging in advocacy — but to solve many of the challenges we’re working on, government must be part of the solution. And for government to change laws and enact policies, we need engagement and visible support from nonprofits working on these issues. When weighing a proposal, a skeptical policymaker will wonder why leaders of organizations responsible for a related mission are sitting on the sidelines. Nonprofit board members are influential members of the community — that’s why they’re on the board in the first place! — with diverse views, backgrounds and networks. They are a critical piece of this changemaking puzzle. more »

Demystifying D.C.: What We Learned in the Other Washington

05/03/2016

Gloris Estrella, Program Associate | Every spring, philanthropic organizations from across the country converge on our nation's capital for Foundations on the Hill, a 48-hour opportunity to educate Congress and encourage national policymakers to see philanthropy as a close partners in their communities — as advocates, both for policies important to our representatives and for their constituents. This year's FOTH delegation included staff and board members from the Arctic Slope Community Foundation, Casey Family Programs, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Rasmuson Foundation and Dennis & Phyllis Washington Foundation. We met with U.S. senators and congressmen from five states, across party lines, and had an exclusive conversation with Doug O'Brien, White House senior policy advisor for rural affairs, and Raina Thiele, associate director of intergovernmental affairs and public engagement. Our friends at Casey Family Programs also arranged meetings for us with the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means and with members of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. more »

Creating Policy Change With Culture Change

04/05/2016

Remy Trupin, Catalyst Fellow | As a policy wonk, my conference experience over the past 20 years has not included much visual, dramatic and musical artistry. This vibrant mixture of artists, activists and academics made Citizen University’s National Conference a compelling experience. Billed as a “conference like no other,” the event drew 500 participants to Seattle last month, including Seattle Foundation as a major sponsor, focused on accelerating civic participation and answering the question, "Who Is Us?" Our national discourse has heightened and intensified our focus on race, income inequality and identity issues. Changing demographics, shifting understanding of identity and rapid economic changes all support the need for reinvigorated civic participation. But while current events were never entirely absent from the discussion, the overwhelming focus was on the horizon. more »

Philanthropist Forum Takes First Collective Policy Stand

03/31/2016

Ted Lord, The Giving Practice | Engaging foundations in policy and advocacy work has been a leading theme and learning edge in philanthropy for a decade. Part of the difficulty in moving these efforts forward is the level of abstraction in many of the discussions and lack of concrete examples. This month, our field gained a new example from a group of Washington and California funders focused on child welfare and juvenile justice issues. As trust and understanding has developed, they have asked each other and The Giving Practice how they might use their other forms of capital — influence, relationships, partnerships — on behalf of our most vulnerable children and families. Within 72 hours, nine members were able to sign onto a letter to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. more »

Reflecting on Racial Equity and Civic Engagement

02/11/2016

Gloris Estrella, Program Associate | When the opportunity to join First Alaskans Institute's “Partners for the Next 10,000 Years … A Racial Equity Summit” arose earlier this month, I literally jumped out of my swivel chair with excitement! After gathering 200 people together in a room, all of us passionate about empowering communities and dismantling hundreds of years of oppression, we were bound to walk away with something like a solution, right? Well, not quite. We need to think more about restructuring the current system that is failing so many. More philanthropists should get their hands on the ground, side by side with the communities they so deeply care about. Join the marches, attend town hall meetings, convene your grantees and local businesses around racial tensions they face, write to your local representatives, audit internal policies and ensure they are equitable and inclusive. In an election year, it's even more imperative that philanthropists be at the forefront of the issues we care about. more »

Action Alert: IRS Reporting Proposal Threatens Donor, Nonprofit Security

12/10/2015

Ann Saxton, Vice President | When should donors provide their Social Security number to a nonprofit? Common wisdom and universal advice says "never." But a dangerous new proposal from the IRS would change the answer to "it depends," confusing the public, stifling donations for charitable works and opening the floodgates to fraudsters. The IRS is seeking your comments on this proposal before December 16. The proposed regulations would give nonprofits the option of filing a separate new information return with the IRS and individual donors by February 28 every year to substantiate contributions of more than $250 in value. A similar mandatory proposal was considered and rejected in the past based on numerous legal, policy and confidentiality problems it raised.  more »

A River Between Us: Bridging Generations of Conflict on the Klamath

09/01/2015

Jason A. Atkinson, Filmmaker and Former Oregon State Senator | Nearly 300 miles long, flowing from southern Oregon to northern California, the Klamath River has been a source of conflict between conservationists, tribes, farmers, fishermen, and state and federal agencies for generations. My new film, with support from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust and other Pacific Northwest funders, examines this complicated history and documents the largest river restoration project in U.S. history. This unique case of collaboration, in a place most Americans can't find on a map, is a prime example for the rest of the country to follow. more »

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