News and Insights

Place-Based Philanthropy Supports Urban Sustainability

03/13/2017

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 »

Mapping a Foundation's Impact Investing Journey

02/22/2017

Rosalie Sheehy Cates, Senior Advisor | One hundred million dollars.

That’s how much money Surdna Foundation has now allocated to impact investing, just in time for its 100th anniversary. It’s an exciting decision, and you can read all about the private foundation's decision-making process in Mapping the Journey to Impact Investinga new report researched and drafted by Jan Jaffe, senior partner of The Giving Practice, Philanthropy Northwest's national consulting team. more »

Sharpening Our Advocacy Tools for a New Administration

02/07/2017

Remy Trupin, Catalyst Fellow | Advocacy is an important tool in philanthropy's toolbox. Are you wielding it effectively? With so many policy changes coming from the new White House, Congress and state agencies, foundations and their grantees need to be engaged more than ever. Eager to learn more, sharpen their skills and compare notes, we offered a workshop last month on how private and public foundations can support grantees’ advocacy efforts and engage in advocacy themselves. Abby Levine, director of Alliance for Justice's Bolder Advocacy initiative, provided an overview of activities that constitute advocacy and public policy work, along with examples of advocacy roles for foundations, definitions of lobbying, and rules for private vs. public foundation grants to nonprofits that engage in lobbying (including general support, specific projects and multi-year grants). more »

Shaping Advocacy, Rebuilding Democracy

01/12/2017

Remy Trupin, Catalyst Fellow | The beginning of January always signals a mad rush of advocacy alerts to my inbox and phone. As a former lobbyist, I recall the junior high-like atmosphere of reconnecting with your friends and frenemies during the first few days of the legislative session, refreshed from the time away and ready to consider new alliances. This January, however, is like no other. An unprecedented presidential election outcome, followed by continued confusion and rancor, has increased public appetite for activism. The speed in which these debates are happening — in person and online, 24 hours a day — requires immediate and intensive focus. Philanthropy must be involved in the short-term work of shaping policy change and the long-term work of rebuilding the institutions we use to advance the common good. more »

Seizing the Opportunity to Expand Our Political Discourse

11/04/2016

Maya Thornell-Sandifor, Learning Strategy Director and Remy Trupin, Catalyst Fellow | In just a few more days, we can finally close the book on the 2016 election season. Needless to say, it’s been an interesting cycle fraught with anxiety and frustration. It would be easy to dismiss the vitriol of the current election as an episodic blip not worth understanding for the long-term work of philanthropy — but experience and common sense tell us that these emotions and currents won’t be put to rest easily after Election Day. This election season has illuminated how many Americans feel that full participation in our democracy is regulated to the privileged and powerful. We are convinced, however, that this climate has created an opening for productive dialogue, moving it further into the places where we continue to be divided as a nation. If anything, the messiness of this political environment has revealed the ways in which we are broken — creating an on-ramp to begin to think creatively and take action. more »

The Sustainability, Equity & Community Democracy Connection

10/31/2016

Mitchell Thomashow, Catalyst Fellow | The presidential election has hijacked America's attention. We have much at stake, of course, but this highly polarized atmosphere has distracted us from what brings us together and alienated too many potential partners. If we look more carefully at communities around the Pacific Northwest, regardless of political preferences, we see that constructive conversations, solutions-based initiatives and community-based approaches have taken root and will bear fruit long after Election 2016. As Philanthropy Northwest's Sustainability Catalyst Fellow, I have an opportunity to take a closer look at eight of these projects and share my findings with our network. more »

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 »

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 »

Building a Beautiful Portfolio: Where to Begin

08/08/2016

Leslie Christian, Catalyst Fellow | Are you a trustee or executive at a foundation that shares Philanthropy Northwest's vision of communities with vibrant, healthy futures that honor our past, our people and our cultures? Have you read the list of companies in which you are invested — not the names of the funds or managers, but the actual holdings — and wondered how you can reconcile these names with your mission and values? You are not alone. The alternative — a Beautiful Portfolio — provides a path to authenticity and honesty in our financial lives. more »

Foundations Should Work With For-Profits, Too

07/17/2016

Rosalie Sheehy Cates, Catalyst Fellow | Business is changing the world. Foundations are built to make grants to nonprofits, but if foundations want to influence change, we have to work in the for-profit business sector, too. It's that simple. The tool for this is investing. If we don’t do this, our foundation efforts are limited to the capacity of the nonprofit sector to steer the course, or clean up the mess. more »

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