Marguerite Casey Foundation Develops Future Philanthropy Leaders of Color

October 28, 2019

This article was originally published on Marguerite Casey Foundation's President's Corner on October 24, 2019. 

Nadja Redmond and Luz Vega-Marquis
From left to right: Nadja Redmond, social media specialist,
and Luz Vega-Marquis, president and CEO of Marguerite
Casey Foundation. Photo by Marguerite Casey Foundation.

Please join me in welcoming Nadja Redmond to Marguerite Casey Foundation as our social media specialist and the latest Philanthropy Northwest Momentum Fellow (Class of 2021). Nadja is our most recent hire at Marguerite Casey Foundation, and I’m thrilled to have her on our team. We’re excited to provide Nadja, a Pomona College graduate, with an opportunity to enter the philanthropy field as part of this two-year fellowship.

Growing up, Nadja was aware of her family’s involvement in social justice work in Seattle, and she’s excited to now bring those values into her professional career. For Nadja, it’s important that storytelling, across platforms and mediums, seeks to prioritize, engage and educate low-income communities fighting for change. She brings conscience and conviction to her storytelling and communications work in support of low-income families who are leaders in movement building, strengthening communities and alleviating poverty.

The Momentum Fellowship is administered by Philanthropy Northwest and began in 2015. Since then, Marguerite Casey Foundation has been a firm supporter of this program, which provides valuable work experience, professional development, mentoring and networking opportunities across Pacific Northwest philanthropies to people of color. Marguerite Casey Foundation helps develop future philanthropic leaders by funding one or two fellows a year as they participate in peer learning and on-the-job mentoring.

When we talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, this is one example of how we put it into action – by living our values and transforming an idea into reality for collective success.

I’ve been a strong advocate for the Momentum Fellowship since its start. I worked with a cohort of chief executives from Pacific Northwest philanthropies to design and develop ways the sector can increase its diversity and offer more professional opportunities for young philanthropic leaders of color. When the philanthropy sector says it needs a model to attract, develop and hire talented, motivated and diverse staff members, we can look to the Momentum Fellowship as a practice done right.

As a Latina who leads a national foundation in a sector that needs more people of color and women, I knew this was one of many ways I could champion support.

I have long thought philanthropy needs to do a better job of connecting with the communities we serve. As Robert Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment, Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and I said earlier this year, when we in philanthropy leave our comfort zones and engage diversity for the public good, we do better work. 

Philanthropy can strengthen bonds of trust so we can say with pride: We are fulfilling our missions and developing a strong pool of talented people of color to drive change.

MCF Momentum Fellows and Luz Vega-Marquis
From left to right: Nadja Redmond (social media specialist), Janelle Choi (program officer, midwest), Luz Vega-Marquis (president and CEO of Marguerite Casey Foundation), Zeeba Khalili (learning and evaluation officer) and Elizabeth Posey (program officer, west).

I have a deep-rooted commitment not only to the Momentum Fellowship program but to encouraging and mentoring emerging philanthropic leaders of color. Nadja is the third cohort of Momentum Fellows to work at Marguerite Casey Foundation.

She joins Janelle Choi, Elizabeth Posey and Zeeba Khalili, who are members of the first and second cohorts of Momentum Fellows to be selected to work at Marguerite Casey Foundation. Working with all three of these intelligent and impressive women as fellows gave the Foundation firsthand experience of their capabilities.

This led to Marguerite Casey Foundation extending full-time positions to the women after their fellowships: Now, Janelle is program officer, midwest, hired in 2016; Elizabeth is program officer, west, also hired in 2016; and Zeeba is the learning and evaluation officer, hired in 2019. 

Marguerite Casey Foundation is better because of the insight, lived experiences and contributions of these four talented women. If we didn’t have this deep commitment to diversity and equity, we’d be missing out on ideas and points of view vital to families, missing out on truly understanding a changing America and how we can make tomorrow better than today.

Luz Vega-Marquis is president and CEO of Marguerite Casey Foundation. She founded Hispanics in Philanthropy and helped create the Philanthropy Northwest Momentum Fellowship. Luz Vega-Marquis serves on the board of directors of Group Health Foundation, Putting Families First and The Workers Lab. She is a former board member of Philanthropy Northwest and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. Under Luz Vega-Marquis’s leadership, she helped create a national movement of low-income families advocating on their own behalf for a more just and equitable society.