Philanthropy Northwest

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My Journey to Philanthropy Northwest

My Journey to Philanthropy Northwest

April 4, 2017

How does a Southern California native end up moving to Seattle during the rainiest winter on record? In my national search, I found that Seattle held exactly what I was looking for: a thriving community of nonprofits and foundations. Specifically, I found my calling when Philanthropy Northwest opened the research analyst position for The Giving Practice, its national consulting team. So much so, that my husband and I packed our bags from Dallas, Texas — where we had been living for the last few years — and moved across the country for me to take this opportunity.

Getting to Philanthropy Northwest has been a long journey in other ways, too. While working in the nonprofit sector for the past 10 years, I constantly asked myself, "How can I leverage my skills in the right way to make a difference?" As I explored this question, I felt a distinct passion for helping institutions perform at their best and fulfill their missions. I began to learn a lot about the world of consulting and philanthropy, and how supporting institutions and capacity-building comes in different forms. Now, I'm excited to find myself in a place that brings all of this together.

As research analyst for The Giving Practice, I have the opportunity to delve into a range of topics that can help support private, community and corporate foundations, such as performing scans in the field to provide your team an overview of existing discretionary grant policies, compensation policies, different ways to evaluate your operations, and so on. The possibilities are endless! Through this process, I am looking forward to getting to know our members and clients while learning even more about the philanthropic sector.

My work also includes co-managing Philanthropy's Reflective Practices, a collection of tools and practices to help funders reflect on their practices, hone their leadership skills and get to better outcomes in their work. I know some of you have already contributed to this work, and I hope many more will add your voices and experiences to the project. Most recently, I have also been on-boarded to work closely with Community Democracy Workshop, a national project of Philanthropy Northwest, to develop a case study around a neighborhood revitalization project in Walla Walla, Washington.

How I Got Here

To get to this point, I previously worked at Whitestone Foundation, a start-up community-building organization for the U.S. Muslim community that seeks to cultivate ideas and solutions by creating implementable models. In this role, I was able to receive one-on-one training on grantmaking to prepare the organization to become a grantmaking organization in the long run. Prior to this, my career began in Southern California, where I was born and raised, at a civil rights group called Council on American-Islamic Relations – Greater Los Angeles Area (CAIR–LA), working my way up from intern to staff, then as a consultant and board member.

In addition to helping me gain a strong understanding of nonprofit operations and management, these roles provided me with a deeper understanding of the American Muslim nonprofit community, specifically their strengths, opportunities and needs. With this professional experience, and in my personal experiences as a Muslim American woman, I know I am looked to as a resource to share this community’s stories — especially the work being done in the face of significant current challenges. I welcome this role and hope to leverage my experience to add to the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work Philanthropy Northwest takes on a daily basis, externally and internally.

Along the way, it was my time at University of Southern California, earning my master’s degree in public administration, that introduced me to the philanthropy sector. I had the honor of taking a class with Claire Peeps, Durfee Foundation executive director, who exposed me to the amazing strategy work happening in philanthropy and the current trends and challenges the sector faces. Specifically, we explored a lot about nonprofit and philanthropy partnerships and how those partnerships can really help the community in a unique way. I am excited to explore this further in my new role, as I will also be working with The Giving Practice to support funder collaboratives, including the Philanthropist Forum. This collaborative was created to improve the lives of Washington state’s most vulnerable children and families through aligned investment in innovative systems change that focuses on transparency and accountability at every level. I can’t wait to leverage my nonprofit experience in my new role by providing the nonprofit perspective when working with our clients.

When I got married in 2015, I moved to Texas,  where my husband lived. While I appreciated learning about the nonprofit community in the Dallas area, I wanted to try working in a city with a larger cross-sector network of funders and partners.

Looking Forward

As we settle down in Seattle, I am looking forward to experiencing all that the region has to offer — especially as the sun starts to come out a little more often! My husband and I have always wanted to explore the Northwest, and I am particularly looking forward to the events happening in the philanthropy world, like our 2017 Annual Conference in Vancouver, Washington. I can't wait to meet everyone, learn from you and hear more about the amazing work happening in the region.

Anbar Mahar Sheikh is a research analyst with The Giving Practice, Philanthropy Northwest's national consulting team. She can be reached at asheikh@philanthropynw.org.