Together We Transform: Philanthropy Northwest’s Vision Towards Equity and Racial Justice

Together We Transform: Philanthropy Northwest’s Vision Towards Equity and Racial Justice

Feature graphic with a dandelion background that says "Together We Transform. Philanthropy Northwest's vision towards Equity and Racial Justice." With flowers at the bottom and a tree branch with orange leaves on the right side.

In times of uncertainty, the necessity to shift and evolve often presents our greatest opportunity. Over the past four years, our sector has set aside long-standing practices to make way for greater nimbleness, flexibility and equity in response to our grantee partners and the communities we collectively seek to serve.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide reckoning on race challenged us to adapt, pivot and respond swiftly to the urgent needs facing our communities. As a sector we also looked inward, interrogating our approaches, our biases and our own complicity in perpetuating inequitable systems. We examined our practices to reveal who received our resources, and importantly who did not - and then asked ourselves why not? Many of us began to adopt principles of trust-based and participatory grantmaking. We also recognized a long overdue need to shift an inherent power dynamic and build more authentic relationships with our grantee partners and the community.

Finally, some of us started or continued to build our understanding of the harmful impacts of a social construct in this country designed to confer benefits to some while denying others. While others further along in their understanding of this damaging legacy, began exploring philanthropy’s role in reparations.

In sum, we, as a sector, began a collective movement to reimagine philanthropy and center greater equity in who, how and what we fund.


Philanthropy Northwest’s New Strategic Direction

Since I joined Philanthropy Northwest 20 months ago, many of you have generously offered your time, counsel and feedback. And through our recent strategic planning process, nearly 250 of you offered your thoughts and perspectives through focus groups and surveys on how Philanthropy Northwest could be of most value to the sector.

What we’ve heard is a desire for our sector to continue translating our commitments to equity and racial justice into actions that are ultimately meaningful to our grantee partners and the community. Our language may be different in how we describe this work, and our approaches may vary depending on place and context, but you have asked us to support you in advancing, growing and sustaining this work – particularly in the face of significant headwinds and recent backlash.

We must stay the course. Data tells us that the communities with the greatest needs, those who consistently carry the burden of disproportionate adverse impacts are the same communities who also receive the smallest fraction of philanthropic funding.  If we believe the organizations working alongside their communities are in the best position to define and self-determine what is needed to ensure more just outcomes, then we must close this gap.

Our strategy is more than just a plan — it is a collective vision and a call to action.


Our Mission

After a year of planning, our refreshed mission reflects how our work has evolved over the years based on continuous feedback from all of you, focusing on our collective efforts to achieve greater equity in who, how and what we fund. As we continue to support all of you, our refreshed mission is to grow philanthropy's capacity to do transformative work toward redistributing resources and power to underinvested communities in the Northwest and beyond.


Our Priorities Over the Next Three Years

To fulfill our mission, we are shaping our work around three levels of transformation: People, Organizations and Systems.

Empowering People: You are the driving force behind further transformation of our sector. Over the next three years, we will create spaces for impactful learning and personal growth, fueled by the power of peer support and collective wisdom. We hope you will join us for some powerful opportunities to learn, grow and drive action:

  • We launched five new cohorts reflecting the diversity of identities, roles and work across our network.
  • We’ll be hosting our first in-person conference since 2019 this October in Missoula, Montana on October 21 - 23.

Strengthening Organizations: We recognize the diversity of contexts in which you operate, and we are committed to providing tailored support and resources to your organizations in adopting equity-centered practices:

  • Our national consultancy, The Giving Practice offers strategic planning, organizational development and facilitation support anchored in advancing a more equitable sector.
  • Building on the success of our inaugural podcast on leading for racial equity in philanthropy, our second season will highlight a diversity of voices from our sector on the nuances of operationalizing equity commitments in varying contexts.

Building Thriving Ecosystems: Sustained change requires influencing systems and engaging with our broader ecosystem. Here, we commit to:

  • Using our collective voice and influence to advocate for federal policies that promote the equitable distribution of public and philanthropic funding toward communities historically overlooked.
  • Equitably distributing pooled philanthropic and public funds. Where we are uniquely positioned, we will serve as a grantmaking intermediary to support the equitable distribution of philanthropic and public funds in our region. We are honored to serve as the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 10 grantmaker to equitably distribute $50M in environmental justice funding to communities historically underinvested in by the federal government.


Our Collective Call to Action

We invite you to join us in advancing our collective journey to evolve our sector to move more resources and power to the communities we all seek to serve.

Thank you for your partnership, your passion and your unwavering commitment to greater equity and racial justice for all communities.

Join us on Friday, April 19 to learn more about Philanthropy Northwest’s collective vision and new strategic plan.