Catalyst Fellows

Mobilizing Every Penny of Philanthropic Capital

06/20/2016

Leslie Christian, Catalyst Fellow | What would the world look like if every foundation committed to using every one of its pennies to advancing its mission — even if it meant rearranging staff, giving up on “market returns" and coming to terms with the fact that nothing, including foundations, lives in perpetuity? This may seem like a radical premise, but it’s the direction philanthropy has already begun taking. Major foundations in the Northwest and nationwide are being designed to be time-limited and moving to “spend down” strategies. Tech billionaires are sharing their wealth through community foundations, LLCs and social enterprises rather than the more conventional family foundation model. And philanthropy isn’t just about making grants anymore — it’s about impact investments, advocacy and public policy work and being thoughtful about sustainability and place. more »

Embracing a Place-Based Approach to Our Work

06/07/2016

Mitchell Thomashow, Catalyst Fellow | For each of us, our community, landscape and identity create a fluid concept: place. Environmental thinkers use place as a common ground for deepening local awareness of ecological relationships, with bioregionalism as a compelling manifestation of that impulse, suggesting that political boundaries, governance and public policy must be considered within the natural connections of geographic settings. We regard place-based thinking as the foundation of community relationships as well as the appropriate scale for civic engagement; this concept has also become part of the literature in anthropology, economics, education and political science. We believe it has an important role to play in philanthropy, as well, as The Russell Family Foundation and other Philanthropy Northwest members have demonstrated in their place-based community partnerships. more »

Seizing the Momentum for Impact Investing

05/25/2016

Rosalie Sheehy Cates, Catalyst Fellow | It’s not every day you find the top officers from the biggest foundations in the United States chatting about their commitment to impact investing. It happened, though, at the Mission Investors Exchange (MIE) biennial conference in Baltimore, Maryland. From May 9 to 11, the CEOs of Meyer Memorial Trust and the Ford, Kresge, MacArthur, McKnight and Surdna foundations each took the stage to share their stories, commitment and strategies for "Seizing the Momentum" of impact investing. The size and stature of these foundations are a testament to MIE’s organizational reach and impact investing’s increasingly mainstream appeal. It may be a little overwhelming however, for smaller foundations and organizations just beginning to explore this tool. The MIE conference can feel like the arcade at the state fair: Over here we have real estate strategies to fight gentrification! Over there are fisheries, already accelerated to Version 2.0!  And over there, how to invest our way out of climate change! I think this is overwhelming in a good way, though. 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 »

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 »

How Sustainability Integrates Community, Place and Philanthropy

03/23/2016

Mitchell Thomashow, Catalyst Fellow | If you visit just about any university in North America, you’ll notice an important dynamic: the idea of sustainability has taken root everywhere, from rural community colleges to large urban state universities, bringing diverse stakeholders together. From Oregon's Portland State University to the University of Montana, there are countless bold and innovative sustainability projects stimulating local investment. Across professional levels, political backgrounds and personal experiences, sustainability proponents unify around a common desire to build community on their campus, to respect it and recognize it as a special place that lends meaning to our lives. How can this approach advance our work at Philanthropy Northwest? more »

Introducing the Catalyst Fellows

03/03/2016

Jeff Clarke, CEO | Poet William Blake wrote, "The true method of knowledge is experiment." Here at Philanthropy Northwest, we honor Blake and the countless others who have offered similar encouragement by taking initiative to conduct learning experiments. Our latest? The Catalyst Fellows, a place-based experiment in thought partnership and network learning. We’ve designed this program to begin and steward ongoing conversations about the important role that different types of capital, each integral to philanthropic strategy, play in creating and sustaining vibrant, equitable and inclusive communities. While there are many important forms of capital, we’ve chosen to begin this work by focusing on influence (advocacy), financial (impact investing) and natural (sustainability) capital. more »

Raising Philanthropy's Voice in an Election Year

03/01/2016

Remy Trupin, Advocacy Catalyst Fellow | Election years are a tantalizing time, and with proper counsel and support, philanthropic organizations can be powerful advocates. When and how can your foundation speak out on a particular issue? Can foundations fund lobbying activities by grantees? Is it OK to provide candidates with talking points? What about funding voter guides and voter registration drives? Eager to learn more and share their experiences, Ballmer Group Philanthropy, Campion Foundation, Raikes Foundation and other funders recently participated in our Advocacy in an Election Year workshop. more »

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