Kiran Ahuja


An immigrant from India, Kiran spent her childhood in Savannah, Georgia, and then most of her adult life in Washington, DC. She spent the greater part of her professional life being an advocate, both in and out of government, and brings that passion to the Philanthropy Northwest network and region. Most recently, Kiran served in the Obama Administration as Chief of Staff at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and as Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. She's a former civil rights litigator and nonprofit CEO. Her passion for service and commitment to improving the lives of communities of color grew out of a formative educational experience at her alma mater, Spelman College. Kiran received her law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law.

Kiran is an avid yoga practitioner with a teacher certification, and is working toward building a stronger meditation practice; however, as in all efforts in life, it is a continuous journey to find balance.

Kiran Ahuja's blog posts

December 12, 2019

Our conference theme this year – Rooted. Grounded. Growing. – provides an important reflection piece for my end of year letter. Hopefully you caught earlier blogs by Elyse Gordon, our senior manager of programs, and Aleesha Towns-Bain, our conference co-chair and board chair, where they shared their thoughts on being Rooted and Grounded. I thought I would focus my end-of-year reflections on “Growing” – the anchor for our conference theme. more »

December 2, 2019

We are pleased to release the latest Trends in Northwest Giving report. Trends in Northwest Giving began as a project of Philanthropy Northwest in 2006 and has been published every two years as an aggregation and analysis of grantmaking trends that shape our region — Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. This report focuses on the most recent data available, through fiscal year 2016. While rapid changes are afoot in our world and region, I’m inspired by the innovation, advocacy of and connections to landscape and community that continue to define our special part of the country. Much of our sector’s growth, as well as the deep roots that strengthen our communities, is reflected throughout this Trends in Northwest Giving report. more »

March 11, 2019

I’m excited to be writing from the annual Foundations on the Hill in Washington D.C. where we’re joining almost 250 philanthropic partners from across the country. Our Philanthropy Northwest team, made up of members and staff, is meeting with 20 congressional offices, caucuses and committees; plus sitting in on committee hearings taking place this week. We’re always excited to be here in Washington D.C., to share with congressional members and their staff the issues that matter to philanthropy, as well as to our members. more »

January 30, 2019

Philanthropy Northwest has an impressive and engaged board of directors, all of whom show up in different ways for the network and our organization while representing the diverse field of philanthropy in our six-state region. In October 2018 at our annual conference, we proudly welcomed three new board members to join our governing body: Mike Halligan of Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation (Montana), Jill Nishi of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Washington), and Brenda Solorzano of Headwaters Foundation (Montana). We are fortunate to have these philanthropic leaders on our board who represent organizations committed to supporting vibrant, healthy communities in our region.I look forward to working with them in the coming years. more »

November 30, 2018

As you may know, since late 2017, Philanthropy Northwest has been actively engaged in local, regional and national efforts to ensure a fair and accurate Census 2020. We are pleased to announce that in early 2019 we will officially launch a statewide pooled fund, the Washington State Census Funding Partnership (Partnership), seeded with a generous grant by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Partnership will align collective grantmaking strategies to ensure communities across the state are fully counted in 2020. more »

August 24, 2018

Earlier this year, Philanthropy Northwest committed to a journey that centers equity on the path to achieving a fairer and more just world. This journey compels both reflection and the use of our voice.

Over recent months, we have witnessed the family separation crisis at our border with sorrow and outrage. The federal government’s forcible and prolonged separation of children from their parents as these immigrant families sought refuge is an affront to the values of an equitable and just society, in which all people are treated with decency, respect and compassion.

Today, despite a court-ordered deadline having passed for the reunification of more than 2,000 families, the crisis remains ongoing. more »

June 28, 2018

On a recent trip to Anchorage, after engaging with local philanthropic leaders and learning about Alaska’s unique attributes and challenges, it dawned on me the many lessons funders in the lower 48 can glean from Alaska’s philanthropic leaders. In a geographically large state with a small population, funders wear multiple hats and coordinate easily across organizations to address formidable challenges – including homelessness, lack of affordable housing and healthcare services, access to high-quality P-16 education, workforce development and much, much more.

From this recent visit and in my role with Philanthropy Northwest over the past year, I’d like to share my observations about the unique positioning of philanthropy in Alaska. more »

June 19, 2018

Our pledge to place communities “at the center,” and our commitment to equity resonates deeply with me. At Philanthropy Northwest, I’ve felt at home from the start because this organization leads with a values-driven agenda. During my first year as CEO, I immersed myself in the rich and diverse histories and landscapes of our region. I joke with our members that over the past year there have been many firsts for me – first time in Oregon, first time in Idaho, first time in Montana, first time in Alaska, and the list goes on. Each visit with our members inspired and amazed me because I witnessed how our member organizations support and strive for prosperous and inclusive communities.   more »

May 23, 2018

As I approach my one-year anniversary with Philanthropy Northwest next month on June 19, I think about how much I’ve learned and gained from meeting all of you. Three months into my role, we had our annual conference where I met many of you. Here we are again, looking forward to exploring in Boise this October how to listen, partner and lead in the world of philanthropy and beyond. As part of that theme, I’m excited to announce two of our conference keynote speakers (with more to come): Anand Giridharadas and Judy Belk. more »

April 3, 2018

Last month, Philanthropy Northwest formally launched our Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). This commitment is an important next step for our organization, particularly in this age of discord and reactive discourse, but also as our members’ interest in DEI continues to grow and we, at Philanthropy Northwest, deepen our own DEI conversations and programs. more »

March 29, 2018

With spring in the air, the sun is more out and about—and so are we! We’ve been working tirelessly to create change that matches the welcome change of the seasons. From advancing our commitment to equity to expanding philanthropy’s role in policy and advocacy, we have fully embraced our expanded role as an organization and as a member network. more »

February 26, 2018

February is often a time for hibernation and counting down the days to spring—unless you are an avid skier! Having grown up in Savannah, Georgia, I have limited experience with the snow and ice, let alone sports involving them. So, despite lots of inspiration from the Winter Olympics, from the huge gold-medal wins by U.S. Women’s Hockey and Cross-Country (skate sprint) to Jamaica’s first women’s bobsled team, the month of February was a time for our team at Philanthropy Northwest to plan, convene and reflect. Our efforts have yielded results, too! more »

January 16, 2018

Conversations on America’s legacy of racism and xenophobia can be difficult, even make us uncomfortable. But silence would signal indifference, and we are not indifferent to the historic and contemporary effects of racism, or the racial divisiveness resurfacing across our country today. That’s why we join the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in recognizing the second annual National Day of Racial Healing and promoting the their Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation framework as a means for building a more equitable tomorrow. more »

December 20, 2017

Each year, Philanthropy Northwest works to create an annual conference experience that reflects, honors and celebrates the diversity of our region and membership. While a large part of the annual conference experience depends on our curating a robust, dynamic program for sharing and learning amongst peers, we also know that the conference location and a sense of place matters. And so, with AC2017 in our rear view mirror, our team set out to assess where we’ve been and where our learning community should go next. Literally.  more »

December 4, 2017

Philanthropy Northwest's members are central to our work to promote a more resilient, equitable and inclusive future that honors our past, our people and our cultures regionally. As an organization, we believe that we are at our best when we embrace the future as an opportunity to do more in collaboration with you—our members. We've exciting programs and new initiatives on the horizon, but to have the most impact, we must first appreciate and recognize our strengths as a six-state network. That’s why the next chapter truly begins with you! more »

November 22, 2017

One of the best ways to learn about our regional communities is to spend time in community and experience local passions, concerns, and commitments firsthand. In this blog post, I share my experiences and key takeaways from the Walla Walla Valley Funders' Tour that I had the pleasure of attending earlier this month. more »

September 11, 2017

One of the things I'm most proud of about this year's conference is the way we've curated conversations about timely topics. That's apparent in Day Three's closing plenary, which features four incredible panelists who will discuss the rise of hate in a post-9/11, post-Charlottesville context that's become quite unfriendly toward Arab-Americans, South Asian-Americans, and immigrants, including my friend, former 30 Rock actor Maulik Pacholy.  more »

August 30, 2017

Growing up in the South, Charlottesville felt all too familiar, though no less enraging and saddening to me. There have been counter protests to KKK and white supremacist marches for as long as I can remember. I distinctly recall going to one in North Georgia to “monitor” the protest. The difference was those gatherings were small, and hardly picked up by the media or the general public, though the foreign press often covered them. more »

July 20, 2017

What does it mean to live one’s values? As the new Philanthropy Northwest CEO, my recent trip to Anchorage marked my first board meeting, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. But when a board and organization lead with values, especially when those values include a strong commitment to our communities, I felt right at home. By immersing ourselves several times a year in different parts of Philanthropy Northwest’s region, our leadership team can reflect on how best to grow and share knowledge among our network of members and truly live out our value-based Strategy Framework, including in particular “honor[ing] our past, people and our cultures.”  more »

July 18, 2017

As we look to the future, I'm struck by Philanthropy Northwest's values of equity, engagement, integrity, accountability, and learning—values that have been central in my career thus far. Most recently I served as chief of staff at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, supporting thousands of federal employees committed to public service. Before that I served as executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, working to increase access to federal programs and services for these underserved populations. Earlier in my career, I litigated education-related civil rights cases for the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division including desegregation cases.  more »