Maya Thornell-Sandifor

Maya
Thornell-Sandifor
Learning Strategy Director
206-443-8420

A recent transplant to the Pacific Northwest from the Bay Area, Maya is excited to join Philanthropy Northwest as our learning strategy director, bringing two decades of philanthropy and nonprofit sector experience to our team.

Prior to joining Philanthropy Northwest, Maya was an independent consultant to nonprofits and foundations and a part-time project director for CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, focusing on leadership development, evaluation, learning and program strategy. As a grantmaker at the Women's Foundation of California, she oversaw investments in programming for systemic change to create equity and opportunities for women and girls throughout the state. Her work as an advocate for women and girls continues today in her service as a board member for Legal Voice, a Northwest legislative advocacy organization for women's rights.

Maya is passionate about strengths-based leadership, innovative learning strategies and network weaving for effective sector collaboration. In her free time, she enjoys hiking with her sons and husband and recently is revisiting a childhood passion: tap dance. 

Maya Thornell-Sandifor's blog posts

September 26, 2017

With so many great things happening at the annual conference next week, it’s hard to narrow it down. But here’s my list of 10 things you don’t want to miss. more »

September 25, 2017

As we launch the second round of our two-year Momentum Fellowship program, it’s my honor to introduce below ten leaders from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and communities. I hope you’ll get to meet them at #PNW17, our annual conference coming up next week, Oct. 3-5, in Vancouver, WA. more »

September 14, 2017

We are thrilled to announce the latest keynote plenary speaker at the Philanthropy Northwest annual conference in Vancouver, coming up Oct. 3-5: Dr. Gail C. Christopher, D.N., N.D. Christopher joins former Deputy Secretary of Labor, Chris Lu, as a conference headliner. Other just-announced closing plenary speakers will include:  Maulik Pancholy, best known for his role on NBC's hit show, 30 Rock, and leading the #ActToChange anti-bullying campaign; Becky L. Monroe, Director of the Stop Hate Project, at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; and Eric K. Ward, incoming Executive Director of Western States Center.   more »

March 6, 2017

The Momentum Fellowship is designed to prepare professionals from underrepresented communities, particularly communities of color, for successful careers in the philanthropic sector through professional development, networking and mentoring opportunities. We're excited to announce that our next cohort of Momentum Fellows will be placed at seven foundations across the Northwest: Marguerite Casey Foundation, The Collins Foundation, Empire Health Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, Rasmuson Foundation, Whatcom Community Foundation and Women's Foundation of Oregon. more »

January 5, 2017

We have arrived in 2017! Moving forward into the new year, Philanthropy Northwest is excited about what the future holds and prepared to build upon the successes of the previous year. While we leave 2016 with many uncertainties, we have great faith in our Northwest philanthropic community's continued investment in the innovation, resilience and optimism that define our region. We see regional philanthropy stepping up to ensure nonprofit and service organizations have the capacity to drive towards their missions and serve as advocates for what’s needed on the ground. In the past few months, we have been reminded that you place high value on generosity, compassion, human rights and justice. And so, we look ahead with a great sense of hope. Hope that we will find clarity and understanding in how we can move forward collectively as a region and nation. Hope in transparent conversations that make clear the places where we are more alike in our shared pursuits than we are different. Hope that as a sector we take advantage of opportunities to learn from our mistakes, replicate our successes and share in solutions that make philanthropy a more effective institution. In this hopeful spirit, here's a preview of the ways Philanthropy Northwest seeks to engage and have impact in 2017: more »

November 4, 2016

In just a few more days, we can finally close the book on the 2016 election season. Needless to say, it’s been an interesting cycle fraught with anxiety and frustration. It would be easy to dismiss the vitriol of the current election as an episodic blip not worth understanding for the long-term work of philanthropy — but experience and common sense tell us that these emotions and currents won’t be put to rest easily after Election Day. This election season has illuminated how many Americans feel that full participation in our democracy is regulated to the privileged and powerful. We are convinced, however, that this climate has created an opening for productive dialogue, moving it further into the places where we continue to be divided as a nation. If anything, the messiness of this political environment has revealed the ways in which we are broken — creating an on-ramp to begin to think creatively and take action. more »

September 1, 2016

Given that our region has two states, Washington and Alaska, that are among the top 10 states with the largest Native American populations in the nation, Philanthropy Northwest has a vested interest in increasing awareness of opportunities for philanthropy to support programming for Native communities. Last week, we joined the White House and Native Americans in Philanthropy for the second Generation Indigenous gathering to highlight promising practices in programming that support the development and leadership of Native American youth. Our 2016 conference, Under One Sky, features several sessions and a learning tour related to Native communities, too. more »

October 5, 2016

Access to skill-building workshops, funder briefings and shared learning opportunities are and have always been a benefit of being a member of Philanthropy Northwest. We make a concerted effort to be responsive to the diverse needs of our members across the six states we serve — while simultaneously getting ahead of developing trends and burgeoning issues in the sector. This summer, we asked those who have attended Philanthropy Northwest programs in the past two years to tell us what they think by participating in a 5-minute survey. And wow: 87 of you responded, including several folks who emailed or called me personally to provide more in-depth feedback. The following topics ranked high on your area of interest for deepening knowledge, expertise and capacity more »

August 16, 2016

Homelessness and lack of affordable housing have reached states of emergency in parts of our region. As government agencies and voters move to address this crisis, funders may be wondering where their investments would be most useful. What should philanthropy's role be in addressing homelessness? Are there holes in funding that public dollars cannot fill, where philanthropy could step in? In a conversation we hosted earlier this month in Seattle and plan to continue at our conference next month in Missoula, we examined new data and recommendations with our members and partners. more »

June 28, 2016

Have you heard the story of the “Last Girl?" According to Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy, in order to create compassionate communities with respect, equity and justice, we should think about the person or child who is valued the least, who suffers the most, who comes last. I was introduced to this concept a few years ago, when a nonprofit leader I was working with used it to describe a young girl of color who is poor, a survivor of violence without access to education or adequate health care. Ever since hearing that story, when someone asks me "why" I work on building capacity and effectiveness in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector, I share this philosophy. In my new role of developing and implementing learning strategy at Philanthropy Northwest, there are admittedly a few layers between the "last girl" and myself. The purpose of my work remains the same, however: as a trainer, facilitator and strategist, I am helping funders and nonprofits learn to create more effective solutions for those suffering the most from injustice and inequity. more »