We believe that with the right tools and resources, local communities are best suited to meet needs, solve challenges, and create opportunities for their residents. Our investments aim to bolster those efforts.
Building Community Philanthropy
To address the immediate needs of families and children, and to develop strong community partnerships, we provide direct grants to regional funding organizations, such as community foundations, United Ways, and funding organizations that work with specific target populations. These partners use their local knowledge and strong networks to address the unique needs of their communities—and in many cases they re-grant foundation funds to smaller nonprofits, local projects, and community-building initiatives.
Community members participate in a class at the Greenbridge mixedincome housing development in South King County.
Launched in 2012, our Building Community Philanthropy initiative works with community partners to re-grant foundation funds in support of our overarching goal of reducing intergenerational poverty:
Blue Mountain Community Foundation
Community Foundation for Southwest Washington
Community Foundation of North Central Washington
The Community Foundation of South Puget Sound
Greater Everett Community Foundation
Greater Tacoma Community Foundation
Inland Northwest Community Foundation
The Seattle Foundation
Spokane County United Way
United Way of Benton & Franklin Counties
United Way of Central Washington
United Way of Chelan & Douglas Counties
United Way of King County
United Way of Snohomish County
United Way of the Columbia-Willamette (Portland)
Whatcom Community Foundation
Yakima Valley Community Foundation
These organizations re-grant our funding to support a range of projects. Through this initiative, the foundation aims to empower local communities to identify and pursue their own approaches to create opportunities for vulnerable families:
- Meeting immediate needs of low-income families
- Increasing community engagement in local philanthropic decisions
- Strengthening regional networks of nonprofits serving low-income families
- Expanding collaboration and leadership roles of community philanthropy
By providing funds for local partners to disburse, we aim to impact more families than we can through direct grantmaking alone.
Many of our investments in Washington State focus on the Puget Sound region, where we see the largest concentration of people in need. Our Building Community Philanthropy initiative expands the foundation’s geographic reach to include Central, Eastern, and Southwest Washington. These intermediary organizations reach 90 percent of all individuals in poverty in the state.
Strengthening the Charitable Sector
In addition, we help service providers and community organizations that assist vulnerable families and low-income students to increase the efficacy of their work. Our Charitable Sector Support investments aim to strengthen the channels through which nonprofits and community leaders access knowledge and technical assistance about organizational effectiveness and strong community partnerships.
Students participate in a youth tutoring session at the Native American Youth and Family Center in Portland, Oregon.
By increasing the quality and availability of nonprofit technical assistance, we support our partners to better serve vulnerable populations, and in rigorously measuring and evaluating their program results. We support three core technical assistance providers and sector level advocates that provide these critical services to the charitable sector in Washington State:
- Philanthropy Northwest is a regional association of grantmakers that promotes, facilitates, and drives collaborative action by philanthropic organizations to strengthen communities in our region. A key component of our support to Philanthropy Northwest is our collaboration on their Community Foundation Initiative, which provides capacity-building assistance to community foundations across the state.
- Washington Nonprofits is a statewide association that provides the more than 50,000 nonprofits in our state with better representation in policy decisions, improved access to programs and funds, and access to services and programs to build their capacity.
- 501 Commons is a capacity-building institution that manages the Statewide Nonprofit Resource Directory, an online directory for nonprofits seeking vetted consultants and best practice information for various capacity-building projects.
We also collaborate with other funders to expand our ability to support local nonprofits. Along with the Campion Foundation, Empire Health Foundation, Medina Foundation, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the Seattle Foundation, Sherwood Trust, and Social Venture Partners Seattle, the Gates Foundation helped launch the Statewide Capacity Collaborative, which funds projects that strengthen Washington nonprofits. Together, we fund capacity-building projects based on findings from sector-level research, like the Assessment of Capacity Building in Washington State.
Supporting Native American Communities
Washington State has a diverse and rich history, which begins with the Tribes of the Pacific Northwest. Since 2002, the foundation has provided grants to Tribes, Native nonprofits, and other key partners to support technology access, education, youth development, human services, as well as arts and culture.
Beginning in 2010, we worked with Native American leaders to identify emerging opportunities and priorities for programs that would lead to stronger families and better outcomes for children in the Pacific Northwest. Community leaders continually emphasized the importance of investing in young people to ensure the long-term success of Native American communities. In response, we issued an invitation in March 2012 for community partners to tell us how they would work to improve educational outcomes for young people.
The resulting grants to Tribes, Native nonprofits, and education institutions support a range of community-driven approaches to improving outcomes for Native youth. Arts, culture, and language preservation programs help develop pride, stronger identities, and ultimately contribute to higher student retention and educational outcomes. Grantees also provide culturally competent services to engage families in their children’s education. They are working to strengthen Native educators, to improve the cultural competency of or school staff, and are incorporating accurate representation of Native history and culture into school curricula. Finally, these grantees are also creating school-to-career pathways that provide Native students with opportunities that lead to meaningful professions, including those that contribute to— or are supportive of—their own tribal communities.
In addition to these investments, we continue to provide scholarship opportunities for Native and other students, including Gates Millennium Scholars, Washington State Achievers, and Rainier Scholars.
Sourcing Community Ideas and Collaborations
The best ideas often come from our partners who work directly with students and families, and we regularly seek their input. Twice a year, we review submissions from Washington State and Portland-based organizations looking to engage communities to improve student success.
We seek ideas for community and school collaborations that can enhance educational success for low-income students both during and outside of school hours. We look for effective programs and research that advance understanding about the impact of family and community on student achievement from early childhood through college. Information about funding for such ideas is available on the foundation website.
Grant Opportunities through Our Partners
Additional grant opportunities may be available through our local partners and grantees. These opportunities focus on local community support, education, homelessness and housing, and poverty reduction. Organizations interested in learning more can visit the foundation’s website.