Jul 13, 2010

Notes from Seattle Foundation Town Hall meeting – the rich get richer even in the nonprofit sector

Sustainable Seattle followed a face book invitation to The Seattle Foundation’s (SF) town hall meeting tonight. The foundation’s goals include doubling the amount given two fold by 2013, to expand the audience, and to share their knowledge. SF funds organizations, not projects. If you missed the meeting tonight, there are 3 workshops coming up- just check The Seattle Foundation website. But if you are small, new and have diverse funding- well the news is not so good.

Here are some of the changes: the grant making program changes include: reviewing applications by element with annual guidelines for each element; there are now staff element (one staff member for each of the 7 elements of the community framework- check the new website for who) with element committees (filled first by donors), no more 2 year eligibility rule, the review timeline is now longer, and the way SF works with donors and the types of grant- collaborative work, work that supports sectors.

What is not changing: the Healthy Community Framework created in 2006, addressing disparities, and guidance by the 7 elements and 3 strategies within each element.

Low priority grants include capital campaigns, emerging organizations (looking to tapping into what is already happening), small organizations with diverse revenue streams.

Really? This seems pretty outrageous that an organization with the objective of Healthy Communities will favor large single-source nonprofits. Are they looking to create the Coke and Pepsi of non-profits? Is this really healthy? Is this really funding for creating and sustaining community?


  1. Thanks for coming to our event last night. We were thrilled to have almost 300 representatives from the nonprofit sector join us to hear about the new work of The Seattle Foundation. You’ve done a great summary of the changes to our Grantmaking Program and folks can find out more at our website at www.seattlefoundation.org. We do want to clarify one point of information. You mention that we place a low priority on emerging organizations and smaller organizations with diverse revenue streams. The message we intended to share last night was that in this current economic climate, it is even more important for organizations to have diverse revenue streams. We have a long history of funding small and emerging organizations and will continue to do so, especially if they demonstrate sustainability through supporting their work with different sources of funding. We are, in fact, looking for organizations that have a diversity of revenue streams. We see that as a marker of a healthy organization and would caution all organizations, regardless of size, from relying too heavily on any one funding source. We are always happy to answer questions from potential grant applicants and welcome your inquiries at any time. You can reach us at grantmaking@seattlefoundation.org or via phone at 206.515.2109.

  2. Thank you for the post. While we appreciate that The Seattle Foundation encourages diverse revenue streams, the statement made that what will not be emphasized include small and emerging nonprofits is still disconcerting. It is understandable that SF expects to fund some small or emerting organizations- but from the information given at the event- one can assume this means this is the exception. We feel strongly that emerging and small organizations are key to positive change, to reachign sustainability and healthy communities. We support with words and acts the hyper-local movement- in economies, ecology and communities. In our view, the Seattle Foundation should head the words of Margaret Mead: "Never underestimate the power of a small group of people committed to change the world- in fact, it is the only thing that has." These efforts and these people are what needing funding if we are to reach real health in our communities.