Welcoming More Community Voices
Embracing a holistic approach to governance & grantmaking by and for our communities
The Community Foundation of South Puget Sound is working toward a sustainable future where all people across the counties and tribal communities we serve will thrive. This means working alongside one another to address a wide range of needs and opportunities as unique and diverse as the people who call the South Puget Sound home.
To steward community resources to serve diverse communities and individuals, we need to create a space where everyone belongs. Our role, as a community foundation, is to hold and steward charitable resources in service of our tri-county area, which means that we get the honor of setting the table. Yet, deciding how those resources get distributed is a bigger job—one for the entire community that involves everyone joining together, greeting one another, and actively listening to a multitude of voices.
We don’t just advocate for this because including many people with diverse backgrounds and lived experiences leads to better decisions—although the research shows it does! It is also because local communities know what they need to be strong, healthy, and vibrant. Listening to more community perspectives ensures that the priorities of our communities are the priorities we support.
Last year, we were excited to make progress toward building a bigger decision-making table and welcoming more voices to guide our grantmaking and lead our strategic work. We are actively continuing this work and adding to our 2021 learning.
We sought broader representation on our board
In 2021, our board recruitment goal was to find people enthusiastic about our work who (1) are new to the Community Foundation and (2) represent Lewis, Mason, and Thurston communities more broadly.
To welcome new voices, we changed the way we sought nominees. We opened our board recruitment process by publicizing our search widely and accepting both self-and third-party nominations through an open form posted on our website and shared through our monthly newsletter.
We received fifteen nominations through this process and added five phenomenal new members to our board- Brent Dille, Charlie Terminelli, Craig Ottaveli, Renee Radcliff Sinclair, and Zahid Chaudhry. Each adds a broad range of expertise to the table. As a result of these changes, our board is growing more diverse, with people of many geographies, industries, and lived experiences.
We grew our community grants committees
A few years ago, we reorganized our grant committees by county to invite and create space for more people who live and work in Lewis and Mason counties. Each committee reviews applications from organizations in their home county and makes grant recommendations to our board for funding. This small change resulted in a deeper understanding of the priorities and needs within each community.
Over the past two years, we’ve also made an explicit effort to expand the number and variety of people who review grants and recommend funding to our board. This past year, forty-seven volunteers served on our community grants committees. Committee members came from various sectors and backgrounds—health care, human services, journalism, the arts, education, government, small business, social work, etc. We also invited staff from nonprofit organizations to join our grant committees and share their unique insights for the first time in our history.
Supported by our staff, a thorough orientation, strong conflict of interest guardrails, and a robust grantmaking process, these community members brought an array of fresh and valuable perspectives to our funding decisions. Their participation allowed committee members to connect and learn more about the incredible work local nonprofits accomplish in our communities. Together, they made our community grant discussions and decisions richer and more thoughtful than ever.
Overall, the operation was just as efficient as in past years, and welcoming more community voices to the decision-making table led to more funds being distributed more equitably across our tri-county region. Check back with us later this summer to volunteer to participate in our 2022 community grants committees.