About this time last year, our inaugural grants team of four had just started at Group Health Foundation. A few weeks later, we launched Community Learning Grants—our first round of significant grantmaking. The grants are part of our deliberate approach to listen and learn so that we could better show up as philanthropic partners to Washington communities in the future.
That future reality, the one where we are fully staffed and have more regional presence throughout the state, was supposed to be a few years in the making. With the arrival of the coronavirus and the groundswell of protests against anti-Black racism—and what has unfolded since—this moment demands we accelerate our efforts, even as we continue to grow, learn, and build trusting relationships.
I am grateful for the communities across the country who are standing up to oppression and demanding freedom from state-sanctioned violence. As we said in our previous newsletter, a liberated future starts with all of us in Washington. I feel hope and excitement for grantees in places like the Tri-Cities, Omak, White Salmon, Kelso, Longview, the Central District in Seattle, and so many more who are leading us forward in this new era of civil rights.
I would also like to thank Group Health Foundation staff who have been diligently working this summer to redesign work plans and grantmaking for the critical months and years ahead. Although delayed until early 2021, we are still opening a Tri-Cities office in Pasco and planning for offices in other regions. We remain firmly committed to embodying what it means to be a statewide foundation, including creating a multi-office organizational culture, as recommended to us by leaders and nonprofits across Washington. As part of this expansion and in anticipation of increased grantmaking, we are also growing our team. Six new staff members are joining us this fall and will be based in various locations around the state.
We made $18.5 million in grants last year; this year it will be more than $55 million. In the months ahead, we will share more details about who and what we are funding as we connect with grantees. Even though our plans are changing, one thing will always be constant: our support for work across Washington led by Black, Indigenous, and other people of color; people with disabilities; immigrants and refugees; members of the LGBTQIA+ community; and people who live with low incomes.
It’s incredible to think that it was just last summer when our start-up team was driving around the state on community visits and introducing ourselves to nonprofits as a brand-new foundation. Now, we will soon be a team of 30, about halfway to our full capacity, and doing our best to stay connected with communities even if we can’t physically be together.
Our entire world has changed, and we are not the same people we were a year ago. We don’t know what the future holds. What I do know is that regardless of what lies ahead, we need to be courageous, we must follow the leadership of communities most impacted, and we need to be brave enough to live our values—even when it is hard.
Nichole June Maher
President & CEO