The events of 2017 pointed us back to our values.

It’s been a wild year that most Americans will never forget. It’s pushed our thinking about what we stand for and whether we’re doing enough to advance what we believe is right. In that context, I’ve been reflecting recently on the values that guide the Northwest Area Foundation. If you click around on our website, you’ll find that we have six guiding values.


Staying in touch with these concepts—talking about them and keeping faith with them—helps us stay true to our purpose. But I have to admit that, like many organizational values statements, they’re a bit generic. Who could disagree with them, and who wouldn’t claim to hold such values?

How did we live our values in 2017?

I’ve been giving a little fresh thought to the “So what?” of our values. To root them in our actual practices, I thought I’d rough out some principles that show how we live these values day in and day out. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Our grantees come first. That’s why our website and social media posts celebrate and champion the great work of NWAF grantees like First Nations Oweesta Corporation, the Native CDFI Network, and so many others working on the leading edge of community change in our region. We are nothing without their passion, their vision, their relationships, and their skill.

We do what we say we’re going do. That sounds so simple. Too often, though, funders like us come across as fickle and inconstant, too eager to chase the next shiny object. In contrast, 2017 marked our sixth year of honoring our pledge to devote 40% of each year’s new grant dollars to Native-led organizations. Additionally, we added to our Native-led focus this year by launching a communications initiative to advance Native CDFIs. In a philanthropic field and a nation that consistently neglect indigenous communities, we’re very proud of that track record. At the same time, we never stop learning with and from our grantees, in the hope of sharpening our approach.

We are kind , not mean, no matter what. Is it just me, or would you agree that meanness is on the march these days? I’ll spare you a list of examples; just turn on the TV, look at a newspaper, or go on social media, and the dominance of nastiness over civility will be hard to miss. At NWAF, we try to do better than that. We know that our resources go much further when they are deployed in a spirit of generosity, reciprocity, and love.

I hope that in your interactions with me and the rest of Northwest Area Foundation team in 2017, you’ve found us to be true to these principles, and to the six guiding values that have led us down this path. Thank you for everything you’ve done this year to foster a more just and equitable future. On behalf of the Foundation’s entire staff and board, I wish you a joyous holiday season and a new year filled with purpose.



Kevin Walker

President and CEO, Northwest Area Foundation