We prioritize the needs of grantees in what we do with our resources, decisions, processes, and practices.

We don’t do the work on the ground that advances our mission in the communities we serve. Grantees do. This awareness has become so essential to our mindset that we’ve devoted a value that specifically prioritizes our grantees’ success.

To do this, we have a responsibility to engage with, listen to, and learn from them. They live and work in the communities we support. They are on the front lines of change. They bring experience and expertise. Without our grantees, we could not achieve our mission of prosperity for all. That is what grantees come first means to us.

Time and again, grantees have shown their expertise and resilience in the wake of crisis. It’s our imperative to be in dialogue with them and adjust our grantmaking as circumstances and needs change.

Putting grantees first demands trust and flexibility in grantmaking.

A key element of the relationships with grantees is trust. We have deep respect and confidence in our grantees as they respond to both long-standing and immediate problems stemming from dominant cultural narratives and economic systems that have oppressed them for generations.

Time and again, grantees have shown their expertise and resilience in the wake of crisis. It’s our imperative to be in dialogue with them and adjust our grantmaking as circumstances and needs change.

For example, in 2017, in response to considerable political and social changes around our region, we allocated $1 million to a rapid response grants initiative. The purpose was to support organizations facing new challenges in an environment growing increasingly hostile to immigrants and refugees, Latinx communities, and others in our priority communities. New and existing grantees across our region stepped up to respond to the resilient communities they serve. So, we created the initiative to provide direct support to their efforts.

When grantees told us what they needed to respond to emerging issues in their communities, we had to be flexible. The idea of rapid response grantmaking is our way of meeting grantees where they are, supporting their goals and outcomes through a streamlined process. This allowed us to trim out the parts of grantmaking that could potentially slow down the ability of grantees—and the communities they serve—to thrive.

We view grantees as partners, not simply funding recipients. And they will continue to come first because we value them and the work they do.

Again, in 2020, the pandemic necessitated the Foundation coordinate quickly with our grantee partners to ensure the well-being of our priority communities facing multiple and unprecedented challenges. With the implementation of our Crisis Response Initiative, funds could get out the door fast to organizations making impact in their communities.

We adapted our processes and grantmaking framework to accommodate the needs of grantees: from expediting grant renewals to removing budget restrictions for grants to reallocating funds so more funding was available for grantmaking.

We view grantees as partners, not simply funding recipients. And they will continue to come first because we value them and the work they do.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is at the center of our commitment to grantees.

Our DEI journey began from the desire to center the needs and interests of our grantees. They serve communities that are vibrant and resilient and facing centuries of racism and exclusion. Embedded in this journey is the belief that the worldviews, identities, experiences, and cultures of our priority communities inform who and how we fund.

“Several years ago, NWAF became part of a broader movement in philanthropy to adopt DEI goals and outcomes across the entire organization. When this decision was made, we realized we needed to explicitly recognize and focus our efforts on the communities most marginalized in the dominant economic systems we were trying to change. These communities—Native Americans, communities of color, immigrants, refugees, and low-income rural communities—are the Foundation’s priority focus.
Our mission of building prosperity can only be met when we consider the implications of our decisions and actions on the communities we intend to benefit. Putting our priority communities’ goals, approaches, and outcomes front and center, at the beginning of internal learning and dialogue, helps us better walk in step with grantees as we together advance social, racial, and economic justice.”

Martin Jennings
Program Officer, Northwest Area Foundation

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