Seattle Works

A blog that documents all things Seattle Works…and much much more!

Cooking with nonprofits and funders – a plan for civic health August 13, 2014

Filed under: Invest — seattleworks @ 12:24 pm

Yesterday evening, Seattle Works had the pleasure of co-promoting Seattle CityClub and Philanthropy Northwest’s panel on “Long-term Investments in Civic Health” in Seattle.

The consensus? Foundations, government, nonprofits, and donors need to be working together to move forward if we’re going to affect real societal change. Nonprofits are the chefs in the kitchen – dreaming up the ingredients and plans that create a plan for funding; the funder acts as the sous-chef, helping put it all together! Let’s get cookin’!

civic health

Seattle CityClub infographic on civic health in Seattle

This forum, presented in partnership with Philanthropy Northwest, stems from Seattle CityClub’s findings in its 2014 Greater Seattle Civic Health ​Index report. It explores the report’s recommendation to tackle our community’s disparities of educational access, economic opportunity, public and civic health through cross-sector collaboration and investment.

Michael Brown, VP, The Seattle Foundation
Jeff Clarke, CEO, Philanthropy Northwest (moderator)
Lorena Gonzalez, Counsel to the Mayor, City of Seattle; Board, Northwest Area Foundation
Mijo Lee, Program Director, Social Justice Fund Northwest
Alexandra McKay, Executive VP & Chief Program Counsel, Casey Family

Thanks for the fascinating discussion, panelists!


CommonWealth sends a check to DESC! December 4, 2013

Filed under: CommonWealth,Invest — seattleworks @ 12:39 pm


Our Fall 2013 CommonWealth team worked together over the last three weeks to build their skills as donors–and learn about this round’s issue area of focus: housing and homelessness. Last night, after researching nearly 50 organizations working on the issue locally and statewide, the group decided to send their donation to DESC!

DESC is a Seattle-based organization that works to end the homelessness of vulnerable people, particularly those living with serious mental or addictive illnesses, by providing mental health and chemical dependency treatment, 279 emergency shelter beds, and nearly 800 units of permanent supportive housing that serve over 7,000 people each year.

From the beginning, the CommonWealth team wanted to support organizations that provde a wide range of services to address the root causes of homelessness. DESC emerged as a perfect match–the team was impressed  by the diversity of their programs, their collaborative approach and their impressive results. As the team said themselves, DESC serves “the people we see every day,” and “empowers them to be a part of the community.”

Thanks to our CommonWealth team for the time and energy they invested this round–we’re thrilled to send their donation of $1,200 to DESC this week!


Big issues, big giving–are you signed up for CommonWealth? November 14, 2013

Filed under: CommonWealth,Invest — seattleworks @ 5:39 pm


As we gear up for our next week’s CommonWealth kickoff, we’re learning a lot about this round’s issue focus–housing and homelessness. Did you know…

Want to do something about it, but feeling totally overwhelmed? Well, you don’t have to. When you join CommonWealth, you not only get the opportunity to learn more about some of the biggest issues affecting our community–but you get to join a team as committed as you are to supporting the organizations tackling them. Because when you put your minds and your money together, big things happen.

CommonWealth kicks off Tuesday 11/14–are you signed up?


CommonWealth–we have a decision! Now how’d we get there? April 4, 2013

Filed under: CommonWealth,Innovation Hub,Invest — seattleworks @ 5:32 pm

We’re so excited to announce that our pilot CommonWealth group made a decision last night! They’re sending 1,350 of their pooled dollars to Childhaven! Childhaven is a Seattle-based nonprofit that provides therapeutic childcare to abused and neglected children aged 0-5. Their nationally recognized approach helps young children learn to develop positive relationships, breaking cycles of abuse and trauma. Congratulations to our CommonWealth group and Childhaven!

As excited as we are about the group’s decision, we’re maybe equally excited that we managed to get a roomful of strangers to come to a decision about their money–that they were all thrilled with–over the course of four weeks! How’d we do it? We’ll let you in on a few secrets–some that you might be able to use if you’re ever tasked with helping a big group make a big 1

Outline your values and develop a mission. On our first night of CommonWealth, everyone took 15 minutes to pick, from a deck of cards, the top 5-7 words they thought best described their values. We threw everyone’s top values up onto the wall and had an instant visual of the things that mattered most to everyone in the room. From there, we had a conversation about where there was overlap and began to group values together. At the end of the exercise, we had a list of values to guide the group’s mission–to evaluate and fund an organization that is effectively working to alleviate inequality in youth development and education.

Turn your values into a practical tool. With values and a mission statement in place, our CommonWealth group developed a Rating Tool. The tool allowed them to take their values, weight their importance, and create a universal tool with which each of them could use to rate organizations. Gradients

Group decision-making takes a little structure. With six finalist organizations and five very different people in the room, we knew we needed a structured discussion to get ourselves close to a decision. So we pulled out our favorite group decision-making trick–because we’re nerds and we have those–the Gradients of Agreement. This tool uses a giant chart to help groups visualize where each member stands on an issue–from being completely in agreement, to totally opposed, it’s a great way to see immediately where the room stands. Plus, it makes for a pretty cool picture.

Lucky for us–as one CommonWealth-er put it–“We can’t make a wrong decision. All of these organizations are doing amazing work.”

So there you have it–with a little structure, some values and a lot of leg work, our pilot CommonWealth round made their big decision?

Want to learn more about CommonWealth? Check out the Seattle Works website–or email our Program Manager, Katie Tiehen at


Do you even know where your money’s been? March 17, 2013

Filed under: CommonWealth,Innovation Hub,Invest — seattleworks @ 9:00 am

We came across a shocking statistic in our CommonWealth session last Wednesday:

“Generation X (age 24 to 34), on average, gives $756 dollars per year–yet have no idea they’re giving this much. They typically support over 10 organizations a year–yet can only name two. They can, however, remember every friend who linked them to the gifts they can’t remember making.”

As you’re grabbing a coffee this Sunday morning, think about the money you give away each year–how do you keep track? Are you giving thoughtfully to the issues you care about most, or spending $50 here and there whenever someone asks? In a world of text-to-give and Kickstarter, we all fall prey to the latter–but what impact could we have if we had a plan for our $756?

Want to become a smarter donor? Stay tuned for our next round of CommonWealth.


Charity vs Change–where does your money go? March 15, 2013

Filed under: CommonWealth,Innovation Hub,Invest — seattleworks @ 12:56 pm

So, you know which issues you care about and you’re ready to give–but what kind of effect do you want your money to have? This is exactly the question we tackled in our second session of CommonWealth Wednesday night. Uma Rao from Pride Foundation facilitated a session on the huge role individual donors play in supporting nonprofits.

In the session, we talked a lot about the “Charity vs. Change” framework. What’s the difference between the two? Charity giving involves addressing immediate needs–think providing meals for homeless youth–while change giving addresses root and structural causes of bigger issues–think advocacy efforts to strengthen funding for social services for at-risk teens. Is there one right way to give? Not at all. Our CommonWealth group considered the benefits of both:


The benefit of charity giving is the ability to see the tangible results of your gift–research shows, however, that change giving may be the better “investment” in the long run. A study by the National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy showed that every dollar invested in policy advocacy, civic engagement and community organizing provided a $115 return in community benefit!

So, where does your money go?


CommonWealth kicks off! March 8, 2013

Filed under: CommonWealth,Innovation Hub,Invest — seattleworks @ 5:09 pm

After a year of scheming and a months of planning, we kicked off our first round of CommonWealth on Wednesday–and had a great time doing it!

Of course, because Seattle Works can’t resist a little cheese, we started the session by having participants create their “donor personal ads,” to introduce themselves to the group and tell us a little bit about why they were there. We saw a lot of similarities in what they wrote: new donors, passion, transparency, high impact.

CommonWealthSo how do five people come together to make a decision about where their pool of money goes in the community? Well, we started by talking about the options. (more…)