Reflecting on our first Community Learning Grants to support powerful community-led work across Washington

Reflecting on our first Community Learning Grants to support powerful community-led work across Washington

Until Feb. 1, 2023, we were Group Health Foundation. This post was written under our former identity. To learn more about our new name, read our announcement here.

We are excited to announce $15 million in Community Learning Grants to 75 organizations and projects throughout Washington that are leading community-defined efforts to advance equity. Grantees were selected following review of almost 700 applications. Grants range from $150,000 to $225,000 (divided over three years) to support organizations and fiscally-sponsored projects with flexible, unrestricted funds. These grants are intended to help us learn about community aspirations, including how local efforts are creating a more equitable, healthy Washington.

See the full list of the organizations and projects supported by the 2019 Community Learning Grants below.

So many organizations invested effort and trust in us during this open call for proposals, and we could only fund about 10 percent of the applications we received. We hope to honor all applicants’ investment in us by sharing some reflections on the decisions we made along the way.

When we invited proposals to our 2019 Community Learning Grants last year, we had high expectations of ourselves. We hoped to make our application process accessible and welcoming, to connect with people and organizations who have not had access to foundations like ours, and to learn about groups and leaders throughout the state.

Specifically, we committed to:

  • Reflective leadership. Supporting organizations that are created and led by people who an organization serves.
  • Community-led advocacy. Funding efforts focused on transforming harmful narratives, challenging assumptions about who “deserves” to have a say, and changing laws and policies.
  • Geographic equity. Supporting groups that may have been overlooked because of where they are located or outdated ideas about where innovation and leadership comes from in Washington.
  • Direct relationships. Prioritizing funding for organizations and leaders with community constituencies, even as we recognize the important roles that collaborations, hubs, providers of technical assistance, and “backbone” organizations often play.
  • Advancing the Foundation’s learning. Finding opportunities that enable us to get smarter and better at our early work in the coming years.

We found ourselves responding most positively to applications that:

  • Came from organizations that are culture- and identity-specific, multi-racial, and led by people of color, disabled and neuro-atypical people, immigrants and refugees, Indigenous people, LGBTQ+ people, people with lived experience of poverty or homelessness, and more.
  • Reflected expansive definitions of health and healthy communities that are not limited to services, care, medicine, disease, or individual behavior change.
  • Identified a “base” of individuals and families who relate to, identify with, support, and take action with their organization.

Over the course of our grants process, we received proposals from many highly aligned organizations that we were not able to fund in our first round of Community Learning Grants. We asked a lot of people with existing access to funding, larger budgets, and bigger teams to hold on until a future grant cycle. It’s no fun to be asked to wait, but their patience meant that we could prioritize funding for organizations that are smaller and that have had less attention from philanthropy.

The hardest decisions were about the hundreds of proposals focused on care, medicine, and direct service—including applications to fund specific campaigns, programs, and interventions. These movingly demonstrated the tolls that homelessness, poverty, and trauma have taken on families throughout and beyond Washington. The people and projects doing this work are exceptional.

We know the need for housing, human services, medicine, and care is colossal. We also know that these needs are far greater than any single organization’s ability to address or fund. Caring for our people is a collective responsibility in which we all share.

In our case, we believe that for Group Health Foundation to achieve our founding purpose, our earliest resources must be used to support and learn from groups who are assessing, challenging, disrupting, and transforming the structures that create and compound disparities. We aim to elevate leaders who will use their influence to drive public resources to meet the long-term needs of Washington’s people by changing laws, policies, and institutions. We call this “systems change.”

We think you’ll find our commitments reflected in the list of powerful projects and organizations supported in this first round of Community Learning Grants.

In the instances where our Community Learning Grants funded human service or care organizations, those grantees’ leaders reflect the communities they serve and show a commitment to systems change work and advocacy that makes a long-term difference in the lives of their constituents.

Grantees range from domestic violence agencies to leadership development projects to cultural organizations to tribal nations and more. The vast majority of grantees are led by and are in service to people of color and Indigenous people in Washington. We have broken up with the framework of an urban-rural divide that makes us think of places and people as disconnected from each other; we hope that you see that thinking reflected in our support for people in Washington’s small towns, mid-sized and major cities, suburban and rural areas.

What’s next? Later this spring, the Foundation will announce the timing and process for the next round of Community Learning Grants. We have already learned so much about where we want to improve, and we look forward to making the proposal process even better and more accessible. We are especially looking forward to reconnecting with organizations whose work and values are aligned with our objectives, but who we were unable to fund in 2019.

Full list of 2019 Community Learnings Grants

Grantee Description Geography Served
Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Native leadership organization representing nearly 50 tribal governments across the Pacific Northwest focused on networking and convening that supports development of regional policies and strategies, and builds collective voice among member tribes. Statewide
African American Community Cultural & Educational Society Culturally specific, Black organization in the Tri Cities and greater Mid-Columbia River region connecting community through education and advocacy rooted in the history, communities, and contributions of African American people and families in the region. Tri-Cities region
Africatown Community Land Trust Black-led community development organization with a mission to acquire, steward, and develop land assets necessary for the African diaspora community to grow and thrive in Seattle’s Central District. Seattle
Asian Pacific Islander Coalition of South Puget Sound Grassroots advocacy coalition that promotes equitable access to culturally competent, linguistically accessible services for under-resourced Asian Pacific Islander communities. Local chapter of statewide network. Thurston, Mason, Lewis, and Grays Harbor counties
Beyond Survival Sexual assault resource center that provides advocacy and comprehensive services to a diverse population of survivors, along with other efforts, such as prevention education, housing, and cross-system partnerships. Grays Harbor County
CAFÉ (Project PACT) Latinx sponsored project founded and led by migrant workers in the agriculture industry. Offers education and literacy services, leading to self-advocacy. Growing area of work on civic engagement programs. Wenatchee
Canoe Journey Herbalists Community-centered healing space providing free care and plant medicines during Intertribal Canoe Journey, with a year-round engagement, education, and land reclamation mission. Thurston, Mason, and Pierce counties; broader Pacific Northwest during Tribal Journeys
Carl Maxey Center (DBA Friends of the Black Lens) Founded and led by a group of local leaders and located in the East Central neighborhood of Spokane, the Carl Maxey Center serves as a hub for educational, economic, and cultural programs that support and elevate the African American community. Spokane
Central Washington Justice For Our Neighbors Legal aid, including pro bono services, for immigrants and asylum seekers in several Washington counties. Organize and advocate for pro-immigrant policies. Central and Eastern Washington, with offices in Ellensburg and Walla Walla
Chaplains on the Harbor Community, legal, and economic advocates for people experiencing poverty, homelessness, violence, incarceration, and addiction in Grays Harbor County. This effort takes an organizing and leadership development approach, and is rooted in the expertise of people who have been incarcerated and are experiencing poverty. Grays Harbor County
Chelan-Douglas Health District Health district that is developing Latinx-specific community services with Latinx community leaders. Grassroots models to increase access to care and decrease racial disparities in the region. North Central Washington
Children of The Setting Sun Productions Native arts and culture organization focused on cultural preservation. Produces content and programs aimed at telling the historical truth of Native peoples, while promoting community connection, healing, and self-advocacy. Bellingham and the surrounding aboriginal homeland of Lummi peoples
CIELO Project Radio Ranch Latinx-focused organization leading empowerment programs that include education, workshops, mental health, and job-skills development. Thurston and Mason counties
Clark County Latino Youth Conference Latinx focused organization supporting young people to succeed during and past their secondary education. Programs include school partnerships, parent leadership, youth leadership, and civic engagement. Clark and Cowlitz counties
COFA Alliance National Network of Washington Focused on the well-being of residents of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of Palau who are living in Washington under a Compact of Free Association (COFA). Long-term goals are for COFA citizens to live healthy, sustainable lives and provide leadership and representation in the state’s cultural and governmental institutions. Statewide
Columbia County Public Health Health department that extends across several rural southeast Washington counties. In addition to direct services and programs, the agency convenes a regional partnership of healthcare providers, community organizations, and other partners to improve health outcomes for their communities. Asotin, Garfield, and Columbia counties
Communities of Color Coalition Multi-racial collaborative conducting advocacy efforts and convening policymakers focused on eliminating personal and institutional racism. Snohomish County, with expanding work in Skagit and Whatcom counties
Community to Community Development Fiscally-sponsored, Latinx, grassroots base-building effort focused on food sovereignty as a key principle of migrant farmworker organizing. Strong systems-change approach organizing and conducting education programs. Skagit and Whatcom counties
Comunidades Latino-led environmental and social justice organization focused on base building and leadership development. Columbia River Gorge
Confederated Lower Chinook Tribes and Bands Nonprofit organizing structure for Chinook Indian Nation to ensure cultural, social, and economic well-being of all tribal members; protect natural resources; and facilitate political and legal relationships with external governments. Pacific and Wahkiakum counties, and neighboring communities
Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation Federally-recognized tribe focused on supporting positive health experiences and bridging generational learning opportunities through a new wellness center based in Omak, Washington. Colville Indian Reservation (Ferry and Okanogan counties)
Consejo Hispano Latinx community organization focused on the equitable integration of Latinx community members into the broader social and economic fabric of the Lower Columbia community, including counties in both Oregon and Washington. Pacific County and neighboring communities
Cowlitz Indian Tribe Southwest Washington tribe with long-term goals to increase access to healthcare, wellness, housing, and economic stability. Cowlitz and Clark counties
CultureSeed CultureSeed offers rural young people year-round outdoor immersion programs and mentorship with a focus on behavioral health and economic opportunity. Ninety percent of youth served are Latinx. White Salmon serving surrounding Columbia Gorge areas
Disability Rights Washington Disability-led organization with a mission to advance the dignity, equality, and self-determination of people with disabilities. Advocates for the rights of all people with disabilities statewide using media, legal, and policy presence. Statewide
Domestic Violence Services of Benton and Franklin Counties Domestic Violence / Sexual Assault (DVSA) services and advocacy for survivors in the Tri-Cities region, including the surrounding rural communities. Women-led organization delivering services to primarily Latinx and people of color. Tri-Cities and surrounding Benton and Franklin counties
Eritrean Association in Greater Seattle Community service organization led by and serving Eritrean and other African refugees and immigrants. Serves as a regional hub to maintain cultural heritage, provide linguistically appropriate programs, and encourage civic engagement through voter education, candidate forums, and participation in the 2020 Census count. Puget Sound
Family Crisis Network Advocacy agency in Pend Oreille County supporting victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other crimes through education, victim services, and social change. Led and staffed by people with lived experiences of trauma and inequities, who provide a wide range of services in rural communities. Pend Oreille County
Firelands Together Newer women-led, fiscally sponsored project dedicated to working-class empowerment through anti-racist civic engagement, organizing, and advocacy work. Grays Harbor County
Forks Abuse Program (DBA Mariposa House) Multi-racial western Olympic Peninsula DV/SA organization, based in Forks, Washington, with strong tribal partnerships, reflective leadership, and advocacy goals. Clallam and Jefferson counties
Got Green Grassroots power-building organization led by people of color and people with lived experience of lower income focused on organizing for environmental, racial, and economic justice and systems change work. South Seattle
Grays Harbor Public Health and Social Services Health department that serves a large rural geographic area on the central coast. In addition to direct services and systems change efforts, the agency supports a project founded and led by Latina women to expand services and reduce stigma that prevents people from reaching out for help. Grays Harbor County
Hilltop Urban Garden Black urban farm and queer-welcoming land reclamation organization with an intentional advocacy agenda. Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood
Hoh Indian Tribe Tribal community focused on preparing youth for higher education, protecting cultural sovereignty, and workforce issues on the west coast of Washington State. Hoh Reservation and western Olympic Peninsula
If You Could Save Just One Grassroots organization connecting young people living in the Hillyard neighborhood of Spokane with peer support, mentors, and role models. Goals are to strengthen life and leadership skills, as well as provide a safe space for young people. Spokane
I’LL LEAD Pasco-based, Latinx, fiscally-sponsored project of LULAC focused on power building within the Latinx community through leadership development programs that increase representation across business, nonprofit, and government sectors. Goals include diversifying elected leadership and board membership in the Tri-Cities area. Tri-Cities region
Ingersoll Gender Center Multi-racial organization providing culturally competent wraparound services for transgender and gender diverse people in Washington. In addition to its education and community services, Ingersoll is a powerful advocacy force. Statewide
Kalispel Indian Community of the Kalispel Reservation Career Training Center providing classroom and hands-on training opportunities in the skilled trades focused on the needs of community members and the Kalispel Tribe. Center includes employment and wraparound physical, emotional, and spiritual support. Kalispel Reservation (south central Pend Oreille County)
Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center Immigrant-serving organization focused on the well-being and empowerment of immigrants through education, direct services, advocacy, referrals, and collaborations. Kitsap, Mason, Jefferson, and Clallam counties
La Casa Hogar Latinx-led, education-based organization partnering with families in South Central Washington. Grounded in community, celebration, and a collective vision to thrive. Yakima, Benton, Franklin, and Kittitas counties
Lhaq’temish Foundation Multi-faceted Native organization supporting the people of the Lummi Nation to achieve a better quality of life by promoting advocacy, providing social services through community-driven projects, and supporting tribal directives. Lummi Indian Reservation
Madres de Casino Road Multi-issue, Latinx project focused on empowering women by working to change narratives about Latina women. Grassroots-level organizing that is led entirely by community members living on Casino Road in Everett. Everett’s Casino Road community
Mason County Housing Options for Students in Transition (“HOST”) Community-based housing program providing education and wraparound case management for homeless youth—many of whom identify as LGBTQ+—in Mason County. Mason County
Mujer al Volante Fiscally-sponsored project that helps Latina women obtain their driver’s license—a key to economic opportunity, independence, and safety. Started with Latinx women and has expanded to serve Afghani women in its advocacy and broader efforts. South Seattle and South King County
Mujeres in Action DV/SA organization offering culturally specific care, service, and support for the Latinx community. Particular focus on providing safe space, care, and support for undocumented immigrants experiencing violence and abuse. Spokane
NAACP Snohomish Branch Black-led organization with a mission to ensure equitable outcomes and the protection of civil rights for people of African descent. Volunteer-driven programs are focused on education, advocacy, and youth development. Snohomish County
Native Action Network Native women, leadership development, empowerment, and advocacy organization elevating women’s voices in civic and electoral arenas. Statewide
Nch’i Wana Housing New Native-led and Native-serving housing organization focused on the Indigenous communities living primarily at tribal fishing sites along the Columbia River. Organization has a goal of keeping people in their aboriginal place, while promoting economic development and addressing the lack of safe, decent, and affordable housing. Columbia River Gorge in-lieu sites
Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment Nez Perce members building a Native/non-Native network of land advocates to protect their lands. Focused on youth, advocating for traditional lifeways, and hosting several tribal environmental summits annually. Nez Perce aboriginal lands, including Asotin and Garfield counties
Not This Time! New organization founded to reduce police violence toward people of color in Seattle. Work includes organizing for police accountability, leadership development with young people, and community healing. Rooted in restorative justice approaches. Seattle
Nuestra Casa Social justice and support services empowering Latina women through education, citizenship, and literacy programs to advance equity and justice with immigrants living in Sunnyside and the surrounding areas of the Lower Yakima Valley. Sunnyside and the Lower Yakima Valley
Pacific County Immigrant Support Grassroots organization working with Latinx and other immigrant communities and families who have been impacted by ICE. Organizes advocacy events and Know-Your-Rights community education presentations. Provides legal defense and family support. Pacific and Grays Harbor counties, and neighboring communities
Pacific Islander Community Association New organization committed to establishing deep and accountable networks of Pacific Islander communities across the region and ensuring social, political, and physical well-being for families. Priorities include civic engagement, strengthening anti-racist organizing, and providing advocacy for Pacific Islander communities across all sectors and issues areas. Snohomish, King, and Pierce counties
People First of Washington Disability-led coalition with 30 chapters throughout Washington that develops priorities and advances its agenda through self-advocacy at local, state, and national levels. Statewide
Phenomenal She Black-led organization that empowers young women of color by building confidence around education, social awareness, and self-esteem through mentorship and community connection. South King County, with a focus on Federal Way and Des Moines
POCSWOP (People of Color Sex Workers Outreach Project) Seattle-area organization working to end stigma and enhance safety for people of color sex workers. Provides services to sex workers, organizes legislative actions, and leads community-building efforts—all based on and informed by street-based sex workers. Seattle, with focus on North Seattle (Hwy 99)
Pride of Ellensburg Newer LGBTQ+, fiscally sponsored project serving queer and trans youth by providing a safe space to connect and establish community. Ellensburg
Quinault Indian Nation Tribal community on the west coast of Washington with a focus on education and student achievement throughout the community. Quinault Reservation, including portions of Grays Harbor and Jefferson counties
Reckoning Trade Project LGBTQ+-led, economic justice organization creating safer and more equitable workplaces, while increasing job retention for non-traditional LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and other nontraditional trade workers. South King County and South Sound region
Salish School of Spokane Grassroots language immersion school led by Native people in Spokane. Powerfully connecting students and families to one another, to history, and to place. Thoughtful analysis and engaged systems change work. Spokane and Greater Spokane metropolitan area
Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe Federally-recognized tribe located in Pacific County on the Washington Coast with a focus on food sovereignty and gathering of traditional foods as a pathway to self-sufficiency and health of tribal members. Tokeland
Somali Community Services of Seattle Somali-led community organization providing a range of services, including case management and referrals, parent education workshops, and social justice leadership training. Conducts voter registration, census organizing, and direct voter engagement. South Seattle and South King County
Southwest Washington Communities United for Change Anti-racist grassroots community group created to empower Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in political action. BIPOC communities are centered and lead the work. Kelso and Longview (Cowlitz County); Vancouver (Clark County)
Sunrise Outreach Center of Yakima Yakima organization formed to alleviate hunger and homelessness and interrupt intergenerational poverty. Primarily serving Latinx and Native people with six food pantries. Powerful and visionary leadership. Yakima County
Suquamish Foundation Nonprofit arm of the Suquamish Tribe, focused on enhancing the well-being of the community and its members. Short-term goals include building a clinic and hiring community health representatives. Port Madison Reservation, including a portion of Kitsap County
Surge Reproductive Justice Women of color and queer people of color-led, reproductive justice organization with a multi-pronged approach that includes policy advocacy, community organizing, and leadership development. Seeks to elevate voices of communities experiencing maternal health disparities, including women who have been incarcerated, queer women of color, and undocumented communities. Southeast Seattle
Tacoma Urban League Black-led organization devoted to empowering African Americans and other disenfranchised groups. Programs are focused on eliminating poverty gaps fueled by social injustice and historically oppressive institutions. Local chapter of the National Urban League. Tacoma and Pierce County
The NATIVE Project Comprehensive Indian Health Service clinic in Spokane led by Native people. Funding to provide support services for community members impacted by the justice system, as well as provide traditional Native healing resources and activities to urban Indian community members. Spokane County and surrounding reservations
The Support Center Comprehensive, multi-racial DV/SA organization providing shelter and mobile services over a large geographic area. Focused on equality in relationships and helping people assume power over their own lives. Okanogan County
Ttáwaxt Birth Justice Center New organization founded and led by Native women who are honoring their ancestors by supporting a healthy birthing community for generations to come. Yakama tribal community
United Territories of Pacific Islanders Alliance Queer, transgender, and gender diverse Pacific Islander organization providing supportive, safe, and sacred spaces for the community it serves. Anchors powerful coalition efforts among the Q/T/POC communities advocating for racial, social, and queer justice. Puget Sound
UnityWorks Foundation UnityWorks promotes cross-racial and cross-cultural understanding, inclusion, and social justice, with a focus on K-12 schools. Goals include increasing equity and reducing prejudice, promoting culturally responsive teaching, and building local capacity for positive multicultural change. Yakima County
Voices of Pacific Island Nations Culturally based organization providing high quality, culturally responsive services and resources for Pacific Islander students and their families in order to close educational opportunity gaps in Kitsap County. Kitsap County
White Swan Arts and Recreation Committee Offers comprehensive cultural and arts activities for community development and engagement in White Swan on the Yakama Reservation. Hosts annual community-wide events to connect people across a large area. White Swan
YES of Pend Oreille County Serves youth experiencing homelessness and other barriers to opportunity through case management, food, and clothing assistance. Conducts advocacy and leadership development programs for young people, with a special focus on LGBTQ+ young people. Pend Oreille County