REPAIR: Racially Equitable Philanthropy Aimed at Initiating Reparations

group of people pose inside at a barbershop
Members of Brothers United in Leadership Development (BUILD) after their BUILD Barbershop Series event at Paul’s Customs Cuts in 2019. 
Photo Credit: Darryl Glover of Dancing in the Rain Media.

Our Commitment

REPAIR is a framework, tied to the Blueprint for Impact, aimed at advancing and supporting Black-led community leadership. Through REPAIR, Seattle Foundation is committing to a minimum investment of $25 million to Black-led organizations in the Seattle region over the next five years, beginning in 2021. REPAIR represents a comprehensive and holistic approach to a sustained shift in how we partner with and support the Black community across all organizational functions—engagement of donors and fund holders, grantmaking priorities, and development of internal accounting and operational practices.

Introduction

The pain of the past year has highlighted the dire need for Seattle Foundation to move forward on the pathway outlined in our Blueprint for Impact.

However, for certain communities, the anguish of 2020 did not begin with the onset of the pandemic. Structural racism, wealth inequities and police brutality which have existed for centuries continue to disproportionately impact Black individuals nationwide, and here in King County. Leaders of Black-led nonprofits have made significant strides despite these challenges, providing an array of resources to a population still battling the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and anti-Black racism. But when a recent study from Echoing Green and The Bridgespan Group lifts up that the unrestricted net assets of Black-led nonprofits was 76% smaller than that of their white counterparts, philanthropy’s historic role in gatekeeping resources from Black-led organizations becomes more clear.

Philanthropic institutions, including Seattle Foundation, must acknowledge the role we’ve played in historically underfunding the Black community for generations, and that reparative action is necessary to directly address those past harms (ABFE’s research has shown total philanthropic support for Black communities hovering at around 1.8%.). It’s undeniable that Black-led organizations (community-based organizations with majority Black staff and/or Board leadership), are in deep need of increased investments from funders in this region.

Father and son community stalwarts Jerrell and Gregory Davis representing Rainier Beach Action Coalition

The Racially Equitable Philanthropy Aimed at Initiating Reparations (REPAIR) framework is designed to acknowledge and account for the harm that philanthropic under investment has caused the Black community for generations. REPAIR’s $25 million commitment to the Black community cuts across the entire foundation. It’s our grantmaking, donor advised funds, sponsorships, vendors and increased accountability for how we are supporting the Black economic ecosystem of King County. As part of our own racial reckoning, Seattle Foundation recognizes now is the time for us to boldly and unapologetically initiate a long-term effort to move critical resources to King County’s Black-led, rooted and serving organizations in King County.

REPAIR is the result of Seattle Foundation’s multi-year investment to better understand the needs of the Black community in King County. In alignment with our Blueprint for Impact’s guiding principles, this is our opportunity to be bold, center equity, and focus on innovative community-led solutions.

History of REPAIR

Seattle Foundation started on a path to examine our internal processes years before the launch of REPAIR. Our explicit focus on racial equity through our programing has been underway for close to a decade. Through increased internal examination of our programming, we have become mindful of gaps and areas of underfunding.  In late 2018, we partnered with Byrd Barr Place and Cardea Services on a research report entitled, “The Case for Investing in King County’s Black Led Organizations.” The study, released in 2020, offered high-level insight into the triumphs and capacity-building challenges that Black-led organizations (BLOs) and their leaders regularly experience. The critical gaps left by historical and current underinvestment in King County’s Black nonprofit community were laid bare, but through the invaluable responses of Black leaders who participated in the study, a blueprint emerged for the role philanthropy can play in helping to close those gaps.

Seattle Foundation staff and members of the Blackled Organizations Cohort BLOC in January 2020

In June 2019, Seattle Foundation launched a pilot project to support and build relationships with Black-led and-serving organizations in King County. We issued general operating grants to a multi-disciplinary cohort of BLOs working to improve outcomes from the African American community. This group evolved to become the Black-Led Organizations Cohort, or “the BLOC,” a group that convenes monthly, builds authentic partnerships and regularly advises Seattle Foundation. Through both grant dollars and staff time, we’ve actively learned from these organizations, developed trust and strengthened relationships to ultimately build a new framework called REPAIR which aims to provide catalytic support for Black-led nonprofits in this region through strategic investments.

Originally envisioned as a one year pilot, the increased civil unrest during the summer of 2020 following the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Manuel Ellis, Tony McDade and countless others created a sense of urgency around these efforts. Seattle Foundation chose to re-invest additional general operating support into the BLOC. During the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic, these established relationships with BLOC members—and a deeper understanding of their work—allowed Seattle Foundation to quickly move over $3.5M to BLOs. This was of particular importance as public health data showed early on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on African Americans. Being in closer, more intentional relationships with BLOs, has led Seattle Foundation to make increasingly larger investments in the Black community across all of our programming.

Rev Jimmie James executive director of BEST Being Empowered Thru Supportive Transitions does community outreach work

Officially launched in summer of 2021, REPAIR is the logical evolution of our focus on BIPOC populations under the Blueprint for Impact and the past two years of deep learning from Black leaders. It is designed to support the growth, sustainability, and impact of Black-led organizations in King County not just over the next five years but in a sustained way. REPAIR intentionally maps to the Blueprint for Impact and aligns with Seattle Foundation’s vision of creating a thriving region of shared prosperity, belonging, and justice. By using a targeted universalism approach as our framework and committing substantive dollars to one of the most economically disenfranchised communities in our region, pathways will emerge for other intersecting communities broadly to benefit.

Organizations participating in the BLOC

  1. Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas
  2. Community Passageways
  3. Northwest African American Museum
  4. Not This Time
  5. Nurturing Roots
  6. Rainier Beach Action Coalition
  7. Tabor 100
  8. Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle
  9. The Village of Hope
  10. Wa Na Wari
  11. West African Community Council

Quotes From the Community

“We started Wa Na Wari as a community project in the spring of 2019. As a startup with no 501c3 status and only the basic infrastructure, Seattle Foundation didn’t hesitate to step up to be one of our earliest and most consistent supporters. Their funding and technical support has been, and continues to be, an important ingredient in our continuing growth. They removed many of the funding barriers that cripple community groups and new organizations and this allowed us to focus on our work. Their belief in our mission and our ability to realize it was clear. I hope this approach deepens with REPAIR.”

– Inye Wokoma, Wa Na Wari Co-Founder and Board Member
Community members including co-founder Elisheba Johnson on the porch at Wa Na Wari

In the words of Dr. Maya Angelou, ‘If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.’ REPAIR is a monumental step in the right direction and proves that Seattle Foundation is serious about being a leader in the movement to make the world a more equitable place. I respect and appreciate Seattle Foundation, for not only working to make change but also working to set an example in changing the attitudes of how the world treats Black and Brown people.”

– Sharon Williams, Executive Director for Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas
CarLarans (left) and Cipher Goings at The Royal Youth Kiki Ball hosted by CD Forum.

Get Involved

We invite philanthropists to talk to their advisors about how they can support REPAIR. Philanthropists can support REPAIR by:

We encourage donors and philanthropists to give directly to Black-led, rooted and serving organizations in King County. Seattle Foundation donors can speak directly with their philanthropic advisors to inform their grantmaking.

Donors and philanthropic partners can give to Seattle Foundation’s programmatic investments supporting Black-led, rooted and serving organizations. We invite you to co-invest with us in this priority community as we advance the Blueprint for Impact.

Donors can also invest in emerging priorities lifted up by Black leaders, such as the Black-led Joy and Wellness Fund. This fund will support activities of joy and wellness for staff within Black-led organizations that have been holding incredible burdens during this current racial reckoning.

Contact Information

Senior Program Officer Jonathan Cunningham is leading REPAIR and co-facilitating all meetings with the BLOC. For those looking to learn more about REPAIR, please direct inquiries to j.cunningham@seattlefoundation.org.