Let’s say your Eastside business is doing well, you are riding the wave of our region’s job growth and thriving economy, and now you want to recognize all that good mojo by directing some of your bottom-line revenue to philanthropy and charitable giving.
Where do you begin?
In the following, we introduce you to our region’s leading member association of philanthropists to learn more about the latest trends (and common questions) when it comes to charitable giving. We also highlight five Eastside businesses — interior designers, real estate brokers, and even a pot-shop owner — who are giving both time and money to our community in unique ways. Finally, if you are ready to find a worthy cause and start giving back, our list of Eastside charitable organizations is a good resource to get you started.
The Gift of Community Giving
When you think of our region’s top philanthropists, it’s likely that a handful of names immediately come to mind: Paul Allen. Steve Ballmer. Jeff Bezos. Bill and Melinda Gates. All of whom are tech industry leaders who built global companies and amassed billions of dollars in wealth, becoming, in turn, a collective bedrock of Pacific Northwest charitable giving.
But local philanthropy wasn’t always backed by tech wealth.
Over the years, Puget Sound corporate philanthropy has shifted alongside the industries being led, from wealthy timber and railroad barons during the turn of the 20th century, to midcentury aerospace- and banking-industry leaders, to the monied tech entrepreneurs beginning in the late 1980s.
“Boeing, PACCAR, Weyerhaeuser, and some of the regional banks: Those are the first (companies) that come to my mind. The beginnings, really, of (regional corporate) philanthropy,” explained Anjana Pandey, vice president of strategy and operations at Seattle-based Philanthropy Northwest. The organization has been a resource to the local grantmaking community for decades, when it was founded by nine business leaders as the Pacific Northwest Grantmakers Forum in 1976.
Today, Philanthropy Northwest’s members — which include 180 companies, family foundations, individuals, and other charitable entities in six states — turn to the organization for networking and educational opportunities, as well as research and consulting expertise, in order to make more informed and effective grantmaking decisions.
Along with marquis members such as The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bezos Family Foundation, and the Schultz Family Foundation, Eastside corporations and charitable organizations are threaded throughout Philanthropy Northwest’s membership roster: The Ballmer Group, Medina Foundation, Microsoft Philanthropies, Puget Sound Energy Foundation, and REI.
Pandey spent some time with 425 Business to share her insights into the state of corporate philanthropy in our region.
Q: What are some of the most common ways Philanthropy Northwest helps its corporate members’ charitable giving efforts?
A: We have a lot of members who are new to corporate philanthropy. It’s helpful just to hear from folks who are not necessarily experts, but who have been around and have tested out new and different ideas. We become a platform where they can learn about other models. We really feed a collaborative space and share what everyone is doing. We try to create these shared spaces where corporate members are really talking about issues that are relevant for corporations.
Q: What are some trends you are seeing in corporate philanthropy?
A: Corporate philanthropy is really investing in, supporting, and partnering in community versus, “We want our name on a banner at the big gala or dinner.” That shift has been happening for some time, but we are definitely seeing that in a big, big way here.
The other shift we are seeing is an increasing focus on impact. Every single one of our corporate members is really going through a very tight, strategic process to ask, “What are our business objectives? How do we want to show up in the community? How do we want to measure that impact?” There’s definitely much more of a strategic focus: “This is where we want to put a stake. This is where we really want to invest and focus.”
Q: When a company or a foundation makes an announcement about a big philanthropic grant or donation, many people might think, “Well, I don’t have to worry about that issue or problem anymore.” Is that an issue you and your members face? If so, how do you temper that?
A: It’s an issue that our members think about and face: We’ve got this initiative, so we don’t have to worry about it; or, Gates is there, we don’t have to worry about it. The reality is that’s not true.
I think it’s about how you set it up or what conversations you have in advance: We want this to be collaborative; we don’t want single entities applying; we want you to have a wider scope as you are thinking about this.
The conversations that we are really trying to push are about the issues and how there needs to be a collaborative effort. One funding source alone isn’t really going to solve it. And even if it did solve it temporarily, it’s usually not a sustainable solution.
Philanthropy Northwest’s most recent biennial Trend Report was released in 2017, and tracks charitable spending between 2012 and 2014. Here is a closer look at the data.
Top 5 Grant Makers in Washington State
Washington State Charitable Giving Highlights
60% The growth of Washington state grantmaking between 2012 and 2014
$156 million The largest single donation to the Northwest region between 2012 and 2014, which was made by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to PATH to develop malaria vaccines
$1 billion Total giving by 2,046 funders to 4,856 organizations between 2012 and 2014
$5,000 Median grant value
19,267 Number of grants awarded
Giving Percentage By Issue Areas
Health = 47%
Education = 18%
Human Services = 11%
Other = 10%
Environment & Animals = 4%
Arts & Culture = 4%
Philanthropy & Nonprofit Management = 3%
Community & Economic Development = 3%
The Business of Giving
Whether it’s feeding grade-school students or raising money for cancer research, reasons for charitable giving are about as varied as the types of businesses on the Eastside. Here are five local businesses and the programs that benefit from their benevolence.
It makes sense that Bellevue-based Expedia, a travel company with a global reach, would expand its philanthropic interests to all corners of the world. Expedia Cares works with Mercy Corps to address issues in four distinct parts of the world: education and the environment (North America), empowerment and education of women and girls (Latin America), refugees and trafficking (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), and clean water and sanitation (Asia Pacific). Closer to home, Expedia matches its employees’ monetary donations, and even matches its staff’s volunteering hours by assigning (and donating) a monetary value to the hours they spend volunteering in their communities.
Accents & Interiors
This Woodinville company, which marked its 10th anniversary in April, is just as committed to improving the comfort of Eastside homes as it is to the lives of community members in need. In the past year, employees have participated in summertime Adopt-A-Highway roadside cleanups; collected backpacks and school supplies for Sultan School District students; and distributed care packages filled with hygiene bags, nonperishable food, and clothing for individuals and families in need.
Coastal Community Bank
This Everett financial institution takes seriously the fact that its middle name is “community,” and established its Employee Giving Fund in 2001. Since then, the fund has awarded nearly 350 grants worth nearly $410,000 to charitable organizations chosen by an employee-led advisory committee. Last year, more than 80 percent of Coastal Community Bank’s more than 150 employees contributed to the fund, and more than half of the bank’s staff spent more than 11,000 hours volunteering in their communities.
Each October for the past three years, Bellevue-based Green-Theory has raised money to support cancer research and awareness through its Cannabis For A Cause program. In its first two years, the program has raised more than $5,000 through a variety of means, such as a silent auction and partnering with some of its suppliers to donate a percentage of the company’s sales. This year’s fundraiser will benefit the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Family Assistance Fund, which helps to cover living expenses for the family members of individuals experiencing cancer treatment. Beyond this annual event, Green-Theory has contributed year-round to Bellevue LifeSpring, Motley Zoo, and Northwest Harvest.
Sterling Johnston Real Estate
According to Feed Washington, the number of hungry children in local communities is astounding — approximately 3,000 in Washington state, and, closer to home, more than 900 in the Lake Washington School District. Eirik Olsen, co-owner of Sterling Johnston Real Estate in Redmond, and his staff have made this issue their top priority by covering all the operating costs for Feed Washington, a nonprofit organization Olsen founded in 2003. To date, Feed Washington has provided more than a half-million meals, such as weekend “pantry packs” that keep children fed on weekends and during school breaks.