The work we do in Washington state is rooted in the Gates family’s deep commitment to their hometown. Throughout his many years of philanthropy and engagement in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest region, Bill Gates Sr., the first employee of the foundation, worked tirelessly to address challenges and create opportunities for his neighbors to flourish. We continue doing our part to honor his legacy by supporting solutions that address the most pressing issues facing our community.
Through community-driven grants, our Community Engagement team partners with local organizations who are closest to the needs of their neighbors and neighborhoods. These grants are responsive to emerging community needs and focus on issues like pandemic recovery, housing security and homelessness, racial equity, support for immigrants and refugees, and strengthening the nonprofit sector.
Here are a few examples of responsive grants our Community Engagement team made in the last couple of years.
To support Native communities that have been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our Community Engagement team provided more than $800,000 in responsive grants to the following Native-led organizations: Chief Seattle Club, Duwamish Tribal Services, Mother Nation, Na’ah Illahee Fund, Native Action Network, Potlatch Fund, and Seattle Indian Health Board. Read more about the Gates Foundation’s support for Native communities.
Housing Security and Homelessness
In 2021, we wound down our Family Homelessness strategy after local counties made significant improvements to their crisis response systems. Because of their work, families who become homeless in the Puget Sound region are now spending less time in the system and are less likely to return to it once housed. The number of people becoming homeless, however, has only continued to rise. That’s why we joined with other public and private partners to launch Partnership for Zero, a new coalition working to dramatically reduce unsheltered homelessness in areas of King County.
When the pandemic emerged in 2020, demand for food and other basic resources grew exponentially. In response, we supported several local food banks who were often serving double the number of people. A $1 million grant helped the Ballard Food Bank open their new home, and we also made grants to the Rainier Valley, South King County, White Center, and West Seattle Food Banks.
To support trust-based philanthropy efforts, we made grants to organizations working closest with their communities to reallocate the funds through their own processes. The Black Future Co-Op Fund is the first Black-led philanthropy for Washington and works to generate renewed prosperity for Black communities across the state. RVC’s Social Justice League Fund provides crucial support for over 40 BIPOC organizations. We’ve also supported Philanthropy Northwest, which is working to shift power in systems-change work to more Black, Indigenous and/or People of Color (BIPOC) communities. Their Racial Equity Resource Hub highlights grantmakers’ work to support BIPOC-led organizations on the front lines of social change.
Refugee and Immigrants
Washington state is home to a generous community with the global experience and resources to support refugees and their unique needs. Currently, we are providing grants to five organizations who are supporting the resettlement of refugees from Afghanistan into Washington state, including the Refugee Women’s Alliance, Asian Counseling and Referral Services, and El Centro de la Raza.