Seattle philanthropic women invest in equity

For more than two decades, the Washington Women’s Foundation has empowered women through collective giving.

Since 1996, the nonprofit has collectively given more than $19 million to deserving organizations in the areas of arts and culture, education, environment, health and human services. In the past several years, their focus shifted to invest in groups serving communities affected by racial discrimination and gender inequality.

“Really trying to emphasize giving to organizations and communities of color, and organizations that are run by people of color,” said Washington Women’s Foundation CEO Maria Kolby-Wolfe.

Cierra Sisters, a breast cancer awareness and support group for African American women was one of the grant recipients in 2019 when the model changed.

“This was one of the things that when we changed our grant criteria, opened up for us, smaller organizations like this, coming out of the gate and making an incredible difference and doing it on a shoestring,” said Kolby-Wolfe.

Hempstead started Cierra Sisters in 1996, after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Statistically what I found out after my diagnosis is that Black women were getting breast cancer and they were dying at an alarming rate,” said Hempstead.

Hempstead has made it her mission to educate friends, family, and those in her community.

“The doctors are not telling them the absolute truth. That there are options available, that I will partner with you to work on giving you the best life before giving up. We work with trusted doctors who believe in treating the Black community, the underserved community and will give them the same opportunity to live and have a productive life in this society,” said Hempstead.

Hempstead wants to empower people with knowledge and resources to address the racial disparities in health care.

“They are doing amazing work that transforms peoples’ lives and makes women’s lives better and Black women’s lives are hard. Making their lives better is something we can absolutely get behind and can’t wait to do more of,” said Kolby-Wolfe.

The Washington Women’s Foundation is a collective of members who identify as women, passionate about community-based solutions and investing in organizations that share their vision of advancing equity.

“As a woman, being empowered, being a Black woman, using my Black voice, hear what I have to say, it could possibly save your life,” said Hempstead.

For information on Washington Women’s Foundation: https://wawomensfdn.org/

For information on Cierra Sisters: https://cierrasisters.org/