Hi community! We’re very excited to share our 2021 Annual Report with you. Inside you’ll find a letter from our newly announced Executive Director Valériana, a feature on donor organizer Jondou Chase-Chen, spotlights on three 2021 grantees (Black Oregon Land Trust, Beyond These Walls, and Indian People’s Action), financial and grantmaking reports, a full list of our 2021 grantees, and more. This year’s report also features original art by Seattle-based artist Monyee Chau (click here to see more of Monyee’s work), inspired by the featured grantees. We hope you enjoy this peek inside 2021 at SJF!
Scroll down to read the text-only version of the report
2021 Annual Report - text version
Social Justice Fund NW: What We Do
Social Justice Fund NW funds social justice movements throughout Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. All of our grantees are grassroots organizations on the frontlines of social change. We provide them with flexible funding with the freedom to respond to community needs, to invest in leadership and relationships, and to innovate and take risks for long term systemic change.
We are member-funded and member-led. SJF is fueled by you.
Almost all of our grant making is done through an innovative model called Giving Projects. Each Giving Project is a multiracial, cross-class cohort of volunteers who come together with a shared commitment to social justice. Our staff guide them through a process of political education, community building, collective giving, grassroots fundraising, and democratic grant making; these volunteers raise the money for our grants and make the grants themselves. The result is a more accountable, sustainable, and connected form of philanthropy AND hundreds of donor organizers with the skills and analysis to resource our movements for the long haul.
We also provide Rapid Response Grants (to help communities meet urgent needs that couldn’t have been anticipated) and Seed Grants (to help promising young groups gain momentum), and host Donor Advised Funds (helping higher capacity donors move money to community). And we run workshops that help people across race and class become more strategic social justice givers and more effective fundraisers, reclaiming philanthropy for all.
Through Social Justice Fund NW, we are all stronger together. Thank you for being part of SJF and part of a growing movement for justice.
2021 In Review: A Message from the Executive Director
I joined Social Justice Fund NW in October of 2021 as the Interim Executive Director. It was a time of transition within our organization and I quickly became aware of the need to center wellness and healing in the midst of the work. Hard conversations were happening, surfaced by staff turnover, leadership changes, and the uncertainty of the pandemic, all of which simultaneously pushed SJF to address our collective future. We recognized ways we had strengthened our grantee and member relationships but also where shortcomings within the organization had caused harm – rooted in anti-Blackness and white supremacy – as well as the elements of shame that prevented us from being unable to share our journey more openly.
We took an organizational pause in December 2021, giving us time to be with our loved ones, center rest, and begin to collectively examine the need to interrupt compassion fatigue, workplace trauma, and white supremacy culture while moving toward more collective, equitable decision making processes. This move was audacious and transformative for SJF, and as a group of co-conspirators we continue aspiring to turn oppressive structures on their heads.
Even amidst the challenging transitions of 2021, SJF managed to pull off our biggest Giving Project to date – the 2020-21 Black Led Organizing Giving Project – which raised and granted out more that $600,000 to Black-led grassroots organizations across the region. We also completed two other Giving Projects in 2021, made dozens of grants through our Rapid Response & Seed program, and held numerous successful online workshops and events.
Yet our internal journey of transformation was what most characterized 2021. We knew we needed to transform the architecture of our organization if we truly wanted to begin embodying Black liberation and wellness, so we started the process of revamping our organizational values and, at the end of the year, began working with Racing to Equity – an HR consulting firm that centers the human dignity of people who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color – to update our personnel policy handbook from the ground up. This led to the decision in early 2022 to move to a 4-day/32-hour work week, challenging the conditions whereby many organizations have unknowingly accepted burnout as a sign of hard work instead of examining it as a byproduct of trauma inflicted on the body.
The seeds of these changes, planted and sprouting throughout 2021, are now growing into their promise; we are continuously delighted and nourished by the fruits they bear and beginning to see how that abundance will spread its roots into our community.
As I am transitioning from Interim ED to becoming SJF’s permanent Executive Director, I am eager and excited about the road ahead. I am proud to have laid the groundwork for us to examine our relationship with workplace trauma and begin the journey towards inner healing, confronting the challenges of the past and imagining our journey ahead. I hope many more folks will join forces in our work to be abundant in mobilizing resources to support grassroots organizations while being imaginative in interrupting white supremacist oppression. And I am looking forward to celebrating our many milestones with you as we approach our 45th anniversary in 2023! I invite each of you to continue to join forces with us as we become more diligent in our work as co-conspirators who are audacious about mobilizing resources towards radical, grassroots efforts that interrupt oppression in its highest and lowest forms.
Valériana Chikoti-Bandua Estes, Executive Director
Donor Organizer Spotlight: Meet Jondou-Chase Chen
I got involved with Social Justice Fund in 2015 when my partner and I joined the Environmental Justice Giving Project. The idea of Giving Projects really appealed to me. Being in education, I saw the work of self-reflection and introspection as hugely important. But then with Giving Projects you add this necessary work of bringing people together over time to dialogue, build systems analysis, and really make a commitment — actually spending time together and building relationships. On top of that, you’re meeting with grantees, doing site visits, learning about the radical movement work that’s happening, all grounded in the local context of Seattle and the Northwest.
My partner and I had just had a baby when we decided to join the Giving Project. That can be an isolating moment in your life, but engaging with SJF helped me realize that I’m part of an ecosystem, that I’m not alone. It was actually quite humbling. I can’t be the person I am without community, without being part of a broader collective. So I wouldn’t be as connected to mutual aid efforts if it wasn’t for SJF planting so many seeds in my mind about what it means to show up for each other in a collectivist, resource-sharing kind of way.
My experience in the Giving Project also helped challenge the whole notion of donating. Capitalism has a way of simplifying things – I have money in my account, I give some of it away, I’m done. But the way SJF pushed me to think about it complicated that process and made me constantly deconstruct notions like “I earned this paycheck.” Or, instead of starting with “how much can I give?” SJF starts with the idea of “What is meaningful?”
You hear that quote a lot about how the goal of nonprofits should be to work us out of a job. I see SJF actually embodying that by attempting to be an anti-capitalist organization doing philanthropy. Is that really possible? I don’t know! And that’s what gets me excited. I feel that excitement and feel called in every time I hear about a new SJF project or read the SJF newsletter (which I consider essential reading if you want to know what’s going on in social movement spaces.)
I come from a diaspora family. My parents are Taiwanese, a people that have been colonized so many times that we had to develop our own systems, learn to creatively pool our resources, resist and thrive despite that history of repeated colonization. Living in the US with no access to political power or financial institutions you have no choice but to build political trust in your community. And I watched my family do just that during my childhood in San Diego – if you were Taiwanese family there in the 1980s we definitely knew you. Everyone was connected, everyone was helping each other out. That was resource sharing: people just coming over and taking what they needed from our garage, a group of families pooling money and then a different one would get it each month. It wasn’t about the money but rather about maintaining relationships, going through hard things together, figuring out how to make it work. Ultimately that’s the basis of my organizing spirit.
And that’s a lot of what I see and love in SJF: people can bring themselves, even in ways that are not always perfect, nice, or comfortable. People might even come in with a savior mentality, and then be told that they have some stuff to work on. SJF isn’t afraid of naming those truths.
It reminds me of this quote from Mariame Kaba about the beauty of movement. Capitalism, these systems were fighting against… They’ve been around so long that our best hope to confront them is to build networks of solidarity across space and across time.
It’s an ecosystem. And SJF keeps me involved in it, like how I had the opportunity to be on the Rapid Response and Seed grants committee for two years. SJF keeps folding me back in and giving me opportunities to learn, lifting up new ways of thinking about Black liberation or Indigenous sovereignty. “Intersectionality” is an overused word but I’ve watched SJF actively engage in trying to get more intersectional. And it pushes me to do the same, shows me that my own learning is far from done. Ten years from now I know that SJF will be doing something new and challenging that will teach me, and I’m grateful for that.
Jondou Chase-Chen is a faculty member at the University of Washington and co-director of the Seed Project (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) which partners with schools and communities to develop social justice leaders. He lives in south Seattle with his partner and two children.
2021 Grantee Spotlight: Black Oregon Land Trust
Launched in 2020, Black Oregon Land Trust (BOLT) is a nonprofit community trust dedicated to ensuring that Black farmers and land stewards in Oregon permanently and collectively own their land. Composed of several organizing collectives including Feed’em Freedom Foundation by way of Mudbone Grown Farm, and Womb Homb, BOLT was birthed by an ecosystem responding to this country’s long history of anti-Black, anti-Indigenous systems of oppression. With the goal of getting to the root of this oppressive structure, BOLT turns to land access as a healer, reclaiming the sovereignty of body, land, language, medicine, tradition, community and more stolen by slavery and white supremacy.
Black folks have an intuitive relationship with the land from both naturally working with it and being forced to work it; Black people have grown, created, and birthed so much of what the world relies on, and yet a colossal gap remains between their labor and the land in this country and region. This gap was created intentionally to deprive Black communities of power and wealth through the broken promise of 40 acres and a mule and many interlocking institutionalized barriers. Oregon’s origin as a white supremacist haven with laws that specifically forbade the residence of Black people has resulted in less than a third of Black people in Multnomah County owning their own homes compared to 60% of white people. By developing a trust to secure land access for Black Oregonians, BOLT leaders return their community to the ancestral affinity of their ancestors to the land, where a people’s relationship to the natural environment goes deeper than ownership. The land trust model decolonizes the concept of ownership, creating sovereignty for the people and the land, reducing environmental degradation and balancing extraction.
BOLT’s offerings to their community are multi-faceted. One of BOLT’s cohorts is Womb Homb, a collective of Black mothers, birthworkers, and artists; they add a further layer of depth to the work by connecting birthing justice to the land, housing security, and food access. By reimagining what birthing practices and family cultures could look like on sovereign land, they center the needs of families, mothers, children, and queer and trans Black folks for a comprehensive approach to sovereignty and liberation. Mudbone Grown, a Black-owned farm, provides agricultural education, skill and capacity building, and produce via their CSA program to the community. They advocate for farmer’s rights by tackling the destabilizing systemic barriers that constantly threaten to displace farmers from the land they work (but frequently do not own) and offer business support for farmers to develop more sovereign income. Through the BOLT land trust, they work to ensure that Black farmers can permanently own their land and enjoy the sense of safety and sovereignty that privilege creates. BOLT’s programming isn’t only for already existing farmers and agricultural workers; they invite their community to learn how to farm and provide the needed equipment, infrastructure, and mentoring to build a sustaining, powerful network of agricultural communities. BOLT is also exploring housing security for farmers and their families with the dream of an interconnected, intergenerational, sovereign agricultural community centered around Black sovereignty.
2021 was a big year for BOLT. They became a fiscal sponsee of EcoTrust and began working toward becoming a full nonprofit. They established consistent volunteer days, created an apprenticeship program with two current apprentices working with local farms, began a Black rural farmer project, further developed Womb Homb to offer childcare and spaces for Womb Homb members to build community together, and began growing their overall network to ready themselves for future projects. Through a partnership with Oregon State University, BOLT has begun to work with land once owned by a Black woman named Laticia Carson who fought for and won ownership of her land when it was taken from her by the state after the death of her white husband.
To BOLT, liberation looks like a sovereign relationship between the people and the land; it looks like birthing and parenting in safe space, having a community that supports its members and itself without extraction or exploitation. It looks like cultivating right relationship with the earth, incorporating ceremony and gratitude as a daily practice. It looks like creating medicine and healing with the land. Liberation smells like soil and fresh air. It feels like letting go of fear and not allowing it to be the conduit of decision making. It feels like lightheartedness, like minds that are able to imagine, dream, and create those dreams. As a people who have experienced centuries of subjugation — through slavery, stolen and exploited labor post-enslavement, and institutionalized oppression — BOLT asks how they can build a community and culture where their children will never understand themselves as owned, but instead understand themselves as fully sovereign.
Beyond These Walls (BTW) was first formed in 2011 as a pen pal project by Trystan Reese and Biff Chaplow. While connecting with LGBTQ+ led organizations in Portland, Trystan noticed that a large amount of mail was coming in from queer and trans people who were incarcerated seeking resources and support. The two started responding to the letters, providing answers and community. From there, the project grew into a holiday card event, then into a pen pal program, then eventually into an fully realized organization providing political advocacy, re-entry support, connection, and resources to the Beyond These Walls community of queer, trans, and/or BIPOC people, currently and formerly incarcerated. Today, BTW responds to letters from across the country and provides advocacy and resources in Oregon and Washington.
The past few years have seen the organization through big challenges and incredible growth. BTW is a member of several Oregon-based civil rights advocacy coalitions working on disability justice, dismantling the prison industrial complex, and abolition of the carceral state with dreams (and seedlings) of similar work in Washington. They’re active in coordinating resource hubs about the two states’ Departments of Correction to ensure vital information is available for their community. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, BTW worked inside different DOC facilities, leading leadership development trainings and Pride groups for inmates; they’re currently working to reinstate this important in-person work.
Throughout the pandemic, BTW has worked doggedly to continue supporting incarcerated queer and trans folks despite strong resistance from DOC; the agency has used the pandemic as an excuse to further isolate people inside from important resources and outside connections. In 2021, BTW provided close to $8000 in re-entry assistance, provided 300 members with pen pals, reading materials, re-entry support, and support with name changes and other legal matters. One especially critical form of support they offer is helping trans folks transfer institutions, either to seek out a more trans-friendly prison or be closer to their communities. Many incarcerated trans people come out as transgender while in prison. Both Washington and Oregon require individuals to return to their county of origin after release, a prospect that can pose a serious danger to a trans person’s wellbeing if that county is transphobic or home to the unhealthy environment that informed the person’s actions before their incarceration. BTW is fighting to change these laws to ensure that newly released individuals can instead go to the county and community that is best for their wellbeing and growth.
One enormous step for BTW within the past year was the hiring of Hailey Ockinga as their first full time Executive Director in October of 2021. BTW has now shifted from being an all-volunteer team to having two full time staff along with an expanded board of directors with full c3 (nonprofit) status. BTW now partners with other organizations to continue their penpal service with the goal of focusing more fully on advocacy and re-entry to make life better for people who remain incarcerated and to set them up for success when they’re released. BTW will soon invest their time in sharpening their diversity and inclusion expertise; they believe that it’s essential for their values to be firmly in place amidst the organization’s continuing growth. BTW’s vision of liberation is simple and powerful: that their community and staff can live their truth, whatever that looks like. So many of the people they serve begin to live their truth while incarcerated; liberation is a world where they are able to walk down the street after release, unafraid, anywhere.
Indian People’s Action (IPA) is a Native-led grassroots organization serving communities across Montana. Founded in 1997 by Janet Robideau, IPA’s work has grown over time to encompass a broad range of social justice issues impacting Indigenous folks, including housing and homelessness, police brutality, over incarceration, environmental justice, youth leadership, health equity, voting justice, and more. With a particular focus on urban Native populations in Montana, IPA addresses the social, economic, environmental, and racial inequities that shape Native American lives. IPA is a longtime SJF grantee; the organization received their first SJF grant in 2011 and has remained in community with us for over a decade. In February of 2022, IPA’s longest serving Executive Director, Michaelynn Hawk, passed away at the age of 61 [see the following page for SJF’s tribute to Michaelynn Hawk’s legacy]. It is an honor for SJF to feature IPA in our 2021 Annual Report, both a tribute to the organization’s powerful work in the last year and a recognition of their deep influence on our SJF and our community.
IPA was birthed in an ecosystem of change. In the mid-90s, Missoula’s Native American population grew rapidly as more and more Natives moved from reservations into urban areas in pursuit of education, housing, and employment. Missoula’s population at the time was predominantly white and harbored deep seated anti-Native racism as well as institutional barriers against Native wellbeing. Janet Robideau, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation, saw the need to fill a gap in Native-led organizing at the time by building political momentum for issues faced by urban Natives. Michaelynn Hawk eventually took over as Executive Director, driving hard throughout the 2000s on social issues including health reform, the over-incarceration and policing of Indigenous folks, child welfare, and fossil fuel resistance. Joan Surechief, IPA’S current Interim Executive Director and former Board chair, recounted that Michaelynn, “took everything Janet believed in and carried it, putting in her dedication to develop the organization into what it is today. She was laser-focused.” Michaelynn’s tenure marked a shift to a heavier focus on political advocacy through legislation. During this period, IPA worked to educate and connect ederal and state public servants with tribal leaders to improve communication and cultural competency. IPA was successful in getting the state government to hold trainings for Qualified Expert Witnesses on all tribal reservations, a major win in their quest to fight for the Indian Child Welfare Act and keep Native children in their own communities.
In the past few years, IPA has been especially active in the movement against police brutality and the evils of the prison industrial complex. IPA fought hard to bring the attention of the federal Department of Justice to the massively disproportionate police killings and discrimination against Native people in Billings. In addition to legal advocacy, IPA hosts vigils, rallies, and know-your-rights trainings; this organizing has helped the families of victims bring the truth of their cases to light and raised public awareness of police brutality, antagonism, and ignorance against Montana Natives. This complex issues is interconnected with the high rates of Native homelessness, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women People movement (MMIWP), and the many public health inequities impacting Native people.
IPA has continued this work into 2022 with a strong focus on housing and homelessness to ensure that Natives don’t end up back in prison or on the street where they are frequently targeted by police, with the overall goal of helping people come back into community for health and wellbeing. They will also carry on their work with Indigenous youth, including youth leadership and organizing trainings, storytelling and story collecting projects, with the goal of raising the next generation of Michaelynn Hawks, a strong cohort of Native organizing leaders. To IPA, liberation looks like truth, justice, and being witnessed in the pursuit of truth and justice. So many of the families the organization has connected with over the past few years have felt as if their voices would never be heard and their rights would never be respected. IPA hopes their work can show their communities that they deserve to be heard, to receive justice, to be cared for, to have people stand alongside them, and that they can be unafraid.
The SJF community mourns the loss of Michaelynn Hawk, an extraordinary community organizer and Native leader from Montana who passed away on February 3, 2022 at the age of 61.
Michaelynn was an enrolled member of the Crow tribe. She was the long-time Executive Director of the organization Indian People’s Action (IPA) which worked to empower Native families to address the economic, racial and environmental inequities in Montana’s reservations and border towns.
IPA was awarded their first SJF grant in 2011 and went on to receive many more grants over the past decade. As the ED of IPA, Michaelynn was often in community with SJF members — be it on site visits, through our Grantee Summit, or at other events.
Said former SJF Executive Director Mijo Lee, “I knew her as a fierce, unwavering fighter for her people. Through her honest feedback about how we could better understand, build relationships with, and truly support Native organizers, she helped SJF become a better funder. I personally learned so much from her about Native organizing and was inspired by her again and again.”
In 2015 Michaelynn received the Jeannette Rankin award at Social Justice Fund’s Annual Dinner for her “longtime activism and extraordinary service in the SJF region of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington.”
In recent years Michaelynn continued to bring attention to the impacts of the criminal justice system on Native communities, and fought on behalf of Native plaintiffs for equal access to voting. She also advocated in the Montana legislature around a variety of issues, including clean energy. She ran the First Peoples’ Market in Butte from its inception (as part of the Montana Folk Festival), and helped found the youth leadership program Native Youth Art in Action (NYAA).
She had six sons, one of whom (Donavon) became a Montana state legislator last year. He credits his mom as a huge inspiration in his own journey as an activist and politician.
Michaelynn loved Montana and her Butte community, loved being part of the fight for justice in Native communities, and loved working on behalf of youth. We mourn her loss and celebrate her organizing and dedication to building a better world.
Her family asks for donations in her honor to be made to the Butte YMCA.
Income – $10,300,264 total
Other: $708,342, 9% (includes corporate matches, earned income, and gain on investments
Foundation: $2,470,000, 24%
Donor Advised Fund (DAF) income: $3,557,407, 33%
Individual donations: $3,361,000, 34%
Expenses – $4,471,632 total*
Admin: $562,525, 10%
Fundraising: $429,100, 12%
Program: $3,480,007, 78%
*Note: Our 2021 income includes a significant amount of funding that was distributed in early 2022 through the 2022 Displaced Tenants Fund Grant, as well as a large bequest and special project funding, hence the big different between our income and expenses in this report.
2021 By the Numbers
39 workshops and trainings
1602 individual donors
37 Giving Project participants
Total amount granted: $2,708,478
Giving Project grants: $1,047,701
Donor Advised Fund grants: $923,000
Rapid Response & Seed grants: $188,000
Unique grantee organizations: 86
Giving Project grants awarded: 31
Distribution of grantees based in large cities vs. other
27% N/A (unknown, based statewide, or based in multiple locations)
21% Mid-size, rural, and small towns
Distribution of grantees by state
Distribution of grantee leadership race/ethnicity
To the Staff, Board, and SJF Community: A Letter of Gratitude
2021 was a pivotal year for SJF. A number of longtime staffers moved on — for big opportunities, fresh starts, new lives to nurture, and rest and healing. Their deep commitment and contributions to SJF live on in the work we undertake every day. In particular, we thank: Akoth Ombaka, one of the most dreamy, radical ops professionals to walk this earth; Magan Do and Sewheat Asfaha, an extraordinary grantmaking duo with a tremendous legacy; Bana Abera and Shardé Nabors, full-hearted visionaries who led the record-breaking Black Led Organizing Giving Project; Rebecca Allen, the most meticulous and steady facilitator; Palmira Figueroa, flag bearer for the power of love and humor in dark times; and mano (Emanuel da Silva), who breathed life into new ways of thinking and being for SJF.
We also welcomed new staff whose clear eyes helped SJF chart a course toward liberation in unsteady times and who have already accomplished incredible feats. A number of wildly dedicated board members and contractors supported us throughout 2021, filling in gaps and helping us undertake our leadership transition and the (ongoing) project to rework our HR policies with Black liberation and wellness at the center. We thank them all for their labor, service, and diligence.
And finally, we extend our gratitude to you: the SJF community members, grantees, donor organizers, allies, and more who have stuck with us through some of the most challenging years on the books. These times are exhausting and you could have chosen to retreat to comfort and conserve all your resources out of fear and despair. Instead, you engaged — donated and fundraised, applied for grants and gave us feedback, asked the hard questions, sent us your love in handwritten notes and phone calls, logged on to yet another Zoom meeting (!), and celebrated our joys. The work we, the SJF staff, undertake is composed of powerful but time-bound commitments as staff join and depart in the various seasons of our lives. But the beating heart of our movement lies with you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Current staff: Aisha Al-Amin, Donor Organizing Manager; Alison Cheung, Communications Manager; Amy Truax, Finance & Development Coordinator; Burke Stansbury, Development Director; Essex Lordes, Grants Database Administrator; Kaylen Hendrick, Donor Systems Manager; Lady Anderson, Director of Collective Capacity Building; Marc Mazique, Operations Manager; Mercedes Klein, Project Manager; Rahel Gaguro, Finance & Operations Director; Valériana Chikoti-Bandua Estes, Executive Director
Current board: Aaron Oravillo, Em Bookstein, Maria Hernandez, Monica Foucher, Ranfis Giannettino Villatoro, Rebecca Chan
2021 contractors: Aaron Oravillo, Akoth Ombaka, Amadeo Cruz Guiao, Andriana Alexis, C. Davida Ingram, Karen Toering, Kim Crutcher, Rob Cato, Sewheat Asfaha