Social Justice Fund is a community foundation; the identity of our organization is inextricable from the community around us and the people who offer us their time, treasures, and talents — especially our staff. In the past few months, SJF has said goodbye to three amazing staff members: Akoth Ombaka, Operations Director; Magan Do, Grantmaking Director; and Palmira Figueroa, Campaign Manager. We’ve also said hello Lady Anderson as our exceptional new Program Director.
Each one of these people have shaped (and will go on to shape!) SJF in powerful ways. As we move through our transition — seeking new leadership and bringing our work closer to Black liberation — their impact will be felt. Join us in welcoming Lady, and celebrating the time Akoth, Magan, and Palmira spent with on staff! We can’t wait to see how else they’ll change the world.
Introducing Lady Anderson, SJF’s new Program Director
Lady Anderson is a Black, queer, trans leader who brings 14 years of experience in advocacy and community engagement to Social Justice Fund as the new Program Director. In the course of Lady’s service as a legal, youth, medical, and sexual assault/domestic violence advocate, she has learned from survivors that economic stability is most often the key factor to establishing and maintaining self-determination, leading to greater overall wellbeing for individuals as well as their communities. Through her own personal experience and career within the anti-violence movement, Lady knows that people are dying needlessly from inequitably designed systems. She has dedicated herself to ending this cycle. With a background in public health, policy development, and a tenacious commitment to racial, gender, and health equity, Lady aims to apply her knowledge of progressive, community-centered public health structures and survivor-centered advocacy to SJF’s programming. The June Jordan quote, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” captures her approach to the work: that we must do the work every day to manifest, uphold, encourage, and propagate the conditions necessary for liberation.
After years of advocating for community-centered policy — observing how the government and other powerful institutions will do everything but cut the check for the grassroots, community-led solutions — she is excited to explore the change-making capacities of community-based fundraising models like SJF’s. There is a bright thread of power connecting Lady’s previous experience developing flexible, evidence-driven financial assistance programs for individuals and SJF’s justice and assets-oriented approach to (unrestricted) grantmaking for grassroots collectives: believing that both individuals and community-based solutions have the vision and capability to use resources in the ways that are best for them, and making those resources available. Lady brings a desire to understand where we have come from, to help chart the course in front of us, all the while moving toward a fully manifested, collective liberation.
Lady delights in birdwatching, a good cheese plate, reflecting on the evolution of life through geological time scale, and the many talents of Nicki Minaj, Megan Thee Stallion, and Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter. Outside of work, you can find her supporting local markets and dreaming about New York bagels.
Saying goodbye to Akoth, Magan, and Palmira
SJF honors Akoth Ombaka, who transitioned from their role as Operations Director in early 2021. Akoth’s tenure at SJF was marked by innovation, emerging from their deep commitment to realizing Black liberation and intentional collaboration in building workplace policy. They understand change management as going against the status quo — in nonprofit operations and beyond — and were happy to find co-conspirators at SJF with whom they could dream and act.
Akoth came to SJF in a period of significant transition, becoming the manager of two bright staff members. They stepped up to the challenge with verve, disseminating the work, building out departmental infrastructure, and empowering other Operations staff to take ownership of their roles. One of their favorite days on staff happened when Rahel, the Finance Manager, closed the 2019 books after mastering a full set of new knowledge and tools. Akoth was instrumental in navigating the uncharted territory of remote work at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, continually bringing staff’s holistic wellbeing into focus as a top priority. Under their leadership, nonprofit operations became a conductor’s baton, creating the rhythm and unity needed for values-aligned transformation across the organization.
Looking back on their time at SJF, Akoth treasures the memory of the inaugural staff Black caucus: a first communion with each other, laughing, talking about hair, chatting about everything and nothing, seeing Blackness being revered and honored. They take with them the experience of working with an all-Black operations team and a brilliant, expanding vision of what leadership through operations can be. In their post-SJF life, Akoth continues to explore the balance of infiltrating organizational policies with wellness and rest, in tandem with driving the pursuit of ambitious programmatic goals.
How SJF staff describe Akoth: intentional, powerful, creative, ambitious, empathetic, determined, defiant, hilarious, ops extraordinaire!
SJF honors Magan Do, who transitioned out of their role as Grantmaking Director earlier in 2021. Magan originally joined SJFas a practicum student in 2011; over the next ten years, they went on to serve as a board member, participate in two Giving Projects, rejoin staff as a Project Manager, and eventually become the Grantmaking Director. In this period — beginning less than two years into SJF’s early Giving Project programming — they saw the Giving Project model transform and iterate throughout the nation and witnessed grassroots grantees grow from seedling collectives to fully developed organizations.
One of Magan’s favorite parts of the job was seeing communities grow around Giving Projects: groups of very different people coming together, doing hard work, moving millions of dollars, and pushing the work to redistribute wealth to grassroots organizing beyond their participation with SJF. While at SJF, Magan focused on what it meant for the grantmaking to holistically support grantees, from more accessible application processes to resources beyond the money. This included understanding how communities organizing against oppression resource themselves with and without money, how money moves differently within these communities, and how SJF could reflect and support these practices without being extractive. They also pushed SJF to deepen our commitment as a regional funder to collectives outside of Seattle and Portland, particularly in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. In their work beyond SJF, Magan will continue to figure out how to resource BIPOC communities and community organizing.
How SJF staff describe Magan: authentic, direct, supportive, strategic, thorough, deadpan!
Palmira was hired in 2017 as SJF’s Campaign Manager, brought on to steward Fund 4 the Frontlines, the most ambitious campaign in SJF’s 40+ year history. Palmira’s compassionate, heart-centered energy and strong background in nonprofit fundraising was an integral part of SJF’s transforming approach to development strategy over the past three years. In that time, Fund 4 the Frontlines went on to not only meet, but exceed its original $4 million goal; in 2020, she co-led SJF’s all-BIPOC public phase committee that raised an additional $500,000 for the campaign. Through it all, Palmira’s ability to bring love, joy, and connection to those around her remains one of a kind.
Palmira considers working at SJF the opportunity of a lifetime, treasuring the experience of building community with coworkers who are also revolutionary, life-rocking organizers in their own right. She shares that her time at SJF deepened her understanding of liberation, donor organizing, and wild, ambitious thinking, not to mention the joy of a karaoke moment. SJF’s journey to bring philanthropy to Black liberation was challenging and awe-inspiring for her; through it, she found a daily commitment to decolonizing her mind and spirit for the work of Black liberation.
Beyond SJF, Palmira will continue to learn, work to decolonize the spaces she’s part of, and support the struggles of BIPOC leaders and communities to change the world.
How SJF staff describe Palmira: heart-centered, sensing, loving, passionate, resolute, hilarious, flan!