Meet the foundations we that we are honoring in Los Angeles, CA at 2023 NCRP Impact Awards
“CHANGING COURSE” AWARD FOR INCORPORATING FEEDBACK:
the Raikes Foundation
Since 2002, the Raikes Foundation has been committed to the belief that investing in the well-being of young people is the best investment one can make in their collective future.
The Seattle, Washington-based foundation makes grants in four core areas: education, housing stability for youth, racial equity and democracy, and impact-driven philanthropy. Through their grants, they seek to redefine financial impact, support individuals, and promote community agencies and solutions to build a more just and inclusive society where all young people have the support they need to achieve their full potential.
Foundation leaders believe that when we all work together and center the voices of young people, we can build a fair society for all. Their goal is to bring people together to break down barriers that prevent communities from thriving and to support solutions that allow all of us to determine a fair and just future for America.
Key Partnerships Kickstarted a Commitment to Youth
From the beginning, the Raikes’ staff approached their work from a place of curiosity, building and strengthening relationships with peer funders, community leaders, and young people. This energy fueled their early strategies in youth development: education and housing stability.
These formative partner relationships helped them identify the need for coordination and alignment with and between public, private, and government entities, and young people. It forced them to look not only deeper, but also upstream at the root causes of the problems they were trying to solve.
Katie Hong, former Director of Special Initiatives (2011 to 2021) who helped launch the Raikes Foundation’s Housing Stability for Youth portfolio, remembered the pivotal role these early collaborators played in establishing two foundational principles.
“First, the importance of always working in and with community; and second, that it is strategic and more effective to leverage our resources, our reach, and our connections to focus on changing the very systems that perpetuate inequities,” said Katie Hong.
These two principles shaped how the Housing Stability for Youth portfolio started.
“Our first working group, affectionately called the ‘Elmer’s Glue’ group, consisted of five people—a representative from the City of Seattle, King County, United Way, and Building Changes, who Raikes still partners with today,” said Hong. “Together, we began identifying how we could support community-coordinated approaches to preventing and ending youth and young adult homelessness, an area of interest to Jeff and Tricia Raikes. We needed to do this work in community – and not in our siloes – because we needed each other to see ‘whole’ and work together in service of and with young people who were struggling to meet critical basic needs.”
The energy to connect with each other and local communities was a personal one that came straight from the top.
“As parents, we saw the challenges of helping kids, particularly adolescents, reach their potential and that really shaped our focus,” said Jeff and Tricia Raikes. “We launched our foundation in 2002 and intentionally took our time to learn so we could identify the areas where we could make a positive impact.”
From Curiosity to Systems Transformation and Action
“It was through these early partnerships that we began to internalize the intersectional nature of our work—the issue of homelessness is a societal symptom with deep connections to our economic, social, health, and political systems as well as to structural and systemic racism and inequities,” said Dennis Quirin, Executive Director at the Raikes Foundation. “We continued to lean into a systems-thinking approach as a solution and started to think more strategically about investing in upstream systems directly impacting young people—like public schools and the foster care and behavioral health systems.”
This approach resulted in major wins achieved through partnerships at the state and national level, including the creation of Washington State’s Office of Homeless Youth in 2015 and increased national investments in Youth Homelessness Demonstration Projects (YHDP), a HUD-funded effort to support many more coordinated community approaches to preventing and ending youth and young adult homelessness all though out the country.
Reimagining and transforming systems to dismantle the root causes of inequity are now central to all the strategies at the Raikes Foundation, including in the largest grantmaking area of education, which has built off their earlier work to create strong ecosystem funding strategies in K-12 and higher education.
Resourcing Change — & Changemakers
This approach also means thinking about the funding mechanisms that catalyze that change. In 2017, the Raikes Foundation launched its Impact-Driven Philanthropy Initiative (IDPI), a portfolio designed to change how and to whom resources from high-capacity donors flow.
“Individual donors direct the overwhelming majority of philanthropic dollars in the U.S.,” said Stephanie Fuerstner Gillis, who leads this initiative at the Raikes Foundation. “We are working with others to change the water that these donors swim in and to shift more of these resources to flow in ways that center equity, effectiveness, and systems change.”
The ultimate goal of IDPI is to move more dollars to systems change work, including work led by BIPoC leaders and movements, supporting those who face structural barriers to exercise their power.
“Wealth has been accumulating at the top and we hope to get more of those dollars reinvested in the people and organizations that are best positioned to shift the systems,” said Fuerstner Gillis.
Embracing the Reckoning Ahead
The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020 changed the U.S.—and philanthropy—as we know it. It unleashed a reckoning around the ways white supremacy permeates throughout our society and institutional structures, policies, and cultures.
“This national reckoning presented an opportunity for the Raikes Foundation to look at our practices and reimagine our work for the sake of building a truly representative, multi-racial democracy,” said Quirin. “We started thinking about what would eventually become our Resourcing Equity and Democracy (RED) portfolio in 2021. We wanted to create a line of work that would build capacity for democratic life by investing in base organizing so they could build the power of the many communities who have not had an equal voice in the country’s institutions.”
Raikes launched the RED portfolio in May 2023 with the hiring of former NCRP VP and Chief External Affairs Officer Maria De La Cruz as its inaugural senior director.
As a spend-down foundation with a predicted end date of 2038, the Raikes Foundation has always thought about the best way to make a lasting impact on the lives of young people for generations to come.
“I am grateful to our staff, our partners, and especially to our Trustees for their unwavering commitment to our work,” said Quirin. “Building bridges, and building longer tables for equity’s sake, is best done in community.”
To learn more about their work, visit https://raikesfoundation.org.