Shared Gifting in the Pacific Northwest
Jun 5 2017
In February of 2017, RSF gathered with eight organizations inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner in the Pacific Northwest for its 7th Shared Gifting Circle. We met in the Library at McMenamins in Portland, Oregon; an old school turned quirky hotel that provided us with a cozy meeting place on a cold day.
Two donors inspired this circle: the Orcas Anthroposophical Trust, and an anonymous donor who shared a common regional focus and passion for supporting Rudolf Steiner’s work in the world. We invited the eight circle participants—selected from RSF community nominations—to join us for a collaborative granting process to distribute $50,000.
The group included four Waldorf schools, a Waldorf-inspired charter school, a Waldorf-inspired cooperative, a eurythmy program, and a combination Biodynamic farm and school. Listed correspondingly, the participants were:
Cedarwood Waldorf School — Portland, OR
Eugene Waldorf School — Eugene, OR
Sandpoint Waldorf School — Sandpoint, ID
Tacoma Waldorf School — Tacoma, WA
Syringa Mountain School — Hailey, ID
Greenwood Tree Cooperative — Vernon, WA
Portland Eurythmy — Portland, OR
Branch Road Farm School — Cottage Grove, OR
Shared Gifting, inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner, invites participants into a collaborative grant process that makes the giving direct, transparent, and personal. Shared Gifting Circles give grantees the opportunity to read one another’s proposals and become grantors themselves. We find that the values of collaboration, trust, and reciprocity are reinforced through these circles, which provide extra meaning to the funding the organizations receive.
After the grantmaking session was finished, the largest grant went to the Branch Road Farm School, a community farm that offers cooking classes, after-school farm and food programs, summer camps, and a CSA. The school also hopes to open a youth-run farmhouse cafe so that it may provide job training this year. As each participant granted to Branch Road, they named out loud how important the integration of hands-on agriculture is for education and communities.
Another highlight from the gathering was hearing all of the organizations acknowledged the collective need to support Portland Eurythmy and its unique role in providing support to all of the Waldorf schools in the region. There was also recognition of the critical need to support eurythmy worldwide.
For all of the participants, the day was an opportunity to receive peer support and coaching, especially because so many of them could relate to each other’s strengths and challenges. Organizations offered each other tips on how to navigate difficult situations, and there were lots of best practices and fun ideas shared around development and enrollment.
Jean McGowan of Cedarwood Waldorf School shared that “thinking like a donor was such a transformative moment. When you see and hear these grants presented, it gives them a life that paper and screen can’t. The lesson is to talk to your donors!”
Megan Bassett of Eugene Waldorf School thinks that Shared Gifting would be a good model for all Waldorf funders to use in the future. “I think it would be amazing to engage donors in funding the Waldorf Education movement on a large scale and gather regionally with schools,” she said. “The opportunity to learn from each other is so valuable that even modest grants are worth the time and effort.”
The group plans on meeting again in a year, and Chanin Escovedo of Tacoma Waldorf School invited everyone to come to her school’s campus.
Since then, we have heard from Christine Fonner of Syringa Mountain School: “We are already communicating beyond the Shared Gifting day and sharing resources!”
We are so grateful to the donors and participants for their interest and willingness to be a part of this Shared Gifting experience.
Kelley is Senior Director of Philanthropic Services and Organizational Culture at RSF.