School’s Out Washington (SOWA), an organization dedicated to strengthening community systems that support quality expanded learning programs for Washington’s children and youth, is another nonprofit organization that successfully partnered with state government to distribute CARES Act funding through the Washington Youth Development Nonprofit Relief Fund (WYDNRF). Through their partnership with the Washington State Department of Commerce, SOWA awarded a total of $9.4 million in fall 2020 and an additional $4.8 million in spring 2021 to grassroots organizations around the state that directly support Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) youth, youth in poverty, and other priority youth populations.
Katya Miltimore, Executive Director of Boys & Girls Club of Washington Association, was engaged as a reviewer for WYDNRF. She tells us that SOWA’s process was very deliberate, inclusive, and efficient. She says the partnership between SOWA and Commerce should be highlighted as a great example of public-private collaboration to proactively distribute federal assistance with special attention paid to equity and inclusion. “SOWA was well suited for this partnership because of their depth of understanding of the youth development nonprofit sector, regular engagement with the issues nonprofits are addressing, and understanding of the resource and policy constraints affecting the sector.” Katya also pointed out SOWA’s extensive focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion to ensure grants were awarded to a variety of programs, “They did a great job educating their reviewers about biases and put a lot of effort into ensuring that a variety of voices and experiences assisted them with allocation of over $9 million of funds.” While it was a significant effort to prepare and administer the program, Katya says the youth development field in our state benefitted from SOWA’s efforts in more ways than just receiving funding, “I myself learned a few things that will help me detect and mitigate biases when working with diverse Club communities in our own association.”