Colleen Willoughby

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Colleen Seidelhuber Willoughby
WcgnJAX-3-13 17WilloughbyHeadShot.jpg
Colleen Willoughby in 2017
Born1934 (age 84–85)[1]
ResidenceSeattle, Washington, United States
CitizenshipUnited States of America
Alma materWhitman College '55
Known forLaunching the collective giving grantmaking model of philanthropy
Home townSeattle, Washington, United States
Board member ofWomen's Collective Giving Network
Spouse(s)George Willoughby

Colleen S. Willoughby is an American philanthropist who is credited with credited with creating the model of collective giving grantmaking, which is commonly referred to as giving circles. She is the founder and former president of the Washington Women's Foundation and current director of Global Women Partners in Philanthropy.

Early life and career[edit]

Colleen Seidelhuber was born around 1934.[1][2] Both of her parents volunteered regularly. Her father volunteered at the YMCA and her mother at the local Parent Teacher Association.[1]

Willoughby attended Whitman College, studying political science and speech.[1][3] She graduated in 1955.[2] It was at Whitman where she would meet her future husband, George Willoughby. After the couple married, Willoughby taught junior high school. She would eventually quit to become a housewife, caring for the couple's two children, Scott and Anne.[1]


Willoughby volunteered for years, increasing her time spent volunteering as her children became adults. She volunteered at the Seattle Art Museum, with the Camp Fire Boys and Girls, Junior League and Planned Parenthood. She served as president of the Junior League of Seattle and on the boards of the Association of Junior Leagues International, Seattle Children's Home and the United Way.[1][4] Since 1981, Willoughby has organized the Women in Leadership Symposium at Whitman College.[2] She serves as trustee emerita at Whitman College and as an advisory board member at the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance at the University of Washington.[2][5]

Seattle CityClub[edit]

After years of being civically, Willoughby noticed that few women served on boards and/or were involved in decision making at nonprofits. In response to this, Willoughby and seven other women founded the Seattle CityClub. The organization educates its members about civic participation and nonprofit management. They CityClub has over 47,000 members.[6]

Every year, the Colleen Willoughby Youth Civic Education Award is awarded by the Seattle CityClub. The award recognizes contributions by young people who are leading others in civic participation.[7]

Washington Women's Foundation[edit]

My mother’s tool was a mixmaster, but mine is money.[8]

Colleen Willoughby, 2013

Willoughby observed that women often volunteered at nonprofits but rarely donated financially, unlike men whose names often outweigh women's names on donor lists.[1][8] As a response, Willoughby co-founded the Washington Women's Foundation (WWF) in 1995.[1] Within two months, Willoughby and four of her friends had recruited 116 women to join.[1][9] It was the first women's collective giving group in the United States. Members of WWF donate $2,000 each, with $1,000 being donated to nonprofits of that member's choice. The remaining $1,000 is placed into a grantmaking fund. Each year members review grant proposals from local nonprofits and vote on the most worthy nonprofit out of the group to receive a $100,000 grant. This concept, the pooling of $1,000 from each member to be gifted as a collective $100,000, is utilized nationwide through other collective giving groups, including Impact100 Sonoma.[1]

Today, WWF awards grants in five focus areas: health, human services, environment, education, and arts & culture.[10] Within three years of its founding, WWF had granted almost $1 million to nonprofits.[1] As of 2015, the WWF had over 500 members.[10]

In 2002, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded WWF a grant to create a book about its giving model titled Something Ventured: An Innovative Model in Philanthropy.[11]

Women's Collective Giving Grantmakers Network[edit]

As a response to the growing number of collective giving groups, Willoughby started the Women's Collective Giving Grantmakers Network (WCGN) to serve as the umbrella organization for groups similar to the WWF. Incorporated in Charlotte, North Carolina, WCGN provides support and tools to current and future women-led giving groups and hosts regular meetings and an annual conference.[12] As of 2017, WCGN has 49 member organizations in 24 states and two countries and over 10,000 women members from member organizations.[10][13] In 2019, the organization changed its name to Catalist.

Philanthropic research work at University of Washington[edit]

Willoughby is active in women's philanthropic research at the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance at the University of Washington. She founded the Global Women's Philanthropy Project, which researches how collective giving models can be launched and successful in China.[14] Willoughby also serves on the advisory board for the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance at the University of Washington and is the former chair of the school.[5][15]


Willoughby was awarded the Junior League of Seattle's Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Community Service Award in 1991.[16] She was named a 2004 Woman of Influence by the Puget Sound Business Journal.[6] In 2008, Willoughby was named a Storm Woman of Inspiration by the Seattle Storm.[17] The following year, 2009, Willoughby was awarded the Mary Harriman Award by the Junior League for her work with the Junior League, women, and in fundraising.[4] She received the 25th A.K. Guy Award from the YMCA in 2012, for her "extraordinary commitment to and leadership in philanthropy, women’s leadership, civic engagement, and youth issues."[15]

Personal life[edit]

Willoughby resides in Seattle and Lopez Island. She has five grandchildren.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Miller, Samantha. "Charity Belle". People. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Brauhn, David. "Trustee emerita Colleen Willoughby '55 urges women students to "step up, step out and engage" in this year's Women in Leadership Symposium". Whitman Magazine. Whitman College. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  3. ^ Grantier, Virginia. "Symposium founder earns national award". Alumni News. Whittier College. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Colleen Willoughby". Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Advisory Board Members". Evans School of Public Policy & Governance. University of Washington. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  6. ^ a b Nelson, Carol. "Women of Influence: Women must keep striving for more (Video)". Puget Sound Business Journal. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  7. ^ "Youth Civic Leadership Award". ReWA. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  8. ^ a b Arkles, Louise. "The power of collective giving: Women mixing it up". Generosity. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  9. ^ Joanna L. Krotz (2009). The Guide to Intelligent Giving: Make a Difference in the World--And in Your Own Life. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 146. ISBN 978-1-58816-761-3.
  10. ^ a b c Curtis, Mary C. "'Fire Starters' in Women's Philanthropy Focus on Regeneration". Women's E News. Women's E News. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  11. ^ a b Tice, Carol. "Leading the way". Philanthropic Leadership. Puget Sound Business Journal. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  12. ^ Broadwell, Paula. "Check Your Privilege: Why Women's Philanthropy Is Growing Across Generations and Socioeconomics". The Blog. Huffington Post. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  13. ^ Mesch, Debra; Mills, Virginia. "Giving Together Has Exponential Effects On Communities". Huffington Post. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  14. ^ "Global Women's Philanthropy". Evans School of Public Policy & Governance. University of Washington. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  15. ^ a b "Colleen Willoughby Wins A.K. Guy Award". Evans School of Public Policy & Governance. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  16. ^ "Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Community Service Award". Junior League of Seattle. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  17. ^ "2008 Storm Women of Inspiration Recipient". WNBA. Retrieved 29 May 2017.

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