Marguerite Casey was born in Seattle, Washington, on September 5, 1900, and was the only daughter and youngest child of Henry J. and Annie E. Casey. Like her brother Jim, the founder of United Parcel Service, Marguerite profoundly believed in the importance of family, leading her to spend much of her adult life creating opportunities to help families and communities succeed and thrive.
Marguerite and her three brothers established the Annie E. Casey Foundation to honor their mother’s legacy by encouraging public policies, human service reforms and community support to meet the needs of vulnerable children, youth and families.
Jim Casey’s interest in long-term foster care led him to establish Casey Family Programs in the family’s home town of Seattle. Marguerite served as a board member for Casey Family Programs until 1971.
A Foundation Is Born
After UPS went public, Casey Family Programs set out to start a new grantmaking foundation. They asked experts and innovators to think creatively about how this new foundation could best serve low-income families.
A vision for a new approach to grantmaking began to take shape, with the foundation’s role being to enable rather than supervise grantees. Instead of accepting unsolicited proposals, the foundation would seek out grassroots organizations that were effective in their communities and work collaboratively with them over an extended period, helping them become their own change agents.
To grow the new organization, the board of directors needed a visionary and experienced CEO. Luz Vega-Marquis had direct experience as a community organizer and, as a result, a visceral belief in the determination, knowledge, and capabilities of families to change their own communities.
The first act of the new foundation named for Marguerite Casey was to convene “listening circles” to meet with more than 600 people in communities across the country to ask what strategies and support grassroots organizations needed most. Out of this confluence of voices came the Foundation’s mission and vision statements. The Board adopted these, and our first grants were awarded in November. Our new approach made Marguerite Casey Foundation a true outlier in the field.
Supporting a Growing Movement
In collaboration with grassroots organizations in areas of the country with the highest rates of poverty, we began fostering a movement of families advocating on their own behalf for change.
Our first regional convenings in Birmingham, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Phoenix proved that connecting grantees across regions and focus areas amplified the impact of their work. In the Mississippi Delta and Rio Grande Valley, Network Weavers were identified to forge and strengthen relationships between the African-American and Latino communities. In the years following, other networks were created and fostered across regions.
New tactics and alliances emerged among our grantees, which coalesced into a larger movement to “challenge public policy and entrenched attitudes that create barriers to prosperity and equality.”
The Equal Voice for America’s Families campaign mobilized more than 30,000 families and organizations across the country. Together, they drafted and adopted a national family platform which represents the shared vision of families from around the country and a blueprint for change.
In February, 150 families hand-delivered their family platform to 42 senators and representatives in Washington, D.C., with 98 concrete policy recommendations at the local, state and federal levels. Concurrently, we launched Equal Voice News to raise the voices of those often left out of traditional media and elevate their causes nationally.
Forging a New Path
As we approached our ten-year anniversary, the Foundation became fully independent and continued to forge a path of leadership and teamwork.
A decade into our journey, the Foundation formally separated its legal ties with Casey Family Programs while continuing its work of supporting movement building, of helping to ensure that low-income families get an equal voice in their future.
“Raising Hope: The Equal Voice Story” debuted on PBS, and the Equal Voice Journalism Fellowship was created. We also launched the Patiño Moore Legacy Award in partnership with ABFE and Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP) to recognize organizations whose work fosters collaboration between Latino and African-American communities to effect positive, sustainable change for all of America’s families.
The Foundation established the Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty Leadership Awards to recognize young people ages 16 to 24 making a significant difference in their communities.
As Congress debates tax reform, we make sure lawmakers are aware of its impact on low-income families by sending Capitol Hill the Foundation report “Skin in the Game: The Federal Tax System, Tax Reform and Poor Families.” Equal Voice empowerment videos focusing on voice, the collective and membership are launched. Efforts to build an independent, national 501(c)(4) membership organization focusing on low-income families are underway. We receive guidance from a Family Advisory Committee composed of grassroots advocates.
Foundation grantees gather in Atlanta for our National Convening “The Power of Membership.” As part of the Convening, we announce the launch of Equal Voice Action, a family-led, 501(c)(4) membership organization that seeks to elevate the voice and power of poor and low-income people. To amplify movement building and the voice of low-income families, President and CEO Luz Vega-Marquis starts writing blog essays about poverty for the Huffington Post.
We continue elevating the idea of collective power. As part of this effort, we host a network-weaver meeting about facilitating peer engagement, strategic planning and civic engagement. We issue more than $3 million in nonpartisan integrated voter engagement grants to 24 community organizations nationwide. The goal is to boost civic engagement and encourage regular voting. Grantees make progress in National Family Platform topics, including higher minimum wage laws and extending labor protections to domestic workers.
Our Common Horizon
Marked our 15-Year anniversary of creating our own path in philanthropy, refusing to follow the trails laid down by others. From the beginning, we have made a choice not to dictate, but to trust. We trust our grantees, we trust the families whom they support, and we trust that, by focusing not on notching victories but in building collective power, that change is not only possible: it is inevitable. A summative evaluation was completed that examined our approach, future opportunities and lessons learned.15 Year Summative Evaluation
In 2017, President and CEO Luz Vega-Marquis believed it was time “to take measure of who we are, what we do, and how and why we do it; to take a step back from the day-to-day work to review the goals and principles that have guided our work since our inception.”The Importance of Being an Outlier
Our National Convening draws more than 400 people to the Washington, D.C. area to focus on “Our Power. Our Community. Our Change.” President and CEO Luz Vega-Marquis writes the essay “The Power of Families: From Poverty to Agency to Unity,” published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR). The National Family Platform is reaffirmed by community and family leaders. We unveil our new logo and tagline: “Change for families. By families.” Our redesigned website highlights our philanthropic support of families. We merge the Equal Voice News storytelling platform with the Foundation website. We produce the 2018 Movement Building Report that examines trends in grantee movement building over an eight-year period.Our Power. Our Community. Our Change
After nearly 20 years, President and CEO Luz Vega-Marquis announces her retirement, effective in 2020, highlighting a 40-year career in philanthropy. Foundation Board Member Carmen Rojas, Ph.D., is named as successor.
We commission a case study to understand how general operating support helps grantees and the communities they serve. Our youth Board Fellowship Award is named the Pat Schroeder Board Fellowship Award, honoring the former congresswoman and founding board member.
We welcome our third cohort of Philanthropy Northwest Momentum Fellows, a program Vega-Marquis helped start with other chief executives to increase diversity in philanthropy. The Foundation receives notable recognition for its innovation and leadership, including the ABFE Institutional Award for Philanthropic Leadership, Erase the Hate Change Maker Award and Working Partnerships USA Champions for Change Award. The National Partnership for New Americans also honors the Foundation.
Select a year to download that year’s Annual Report (PDF).
The Equal Voice movement has demonstrated – and continues to demonstrate every day – that movement building is a viable grantmaking strategy to build and support community self-determination. Today, Equal Voice continues to be the framework for the foundation’s grantmaking, communication and advocacy work.
We continue to live by the same, simple promise that we began with: Ask, Listen, Act.