Our Story

The Satterberg Foundation strengthens our communities by promoting a just society and a sustainable environment. Doing this work deepens the interconnection of our family.

We are a Family Foundation imagined by our mother, Virginia (Ginny) Satterberg Pigott Helsell. Ginny and Bill Helsell spent the decades of the 60s, 70s, and 80s bringing together the children of their blended family, and were committed to ensuring that connection far into the future. The Satterberg Foundation is the result of their caring. All of the details of how it would grow and mature were left in the care of their children, the Founding Board of the Foundation.

The Board came together, in 1990, around the proverbial kitchen table to hammer out our initial mission, ‘to improve the quality of life in the Pacific Northwest community through focused, considered grantmaking’. Over the years we have held our meetings in a wide range of settings, law offices, bank offices, our offices, various hotel rooms and other non-profits’ board rooms. More recently we’ve come together virtually, although looking each other in the eye and the heart is still our preference. We’ve struggled with issues large and small, and resolved them thoughtfully, joyfully, sometimes painfully, knowing our most important work is to steward the funds in our care for the good of our communities, which we can scarcely begin to imagine in their breadth and reach. And our mission has evolved into what matters most to us in the 21st century.

Our first year of grantmaking, 1991, saw us authorize $13,916 in grants, in areas as broad as education about electric vehicles, trail building in the Olympic Peninsula, and funding for diapers at a daycare. In 2011 we were astounded to find we had authorized $388,000; in 2015 that number had grown to over $22 million.

But grantmaking is more than dollars out the door, it’s about integrity, community, joy, compassion, respect, responsibility, and lifelong learning, shared values and goals; working in these areas brings the sparkle to our eyes as we discuss and debate the organizations who look to us for funding. We’ve learned that no matter how much money we have, there will never be enough; that having to say ‘no’ to great organizations that do not strongly share our mission is one of the hardest conversations to navigate. And that saying ‘yes’ is a profound undertaking as we learn to trust our grantees to be the experts in the work they do.

We are thrilled to be supported by a strong staff of able professionals who can take the direction of the Board and develop programs and practices for the Satterberg Foundation which reflect our shared values. We are eager to experience the next 25 years of the Foundation, to learn who we grow into as we explore our next iteration.

Mary Pigott
July 2016


The Satterberg Foundation strengthens our communities by promoting a just society and a sustainable environment. Doing this work deepens the interconnection of our family.


The Satterberg Foundation envisions a world in balance with vibrant communities in which all people enjoy the opportunity to grow and thrive.

Elements of a Just Society

  • Access to housing, food, health care, education, and employment
  • Empowerment to have one’s voice heard
  • Advocacy and policy/systems change

Elements of a Sustainable Environment

  • Environmental resilience, conservation, preservation, and protection
  • Pollution reduction and avoidance
  • Education and stewardship
  • Advocacy and policy/systems change


In order to be transparent, trustworthy stewards of the Satterberg Foundation’s resources, we state and affirm the following values:

  • Integrity in action is alignment of principles and deeds.
  • Community in action is collaboration and mutual support.
  • Joy in action is including humor and a lighthearted spirit in one’s work.
  • Compassion in action is treating oneself and others with caring, acceptance, and fairness.
  • Respect in action is trusting each person and community to discover and use their own tools and inner wisdom.
  • Responsibility in action is doing one’s best at all times, thereby supporting the common good.
  • Lifelong Learning in action is investing in one’s personal growth by choosing to learn every day, creating opportunities of personal or professional development, and consistently renewing one’s mindset and attitude.
  • Moral Courage is the courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risk of adverse consequences. Courage is required to take action when one has doubts or fears about the consequences. Moral courage therefore involves deliberation or careful thought.

Commitment to Equity

Satterberg is committed to equitable, Trust-Based Philanthropy. When we center and trust communities most impacted by environmental destruction and systems of racism, gender-based violence, occupation, and poverty, we create a sustainable environment where humanity and the natural world are in balance.