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 nonprofits’ 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