Aligning our approach with movement needs

In our more than 70-year history, the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation has consistently adhered to values and priorities that address the country’s most challenging social problems. We’ve changed as the world has changed, but we’ve never wavered in our commitment to equity and justice. Even as we continue to live through a national reckoning with injustice and white supremacy coupled with a global pandemic and threat to democracy, we have a responsibility to act and repair hundreds of years of harm and discrimination to Black and Indigenous people and people of color. As funders, we must reverse and address the overwhelming underinvestment in these communities from the philanthropic sector.

While we will continue to evolve our approach to meet the needs of movements, I’m excited to share several strategic shifts that we’ve started to make based on feedback from the field to better support our grantees.

  • Fund intersectional organizing
    While we have always funded grassroots organizations led by the people most impacted by injustices — particularly Black, Indigenous, and people of color — as they have the lived experience of being disenfranchised by unjust systems and have the clearest view of solutions, we had for many years done so in a siloed way. As of 2019, we began to fund intersectional organizing — organizing on multiple fronts, not single-issue programmatic silos — to advance racial justice and gender justice. We also expanded our focus to include a grantmaking budget specifically for Indigenous-led groups.
  • Shift to place-based grantmaking
    We are also beginning to concentrate the impact of our grants by working in partnership with communities in a limited number of geographic locations, particularly New York and Mississippi. Since our founding, we have been supporting partners in New York City where the foundation is based, and now we have expanded beyond New York City to support the robust ecosystem of statewide grassroots organizing efforts. Philanthropy has historically overlooked and under-resourced the US South, and we are beginning to more deliberately funnel resources to this region. We are also working with a select group of national partners who support the work of place-based partners through building the capacity of local leaders, fostering cross-state collaborations, and bridging the organizing work at the state and local levels into regional and national movement infrastructure.
  • Provide larger, multi-year grants
    Historically, we have supported our partners year after year, but we are being more intentional in providing multi-year support while also exploring ways to increase our grant amounts. At the end of 2020, our Board approved an increased payout to double our grantmaking budget to $4 million to better support partners to fulfill their missions over the long term.
  • Couple grants with investment capital
    For the first time, we leveraged our broader endowment to provide a grantee partner, Higher Purpose, with a $100,000 loan guarantee to unlock capital from Hope Credit Union to support Black women entrepreneurs in Mississippi. Through these efforts, we provided an integrated stream of resources to priority places not just through grantmaking, but also with investment capital. We believe that we need to leverage all of our resources to support the work of our grantee partners.
  • Support the broader movement ecosystem, grantee-driven capacity support, and healing justice. 
    In response to the ongoing needs of partners, we will launch a $500,000 flexible grantmaking mechanism in Spring 2021 to support emerging and unforeseen opportunities for new and existing partners, including grantee-driven capacity support and healing justice as a way to aid partners in confronting trauma and centering well-being. This new part of our work was informed by our COVID-19 emergency relief rapid response grants to nearly three-quarters of our existing grantee partners in 2020. We have also earmarked a portion of our core grantmaking to specifically support Black and Indigenous-led networks and coalitions to strengthen the ecosystem of movements advancing racial justice and Indigenous sovereignty.

While we have made some important changes, we will continue to grow and learn in community with you all. Thank you for being a part of our journey to become a stronger and more effective organization — a journey that builds on the strength of our past and is full of opportunity for the future. As Amanda Gorman said in her inaugural poem, “For while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us. This is the era of just redemption.”

In solidarity,

Rini Banerjee

Moving forward together to advance equity and justice

Despite the pandemic and deliberate barriers to prevent Black and brown people and new Americans from casting their ballots, voters have done our job and turned out in record numbers fighting for an America that works for all of us. We have witnessed the power of people to uphold the basis of democracy as voters have decided the future leaders of our country.

We are grateful to our grantee partners and other grassroots organizations led by Black, Indigenous, and people of color whose brilliant organizing strategies across issues, race, and place ensured the interests and needs of our communities were heard.

They have been leading long-standing work to advance equity and justice while ensuring the safety and long-term resilience of frontline communities for years — and 2020 has magnified the importance of their work and what’s at stake. They organized to provide mutual aid in their communities during a pandemic. They organized to push back against racial injustice across the country. They organized to get out the vote. They are extraordinary.

It is our privilege as a gender justice and racial justice funder to continue to support the leadership of these organizations in these moments and into the future. To this end, we join our partners in the call to affirm that the will of the people prevails and swear in the leaders that voters chose to move us forward together to make the world we want.

In solidarity,

Rini Banerjee

Meet our new staff + Board members

We are delighted to announce that Vonda Brunsting, Marc Diaz, Terrelene Massey, Leilani Wilson Walkush, and Caitlyn Beardsley have joined our team as Board members, contributing to a long-standing governance formation that is comprised of family and non-family members. We look forward to leveraging their deep knowledge in mission-aligned investment strategies and grassroots organizing in the United States to advance our mission to bring about a more just, equitable, and sustainable world.

It’s also a pleasure to introduce you to our new program officer, Olivia Trabysh. Olivia will serve as a key connection point with our peer funders and our place-based grantee partners to ensure our participatory and collaborative grantmaking processes are accountable to the movements we support. She will also provide program direction and capacity support to bolster our intersectional approach to grantmaking to advance racial and gender justice.

Find out more about them below — and join us in welcoming them to the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation.

Caitlyn Beardsley
Caitlyn Beardsley is a Senior Team Lead at Aya Healthcare, based in San Diego, CA. She volunteers with several different organizations including the Rady Children’s Hospital and recently participated in the local San Diego Alzheimer’s Walk. Previously, she was a Taproom Manager and Event Coordinator at Eight Bridges Brewing, Inc. Caitlyn holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from California Polytechnic State University.

Vonda Brunsting
Vonda Brunsting works with the Initiative for Responsible Investment at the Center for Public Leadership of the Harvard Kennedy School. In partnership with the Grantham Institute at LSE, she manages a project on Investing in the Just Transition, which aims to connect institutional investor action on climate with pathways for positive social impact.

Previously, she was director of the Capital Stewardship Program at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which was created to engage the capital markets and financial institutions in innovative ways.  Vonda served as a trustee on the SEIU Master Trust Pension Plan and on the board of the Council of Institutional Investors. Prior to joining SEIU‚ Vonda Brunsting co-founded two community organizations devoted to leadership development and community change and worked on community finance initiatives at the University of New Hampshire and the Harvard Business School. She currently serves on the board of the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), the Good Work Institute, and on the Investment Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Common Endowment Fund.

She received her Bachelor of Arts from Calvin College and holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago.

Marc Diaz
Marc Diaz is Senior Vice President of TerViva where he leads sustainability and commercialization. Marc draws on his impact investing experience to scale the company’s work introducing pongamia as a new food ingredient and a tree crop in new geographies. Prior to this, Marc founded and led NatureVest®, The Nature Conservancy’s impact investing division, building a $2 billion portfolio that delivered conservation results and financial returns for investors. Earlier, Marc launched and managed the UNICEF Bridge Fund and worked on finance, strategy, and risk management at McKinsey and Company and Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

Marc earned a Master of Business Administration with distinction from Harvard Business School, a Master of Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School, and a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard College where he majored in government.

Terrelene Massey 
Terrelene Massey is the Executive Director of the Southwest Women’s Law Center and the former Executive Director of the Navajo Division of Social Services. Prior to her appointment with the Navajo Nation, Terrelene was employed as an attorney at Johnson Barnhouse & Keegan, LLP, in Albuquerque. She also served as a staff attorney at New Mexico Legal Aid, Inc., where she provided legal services to low income clients regarding federal Indian law, family law, and tribal law matters. Terrelene has also served as the Tribal Liaison for the New Mexico Human Services Department and as the Associate Director of Honoring Nations at the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development at Harvard University. Terrelene holds a Juris Doctorate from the University of New Mexico School of Law, and a Master of Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Austin, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. She is licensed to practice law in New Mexico and the Navajo Nation. Terrelene is originally from Pinon, Arizona and is a tribal member of the Navajo Nation.

Leilani Wilson Walkush
Leilani Wilson Walkush is a senior consultant with Breakwater Investment Group in Everett Washington where she provides independent investment consulting to Native American communities. She is a fiduciary advisor working with Tribal retirement and trust accounts and has a focus on financial literacy. She is currently an elected member of the Board of Directors of Goldbelt, Incorporated, an Alaska Native Corporation. In 2015, she was appointed Vice Chair of the Special Trustees’ Advisory Board of the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, then in 2016 she became Chair until the end of the Obama administration.

She holds a Bachelor of Science in financial counseling and planning from Purdue University, and a Bachelor of Administration in business management from the University of Alaska, Southeast. Leilani is an enrolled member of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Tribes of Alaska and is a member of Champagne and Aishihik First Nations (Canada).

Olivia Trabysh
Olivia has worked as a program design and strategic communications consultant for progressive national funders and previously led development and communications at the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights and coordinated Special Projects at the Amarillo Area Foundation. Most recently a fellow of The Coaching Fellowship, an international program that nurtures and brings together the world’s high potential young women leaders of impact, Olivia graduated from West Texas A&M University where she studied English with an emphasis in post-colonial studies, political science, and art history. She served West Texas communities for several years as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children and LGBTQ youth in the foster care system and sexual assault emergency responder before advocating for place-based grantmaking nationally. She also studied genocidal rhetoric, conflict resolution, and reconciliation with the School for International Training.

Covid-19 Update

These are uncertain times around the world. We are all trying to make sense of how to live during a pandemic while supporting our communities. What is certain for us is that we are committed to the leadership of grassroots organizations in this moment and into the future. They have been leading long-standing work to advance equity and justice while ensuring the safety and long-term resilience of frontline communities for years. They have the clearest view of solutions.

With Covid-19 surely adding to our grantee partners’ already-increasing workload, we are extending support to navigate and address emerging needs. We will continue to provide general operating support, multi-year grants, and simplified reporting. We encourage our partners to reach out to us with needs and concerns, and we will do our best to provide support and make accommodations. While our staff has shifted to working remotely, our grantmaking and operations will continue uninterrupted. We will check back in as the environment settles.


In hope and solidarity,


Join our Board of Directors

We are currently seeking three new members of our Board of Directors to support and strengthen the Foundation’s programs, mission-aligned investment strategies, and governance in collaboration with our grantee partners, staff, and existing family and non-family Board members committed to advancing our mission to bring about a more just, equitable, and sustainable world. 

About you:

We are looking for candidates that either have deep knowledge in mission-aligned investing and impact investing or extensive experience in grassroots organizing and social movements in the United States. Our prospective Board members would also ideally have networks and/or expertise in one of the three areas: Indigenous-led work in the United States, grassroots organizing in Mississippi or New York state, and/or community wealth-building. We especially encourage nominations of people of color and people of all gender identities. Prior experience serving on nonprofit boards or experience in organizational development is preferable.


Our Board of Directors has a legal responsibility to provide oversight and accountability for the organization, which includes reviewing, adopting, and monitoring organizational policies, approving grants recommended by the staff, overseeing the organizational budget, and hiring and supervising the Foundation’s President. In recent years, the Noyes Board has been exploring new ways to best meet the governance and oversight responsibilities of a small private foundation. 

Prospective members should have the time and flexibility to engage in meetings and respond to email and other communications in a timely way. Noyes Board members participate in three Board meetings a year that consist of at least one in-person meeting (usually in New York City) and conference calls. Board members are also asked to be on one board committee each year over the course of their term starting in January 2020.

How to apply:

Please send applications to by Friday, September 27, 2019.

Your application should include a resume and a cover letter (no longer than two pages) that answers three questions:

  • Why are you interested in serving as a member of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation Board of Directors?
  • Briefly outline what your unique contributions would be as a member of the Board. 
  • Briefly describe your relationship to social justice movements or impact investing and how does it relate to your work?