One thing that nature does best is show us where we are in the cycle of seasons. These days, the sun sets later in the evening and the warmth invites us to linger a little longer and notice the spectacular reveal that is summer. Blossoms lined walkways, bountiful edible gardens, pollinators gone wild:), swallows, fruit, rushing rivers, and the first salmon. An overt delightful surprise brought about by nature’s constant and quiet labor of abundance.
We at Threshold Philanthropy are students of nature and want to be as transparent, receptive, and generous. We are modeling as we learn, and in this moment, we want to share where we are in our revolution. It will come as a surprise to many that after two years — we have decided to go dormant like fields that need to replenish their nutrients in order to yield good crops. We are deeply honored for how our partners and ecosystems have held us in our announcements in the last few weeks. Here is the video for folks who want to see the team talk about it! We will also be sharing similar information on our newly updated website.
We are going to take an intentional six months of paid rest, reflection, processing, and —a first time for all of us —be holding down our lives full-time instead of part-time starting the beginning of July! We are calling it an integration sabbatical. We will take this time to soak in our two years of learning from the wisdom of our partners, ecosystems, and our personal and collective healing work. After the six months, we will come back together and choose if we want to co-create something new. Each of us will have the option to opt in or out. Whichever configuration we come back in, we will then build the next iteration of our work, focusing on making our contributions more accountable, joyful, healing, and sustainable.
What led to this decision?
Our foundation was built by Morgan, Lindsay, and Beth, wanting to create a space where they could begin the work of collective healing. Tending to the harms and traumas of their lineages and forging paths to freedom rooted in Indigenous sovereignty and Black liberation, they began Threshold Philanthropy while leaving other jobs, experiencing burnout, and during multiple pandemics. It is said that hindsight is 20/20, escaping and rushing can be necessary steps towards something better…if rest, healing, and reflection are next.
This break is us going back and bringing what we missed forward, making sure to not barrel ahead, no matter how good the work is right now. As Morgan said, “At the pace and momentum we were going, all I see is an avalanche.” We started with two meetings, then our calendars grew crowded and stressful. Lindsay wanted to travel less and be with her family more, which grew harder to achieve when the Philanthropy sector wanted Lindsay and Morgan in every room because of what we were willing to stand for, fund, and who we are. In our close-knit world, we became the ones that were open to funding the wild and dreamy work that foundations perceived too risky. We became tasked with even more daunting decisions and courageous conversations around our vision, who we serve, and what strategic paths would ultimately lead to our healing and liberation because the need is always great.
We initially established ourselves as an LLC to have more flexibility in funding individuals, c4s and PACs, businesses, and bringing a reparations lens to our employee compensation. However, over time, we’ve learned that we can do much of this work through our founding funder’s c3 foundation. In watching ourselves fall back into the same script as the philanthropies that we came from, we knew that it was time to stop and change course. As Beth said, “I’m not here to create a company that kills Black and Indigenous women, there are too many out there already.” We do not need to martyr ourselves for our communities, our ancestors lost and sacrificed so much. Rest and healing are only a fraction of what they would want for us.
“Inside all change there is loss, even when moving into something greater.”
Our team is moving through a lot of feels right now! Excitement, loss, anxiety, tenderness, and care. This work has been deeply meaningful, so leaving feels like finishing a book that you never want to end! There is some relief — getting a break from receiving much more of the residue and discharge of our communities’ traumas. The unintended consequences of building authentic, vulnerable, and familial relationships led to people making asks of our team that they would never expect of traditional, white-led philanthropies. We were expected to be more available, flexible, say yes more, and anticipate needs that were unspoken. We were being held to standards that were impossible and, at times, dehumanizing.
We all have moments where we flare up and act out. For centuries, our communities have been experiencing immense loss, theft, and violence. There are generations of unprocessed grief and trauma, we are a bunch of bruised bodies bumping up against each other. Programmed and silenced to not show the impacts of those experiences in public, let alone with friends, and sometimes even in our own homes. When our team and our community show up in their trauma, we offer grace and believe that people show up the best way they know how in each moment. On our end, it means building what our colleague Liz coined as a “semi-permeable membrane” of loving permission and protection.
“The more I uncover what capitalism tries to hide, the closer I get to liberation.”
— Glennon Doyle
It feels vulnerable, uncomfortable, and imperative to write about this break. The anxiety from previous jobs to take any time off whether warranted or not, can bring up uneasiness. Morgan was talking to an Indigenous partner of ours who said, “I’ve never felt good enough to only work 40 hours.” We have unlimited PTO and our resident storyteller has used two days this year. When you’ve been told and conditioned to work twice as hard to be noticed and worth something in a country born of genocide, domination, and enslavement, it’s a mind fuck. There are infinite intended and unintended consequences and side effects. So, yes to moving towards collective healing and liberation where we can tend to our lives like they are just as important and maybe even more precious than our paid labor. Yes, to having the space to truly explore who we are beyond our labor, as Black and Native women.
People may view our decision as failure, a luxury, and everything in between, and the truth is this is about love, integrity, and utilizing the privilege of resources, and our power of choice. We have the honor to receive this gift and model that change is a necessary step towards living more into our values. If you learned more about what it takes to live in greater alignment with your dreams, wouldn’t you choose to change? There will always be pain, discomfort, agitation, and loss, but when you stand to gain freedom, what do you really have to lose? We want that for all of us. That’s why we’re going together, this sabbatical is organization-wide, not just centering our CEOs. We are the heart of our ecosystems, the aorta, valves, atriums, and arteries, without all of us, the heart fails to beat.
“Taking care of spirit — there lies the key to life…”
—Darrell Hillaire of The Lummi Nation, Executive Director and Founder of Children of the Setting Sun Productions
Life is made up of constant transitions, infinite endings and beginnings, often at the same time. Many Indigenous cultures around the world have ceremonies, rites of passage, and other rituals to support the next stages of growth and learning —practices that acknowledge the start and close of chapters and bring forward what is needed to pass through them with health, humor, tenacity, and love. So much in that way has been lost in the U.S., and each of us is left to what little, distorted, and diluted traditions we can claim without being told we are not enough. So here we are doing our best to say farewell, we love you, and Ashé.
We leave you in the spirit of the great blue heron. Practicing stillness and focusing with acute attention on what will satiate and fuel our spirits. Taking the time to ask ourselves, when the future that we want comes true, how do we want to show up in it? What changes and transformations will we need to make to be whole, holy, and free. As Darrell said, “It is a rich experience if you listen to the instructions.” We want to encourage the practice of intentional breaks for our healing and our wisdom to grow. Leaving well is a way to honor our time and relationships, while letting the energy of transformation, grief, and loss move through us so that more sweetness can enter our lives. Allowing for that wild and wonderful life force energy to be wielded with sacred responsibility, joy, creativity, and love.
Until we meet again, go in the light.
Images illustrated by Liz Rideau <3