A Chat With the Beloved Jenisa Washington: Founder of The Impact Circle Foundation
The Impact Circle Foundation is everything you could ever want, when you are thinking of investing in a non-profit organization. It is a diverse board of women championing their communities and truly having an impact on generations to come. I had a chance to sit down with the Founder of The Impact Circle Foundation, Jenisa Washington, and soon learned why they are so extraordinary. Jenisa Washington is the embodiment of everything her organization stands for. She is all things love, humanity and planet; and here is what she had to say...
Q. Why did you start The Impact Circle Foundation?
A. I started The Impact Circle in 2018. It was the result of my best friend passing in February 2017, and me making a commitment to her to do something socially. My husband and I have always been global activitists, because we consider ourselves citizens of the world. However in 2017, I was very specific about how I wanted to give and use my voice, since my kids are a little older. We were invited to Berlin by the BMW Foundation for a workshop for social activists, in 2017. It was a group of social activists from all over the world and on many different levels of activism. It was a meeting of the minds to speak about the overall needs of the planet, in terms of infrastructure, education, food shortages and etc. A total "Global Agenda." Within a matter of time, I felt exactly what I brought to the table and it was incredible. Fast forward to early 2018, and the rising of gun violence across America. I remember hearing the president say, "teachers should start carrying guns at school," and I knew then, it was time for me to abandon this lofty idea of global acitvism with the BMW Foundation and focus on home and getting done what needed to be done locally. Especially, I had been afforded to be involved in the "hands on" upbringing of my children, and had also done outreach in the community. It really was a download from God; the way to execute it, who to involve, communities on the ground that are very close to where we live. It was also an understanding that leadership comes from community, and if we are developing the leaders within that community, how could we expect anyone from the outside to come and help us? They know nothing about the community. The communities, specifically "underserved" communities, are where they are in 2020 as a result of people thinking there is someone outside of the community that will help. The Impact Circle Foundation is a team of affluent women who are leaders, philanthropists and true doers and givers whom could never follow their giving from beginning to end. The Impact Circle gives them the complete "hands-on" experience.
Q. How do you feel about where you are now and where you are going? What are some of your next "years to come" goals?
A. The company is two-years old, and where we are is amazing. We have a very strong, solid, and diverse board; even during a pandemic. We are really utilizing our skillsets, professions and relationships to continue to meet the goals we have set for ourselves. I'm excited and I feel really good about the impact we have had so far. What I see for the future is us being a "go to" for environmentally-and-socially conscious corporations who are looking for ways to give back and support small communities. The non-profits that we have granted to, a large company like Disney, GM or etc, would not have found. "The Compton's Kids Club," "Birthing People Foundation," "Women's Voices Now;" they are grassroots, organized out of a community need, led by women, and all have an annual budget of $250,000 or less. They are truly taking grains of sand and making waves in the communities. That's what I hope to continue to do; amass a really large group of those types of organizations. I also want to have really strong vetted corporations, to make sure they are doing things that support our goals and values as it pertains to people and the planet. Responsibility and Accountability.
Q. What was your vision for your company?
A. Non-profit. I wanted a non-profit of affluent women who were diverse, and who were leaders. Giving is love; so I understood that in order mainting the grant giving goals I had in mind, I had to create something of value that would be easy to contribute to. We have members who commit to $12,000 annually of giving, and this is because they see and believe in The Impact Circle Foundation. I also wanted my team to understand the world of philanthropy and everything it took to build, so I wouldn't have to explain why and how we should contribute and do certain things. I wanted them to have an understanding of "natural law" and giving. We are very intentional in our giving. I also wanted to work with our "lower income," local communities. I live in Venice, CA; so I started here with the "homeless crisis."
We also work in Compton, and South Los Angeles. We work with domestic violence and foster care organizations focused on eradicating racism, and the list goes on. I really wanted to focus on building community and allow people to share their cultural experiences in a different way with different outlets of art programs, culinary and things like that.
Q. Do you feel like you have contributed to the women's empowerment movement; and if so, how?
A. I am standing on the shoulders of my grandmother, who was my first experience of entrepreneurship. She had her own, home, hair salon in Houston, Texas. My grandmother was an educator in taxes for H&R Block. She also helped senior citizens in the 5th ward of Houston, Texas. My grandmother did all of these things with grace, elegance, style and sophistication. My mother moved us from Texas to Agoura Hills, California where we lived on an Ashram. I met my spiritual guru Alice Coltrane there, who was the wife of John Coltrane. My daughter is an inpiration as well. I feel like The Impact Circle is a natural, forward movement attributed to the powerful women I've witnessed walk and live on Earth. I feel empowered by them to live in my purpose for my daughter and the generations to come.
Q. How many people do you have on your team?
A. I currently have a team of 10, that includes five advisory board members. We operate differently than a traditional non-profit. Our board acts as the facilitors of the mission and our members make substantial donations into our grant-giving budgets. We are very diverse; Italian, African-American, Japanese-American, Jewish, French-Canadian, South African, White American. It's really about women who are aligned in vision and mission.
Q. How does The Impact Circle Grow in numbers, board/member wise?
A. We are passionate women of collective efforts and expertise. It is invite only. We hold value in our ourselves, our expertise and connections. Usually, you are vetted by one of the members who recognize in you the synergy of you and our members. The work is personal and intentional, so we all want to be on one accord. Most of us are mid-late 40s and 50s. I have also reached out to previous grantees, during the pandemic.
Q. What advice do you have for people wanting to start a business like yours?
A. Everthing that is exciting or inspiring comes from an authentic place. Everything that yields a result, comes from the heart. We have to break the mold and mindset of "The American Dream." We all dream, and our visions are different. Dreams come from a very individual, and purpose-filled place. The first thing is to understand who you are. For me, from growing up on an Ashram and having strong Southern Baptist, Christian roots; I live by certain morals and values. It was a clear path to what my purpose was, because certain things just fell off of the table. I fully understood how to show up. My path was full of self discovery and freedom, even in finding my husband. Start with self discovery and understanding who you are. Also, being that person, seeing that person, and loving that person. Everyone has a purpose that is uniquely designed to and for them. The entire planet and universe needs what we have to give and how you give it. If that's how you start out, there is no failure. You are either winning or learning. God is everything and everywhere and we too are God.
Q. How does it feel knowing the impact you have had on your community?
A. It's a feeling of a full heart. It's a feeling that brings tears to my eyes; a feeling of thankfullness, a feeling of my mother and grandmother, a feeling of my guru, a feeling of appreciation and gratitude. It's about love. We have about 300 people on instagram, who are interested in what we have to do and say. For me, It's about putting a spotlight on people who wake up everyday on a mission motivated by the community; not money, ego or pride... the community. It's priceless.
Q. Personally, how would you want people to revere you and your impact?
A. That we forged a path that introduced them to people who care about people. People committed to the human community, and building community. We all have a job to see each other, love each other, and take care of the planet and each other. This is what I love about the variety of non-profit organizations; they see the need, and they rise to the cause. I want people to say " wow, these ladies were doing it, and they hipped us to people who were doing it too."
Q. What's the most important thing to you right now?
A. Trusting and believing that we are exactly where we need to be. I do feel as though we are; but sometimes, as a human being, you have doubts. Of course, my family. I understand the importance of being seen and supported, and what that says. I know I can better relay my mission when I'm sured up on my faith, trust and belief.
Q. How do you juggle family and The Impact Circle?
A. Sometimes, not so well (she laughs). I am very lucky; my husband has afforded me the lifestyle to be here for my family, and also be a social activist. My children are at an age where they are very self-sufficient and they understand what needs to be done. I put in the work when they were smaller, so I now can be absent at times. Making a meal at home, sitting down at the dinner table and yoga are a part of my meditation. I've figured out what gives me balance and my children, and husband are patient with me.
Q. Anything else you would like to leave or want people to know about The Impact Circle Foundation?
A. Our instagram is @theimpactcirclefoundation, and our website is www.theimpactcirclefoundation.org. On our website, all of the non-profit organizations we have worked with, and granted to are listed. You can click on the links, see their stories, and everything they are about. You can find opportunities to volunteer or donate on their links as well.
Q. How can people help?
A. 70% of membership donations and donations from the public, go out in grant giving. We don't have a brick and mortor, so we don't have building costs. We are truly focused on helping society be a better society. We are also focused on healing people. If you would like to contribute or donate, feel free to check out our website www.theimpactcirclefoundation.org.