Tricia Raikes (’78 Comm.) is co-founder of the Seattle-based Raikes Foundation, which she and her husband, Jeff, founded in 2002.
For her work addressing youth homelessness, Raikes was recognized as a Champion of Change by the Obama administration. She is a past trustee for the Washington State University Foundation and a Hall of Achievement inductee for the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.
Raikes recently shared her approach to philanthropy with Washington State Magazine, and discussed the importance of investing in young people and why the next generation fills her with optimism.
What was your inspiration for co-founding the Raikes Foundation?
My commitment to this work is rooted in the values I was raised with in my close-knit, working-class family in Seattle. We cherished service and always strived to show up in life with integrity, empathy, community, and humility. While my parents didn’t have much money, they modeled the importance of giving what they could to our neighbors and community. For my mother, that meant her time. She was the first to volunteer for whatever needed to be done, treating everybody, regardless of their circumstances, with dignity and respect.
My own approach to philanthropy is influenced by my mother. My work is guided by listening to young people and learning about their experiences. And I believe that it is critical to partner with people and organizations who can bring their lived experiences and wisdom to bear on systems-level changes.
In developing the focus of our foundation, Jeff and I drew not only on our values but also on our experience as parents of adolescents dealing with challenges like bullying. As a mother, I was troubled by a looming question: If our children, who had every resource and advantage in the world, were struggling, what about the millions of other less privileged kids?
Jeff and I remained curious. We read, talked to experts in the field, and delved into the science of the adolescent brain. I spent a lot of time in the field, learning from scientists and researchers, as well as teachers, social workers, and particularly young people themselves—getting a glimpse of the world through their eyes. It was the best possible education I could receive.
Why the focus on education and housing stability for youth?
My optimism is rooted in my faith in young people. Over the past 20 years, I’ve had the chance to see the passion and energy of our next generation in action. They are eager and ready to make a better world. And they will if we create the conditions for their success.
When a child, any child, ends up homeless or drops out of school, something in our society has gone terribly wrong. Children don’t fail us. We—and the systems that are supposed to keep them safe—fail them.
Education and stable housing are systems that touch and impact every young person in America. That’s why we believe that it is essential to support these systems and partners in the field to meet the needs of each and every young person, so they can reach their full potential.
The foundation recently added a new portfolio called Resourcing Equity and Democracy. What are the foundation’s goals in this area?
At the Raikes Foundation, we believe that a strong, representative democracy is essential to ensuring every community has the tools and resources to succeed. And we believe that robust organizing is the most central component to a thriving, multiracial democracy.
Through the new Resourcing Equity and Democracy (RED) portfolio, we will support infrastructure solutions guided by community leaders thinking about leadership, organizational structures, and philanthropic collaboration to bring about a revival of community organizing. We will begin by co-developing an analysis of current organizing structures and will take counsel from youth organizers, veteran base-builders, and peer funders to guide our approach.
RED will elevate, support, and fund organizations focused on building a more fair, representative, and effective democracy and civil society so everyone can thrive.