How and Where Does the Hazel Miller Foundation Give in Washington State?

photo:  Bill Perry/shutterstock

photo:  Bill Perry/shutterstock

Based in the town of Edmonds, Washington, the Hazel Miller Foundation recently made the local news with a historic gift for a city park. The private nonprofit foundation committed $1.5 million to redevelop Civic Park in downtown Edmonds, and apparently this has been a goal of the city since the 1980s. This local gift prompted us to take a closer look at the Hazel Miller Foundation and the ways that it supports nonprofits in a very specific part of Washington.

Top priorities for this funder are education and youth services, as well as poverty and hunger alleviation, civic and community services, the environment, and arts and culture. The geographic focus of this funder is small and limited to groups operating in Edmonds and South Snohomish County, Washington. Hazel Miller was an Edmonds-based philanthropist, and the current board felt that this Civic Park project was something she’d be proud to support. She was a long-time Edmonds resident who grew up in Williston, North Dakota without wealth. Her husband, Morris, inherited the Seattle Quilt Company from his father and did well in business.

Dick Ellis, who serves on the foundation’s board of directors said that before the foundation was established, “Hazel didn’t know what to do with her money — to a point of maybe throwing a dart at the telephone book to give it to people.” But after a local attorney helped set it up, “She really, really took to that,” Ellis said. “Living in Edmonds, she really enjoyed the community. That’s where she wanted most of the help to go, Edmonds and South Snohomish County.”

Hazel Miller passed away at the age of 93 in 2009, and the foundation was created in 2010.

In addition to the foundation’s $1.5 million park gift, Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling has requested $2 million in the city budget to push the redevelopment farther along. The total project is expected to cost $10-12 million, with hopes of breaking ground by 2019 or 2020.

Aside from support for local parks, the Hazel Miller Foundation has recently given money to the Westgate Elementary Parent Student Organization for a school sound system and St. Vincent de Paul for its Beds for Children program. Other recent grantees include the Edmonds School District’s Middle School Soccer program, Cascade Symphony Orchestra, the Edmond Driftwood Players, and the Olympic Ballet Theater. Youth and arts organizations tend to do very well with this funder in each grant cycle. A full list of grants awarded by year can be viewed here.

The application process to apply for a Hazel Miller grant is pretty straightforward and involves downloading a grant applicant from the funder’s website and sending it in by email (preferred) or mail. Fortunately for grantseekers, unsolicited applications are welcome and encouraged. Most of the grants here go towards program support, and capital funding exists, but it's limited. There are no deadlines to apply for a Hazel Miller grant. However, submissions are reviewed quarterly in January, April, July, and October.

A total of around $500,000 is awarded to local groups each year based on these quarterly review sessions. So, this just goes to show how big of a deal the funder’s Civic Park commitment is right now. Million-dollar-grants are very rare coming from this foundation, but they’re certainly not out of the realm of possibility if the right opportunity comes up.

Related: In Seattle and Beyond: Current Grantmaking Trends in Washington