About Us

Our Approach

Our grant-making philosophy is supported by five grant-making pillars we’ve honed over the past 10 years. Together, they open a new approach to philanthropy that works more effectively for nonprofits and donors alike.

Listen
First

Nonprofit leaders are experts in their fields and have a unique understanding of the communities they serve. Give them the tools they're asking for and their organizations will flourish.

Focus
on Capacity

An effective nonprofit is more than its programs. Help them grow stronger from the inside to accomplish their mission with an internal structure that will make an impact well into the future.

Long-Term
Grants Only

Innovation takes time. Remain committed to funding a nonprofit’s grants for five-years so that a process can be built and perfected with enough time to tackle new challenges.

Commit to a
Community

Focus on one community at a time by listening to their cross-generational challenges. Then approach solutions from different angles to create a web of thriving services.

Collaborative
Cohorts

Nonprofits have wisdom to share. Find nonprofits with mutually supporting missions and have them meet regularly to present grant proposals to one another for tangible feedback.

The Magic Cabinet Cohort

Several times a year, Magic Cabinet selects a Cohort made of three nonprofits with mutually supporting missions. Nonprofit members receive funds and help determine which grants are approved.

Nonprofit Peers

The Magic Cabinet Cohort is made of 5 voting members: a leader from each of the 3 benefiting nonprofits, a Magic Cabinet program officer and an independent advisor from the community.

Present & Approves Grants

The benefiting nonprofit Cohort members present their grant proposals to the Cohort, and their peers approve or offer feedback on how to make the grant stronger.

Together for 5 Years

Cohorts meet quarterly for grant proposal presentations, to vote on new grants, share progress updates, and to seek advice on new challenges.

Access to a Pool of Funds

Magic Cabinet distributes $2.5m to the benefiting nonprofits through Cohort approved grants— approximately $500k available each year with unused funding rolling over to the next year.

Our Team

We have a collaborative leadership group with deep experience in philanthropy, community building and creative thinking.

Alina Amkhavong

Community Engagement Manager | Seattle

Prior to Magic Cabinet, Alina worked in nonprofit youth engagement spaces. She dedicated her time to building capacity for underserved communities and amplified the voices of vulnerable youth through creative storytelling and sports. She’s deeply passionate about redirecting power to local communities. As the daughter of Lao refugees, she has always wanted to build a life around serving others in need.

In her downtime, Alina enjoys working on DIY home projects, exploring the outdoors, and trying new cafes. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in NGOs and Social Change.
Andrea Arenas

Engagement Officer | Seattle

Andrea joins Magic Cabinet with a deep appreciation for community-led organizations and over a decade of professional nonprofit experience. Born and raised in south Florida, her passion for natural history led her to Seattle in 2009 to pursue an MA in Museology. Prior to Magic Cabinet, Andrea worked for several Seattle area nonprofits focused on arts and culture, history, and parks and public spaces.

Andrea is a co-founder of Community-Centric Fundraising, a global movement that aims to evolve how fundraising is done in the nonprofit sector in effort to create more equitable practices, reduce harm, and further social justice.
Ken Birdwell

Founder & Board Chairman

Ken has worked in telecommunications, computer simulation, and CAD prosthetics, before combining his passion for both technology and art to help start Valve, a popular video game company in 1996. Retiring after 20 years, Ken is an avid traveler and has been active in the nonprofit world since 1992 as a volunteer, board member, and donor. Through the founding of his experimental 509(a)(3) foundation in 2011 and Magic Cabinet in 2018, Ken is dedicated to finding new ways of transforming lives and accelerating the evolution of philanthropy.

Christina Engel

Executive Director

Christina has dedicated her career to developing platforms for emergent leadership, community, and creativity. As Executive Director of Magic Cabinet, she is tasked with building and overseeing a grant-making system that centers on equity, transparency, and long-term sustainability. Christina is passionate about building scalable systems that honor local leadership and self-empowerment, whether working with young performing artists or with technology leaders.

On the weekends, you might find her working in the garden, venturing to the woods in and around the Seattle area, or attempting to recreate Arizmendi’s vegan focaccia in her kitchen. (It’s never as good.) She holds degrees in Art History and Anthropology.

Tiffany Johnson

Program Director | Bay Area

Tiffany serves as the Bay Area Program Director. Prior to joining Magic Cabinet, Tiffany’s career included diverse advocacy experience by working in multiple child welfare and nonprofit settings, and she has served on boards that focus on improving the lives of transition-age foster youth. Her life’s passions have been advocating to ensure justice, compassion, and opportunity for vulnerable youth.

Tiffany is a former member of the Youth Transitions Funders Group (YTGF) a national network of funders that work together to support the well-being and economic success of vulnerable young people age 14 to 25. She is the recipient of the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award for demonstrating the power of youth voice and improving the quality of life for California’s Foster Youth.

In her free time you may find her at a Carnival celebration dancing the night away. Tiffany is also a trained Doula and serves as a community mediator. Tiffany holds a Masters of Public Administration with a focus on organizational change.

Mary Rennekamp

Advancement Director | Seattle

Mary believes in the power of community and has worked as a nonprofit professional to reimagine how philanthropy can partner with community-led organizations to create deep and lasting impact. For almost 20 years, Mary has built an extensive and successful background in developing diverse and sustainable plans to scale and expand programs and change narratives. She is excited to work with magic Cabinet to expand this powerful model of community driven investment.

Mary lives in Seattle, Washington with her dog, Zelda Fetchgerald, and volunteers her time by serving on the Board of Directors of Friends of the Children – Tacoma, and as an advisor for The Adopted Life. In her free time, Mary loves to travel the world and immerse herself in other cultures and experiences.

Jackie Schultz

Operations Director | Seattle

Jackie moved to eastern Washington as a child from South Korea. As a mixed-race youth emigrating to a community that did not provide many social services for families like hers, she knew she wanted to focus her education and eventual career to give back in support of immigrants, youth, and families in need.

Jackie’s role as Operations Director for Magic Cabinet is complemented by nearly two decades working in nonprofit development and communications. 

In her free time, you’ll find Jackie ‘forest bathing’ in the beautiful Pacific NW woods, swimming in LK WA, volunteering as a member with the Asian Pacific Directors Coalition (APDC), and also as a member of the Seattle Human Rights Commission. Jackie holds BAs in International Studies and Political Science, and is completing a Masters degree in Public Administration.

Nicole Sirivansanti

Program Officer | Seattle

Nicole’s words of purpose are “healing” and nurture. These words have guided her work and life, taking her to places and people far and wide before landing her here in Seattle with Magic Cabinet. Steps along the way include guiding innovation and implementation research at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to address global maternal and newborn health, working at a design studio in San Francisco where she merged her interests in business, good causes and human-centered design, and starting a young entrepreneurs’ incubator program in Cambodia.

You can often find her paddleboarding on Lake Washington, meditating in a quiet corner, or embarking on her next adventure (in a book, on a plane, or other modes).

Past education includes a BS in Business Administration and an MPH from the University of California, Berkeley.

 

Gloria Upchurch

Engagement Officer | Bay Area

As the Bay Area Engagement Officer, Gloria specializes in building long-term nonprofit partnerships. Before joining the Magic Cabinet team, Gloria developed and managed chronic kidney disease prevention programs around the globe. Through a proactive approach, her work improved awareness of the disease and increased high-risk communities’ access to intervention strategies. Gloria continues her global health work through her nonprofit and its work bringing clean delivery kits to rural African clinics.

Gloria is passionate about art that is deeply rooted in the chronicling of culture and everyday life. She holds a bachelor’s degree and studied Documentary & Fine Art Photography.

Our Board

For any additional information on our board members, please contact us.

Ken Birdwell

Founder & Board Chairman

Ken Davis

Board Secretary

Keith Vernon

Board Treasurer & Assistant Secretary

Rebecca Spadoni

Board Member

Christina Engel

Ex Officio