The Phīla Philosophy

In the world of philanthropy, the gaze is invariably fixed on the donor, their needs and their legacy. While that view is central to the work of our firm, the correlating partner is often overlooked: the entity receiving the funds to do the work. It is only when both groups are working together in equal partnership that a healthy philanthropic sector is created. 

The premise of this consultancy is to steward authentic connections with the public sector to help donors be active participants in creating social impact to benefit those most in need. We are experts in creating philanthropic strategies and giving programs that connect money to values, especially using social justice and holistic philanthropic practices.

We empower our clients to be activists for the causes and issues they believe in by employing not just their treasure, but also their talent, time, and ties. We believe that pairing beliefs with action (volunteering, familial engagement, peer-learning, etc.) is the best way to create a philanthropic legacy.

To us, giving back is about linking passion with action. We are here to join you on your journey.

Contact us to receive our Prospectus for more information. →



About Stephanie

FOUNDER and Principal

Stephanie Ellis-Smith is a leader with 20 years of experience in the philanthropic sector. She has held every seat at the social sector’s table: non-profit CEO, social enterprise COO, trustee, mentor, and civic activist. Stephanie has held leadership roles that showcase her vision, dedication and expertise at a variety of organizations, foundations, government agencies and companies.

Stephanie is a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP®) and a Certified 21/64 Advisor in multi-generational family philanthropy. She is the founder and former Executive Director of the Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas (CD Forum), an organization that presents and produces lectures, readings, and performing arts events rooted in African-American culture.  Prior to the CD Forum, she worked with the Jacob Lawrence Catalogue Raisonné Project, a prestigious endeavor that located, catalogued, re-photographed, and published the entire 1,100 work oeuvre of the artist in a two-volume publication.

She has served on numerous boards and commissions including the Washington State Arts Commission, appointed by Governor Gary Locke; the Seattle Arts Commission, appointed by Mayor Greg Nickels; and the Central Waterfront Committee, appointed by Mayor Ed Murray. She is on the board of the International Association of Advisors in Philanthropy, YWCA King/Snohomish County, the outgoing Board Chair of Artist Trust, and an Advisor to the University of Washington Press and She has been a trustee for KUOW Public Radio, Leadership Tomorrow, and City Club. She lives in Seattle with her husband, a teenager, and a Doberman.

Recognition & Awards

  • The Creative Catalyst Award, Artist Trust

  • City of Seattle Proclamation “Stephanie Ellis-Smith Day” October 21, 2009

  • Community Hero Award, The Microsoft Corporation

  • Best Expander of Cultural Boundaries, Seattle Weekly

  • 40 Under 40 Award, Puget Sound Business Journal

  • Talented Tenth Award, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

  • The Evergreen Award for Non-Profit Leadership


Why Use a Philanthropic Advisor

Having a thoughtful giving plan is harder than it seems, especially if you are new to a community or to philanthropy. The risk is that you may end up doing very little charitable giving or making gifts that don’t have any real impact. Getting started with your philanthropy, or taking it to the next level, can seem daunting without the right support in place. Our aim is to make it easy and rewarding instead.

You likely have worked with lawyers, accountants, and financial advisors in the past, and those relationships are fairly well-understood. However, as global needs grow more dire and philanthropy gets ever more complex, philanthropic advisors are central to helping donors connect money to meaning. If you are able to make sizeable donations each year ($100,000 or more), consider adding Phīla Engaged Giving to your team. Doing so will help you reach the next level of charitable giving and expose you to a new world of meaningful opportunities.


“I can testify that it is nearly always easier to make $1 million honestly than to dispose of it wisely”. 

— Julius Rosenwald, philanthropist and former Sears and Roebuck and Co chairman