The Phīla Philosophy

Our clients are individuals, families, estates, foundations and businesses that know they have been financially rewarded and are interested in sharing those rewards with their community. Merriam Webster dictionary defines a philanthropist as someone who makes an active effort to promote human welfare. Philanthropists are activists who have a love for humanity. They see a need and they engage to fill it. How? By what social justice activists call “in-person knowing” or “getting proximate to the people you aim to serve.”

For example, we believe that to understand fully how your support of a theater piece affects audiences or the artists, you must go to the theater, talk to the playwright and listen to what inspires the work. Addressing hunger requires an understanding and addressing of the root causes of the problem. We believe in the importance of working alongside communities to create systemic change. 

We are experts in creating customized philanthropic strategies and giving programs, especially around social justice and regenerative philanthropic practices.
Our goal is to help you understand the issues that move you, learn from the experts on the ground who are doing the work and make meaningful financial gifts to the organizations that are best equipped to be agents of real change.



About Stephanie

FOUNDER and Principal

Stephanie Ellis-Smith is a leader with 20 years of experience in the philanthropic sector and is a philanthropist herself. She has served as a non-profit CEO, mentor, a social enterprise entrepreneur, 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 helps her clients clarify their giving in light of their goals and empowers them to feel the joy of using their wealth, talents, and experience to improve the lives of those around them.

Her goal is to help givers achieve greater impact with their giving, more joy from it, and, if desired, engage family in that giving. While not a financial advisor, Stephanie is able to work with other professional advisors to situate philanthropy in one’s overall financial or estate plan.

Stephanie believes in making philanthropy more engaging and effective and understands that true philanthropy is much more than just writing a check. She helps people get the most from their giving by finding ways to contribute that are personal, focused and joyful.

Recognition & Awards

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

  • Best Expander of Cultural Boundaries, Seattle Weekly

  • Puget Sound Business Journal 40 Under 40 Award

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

  • Microsoft Community Hero Award

  • The Evergreen Award for Non-Profit Leadership


Why Use a Philanthropic Advisor

Having a thoughtful giving plan is harder than it seems, especially if the donor is new to a community or to philanthropy. The risk is that one may end up doing very little charitable giving or making gifts that don’t do any real good, thereby missing out on the joy that can come with giving. Getting started with your philanthropy, or taking it to a new or different level, can seem daunting without the right support in place. Our aim is to make it easy and rewarding instead.

As a philanthropic advisor, our role is not to help you figure out how much you have to give to philanthropy.  That question is better answered by your tax planners, financial advisors and other estate planning experts. Our relationship begins once these questions have already been answered or are in the process of being resolved. Our role is to help you prepare for the compassionate and thoughtful deployment of your charitable funds.


“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