We’re hiring! Think you’d be a good fit for our team? Visit our careers page for open positions.
15th Avenue East Community Workshop – Board & Vellum and Environmental Works

The Business of Design

Community Engagement at Board & Vellum

Giving back to the community has been part of Board & Vellum’s DNA from the beginning. Our commitment to community building led to one of our major 2022 initiatives: developing our Community Engagement Manifesto to help organize our company’s and employees’ charitable efforts.

September 22, 2022

Since founding Board & Vellum in 2011, giving time and financial support to others has been central to my beliefs about what a company should do for its employees and community.

From the beginning, it was critical to my mission to pay people for their time to sit on boards or volunteer – benefits extended to our employees to this day.

As we’ve grown in numbers and our network has expanded, it’s become even more important to me and our leadership team to codify a comprehensive philosophy to how we as a firm approach our time and financial contributions to our community.

From this desire, our Community Engagement Manifesto was born. It’s a living document that helps us set budgets, create action plans, and better focus our efforts.

Learning how to define community.

How do you define community? This question was central to how we framed our conversation around the best way to organize our firm’s efforts to help others. And what we quickly realized is that it’s not very easy to define.

Community is a term that is inherently specific to an individual – there are as many definitions of community as there are people.

We think of our company as an organization (not as a person as others may believe) made up of many individuals who are members of a wide range and diverse collection of communities. We embrace this diversity because it’s what makes our team strong, dynamic, and creative. But it also led us to more questions as we explored community.

When considering organizations to support, how do we decide where to focus our efforts? Is it first come first serve?

Our values have evolved since the company’s beginning and will continue to evolve. How do we balance and weigh the values of the company with the values of our diverse staff and leadership team?

Taking a cue from some research, we decided to define five types of community we support and use them to create the Community Engagement Manifesto that guides Board & Vellum’s community contributions.

Communities of Action: Trying to Bring Change

Local and global events have highlighted how much difference one person, or even a small group of people, can make in their own communities. We have seen small group activism ignite nationwide movements. Communities that support change for the better, no matter the scale, are critical to shaping a better world. We strive to support organizations that have a strong mission to bring about much-needed change to social, environmental, or economic injustice.

Communities of Place: People Brought Together Geographically

We take pride in the spaces we occupy. Places bring us history, memories, culture, and a sense of belonging. Taking care of 15th Avenue on historic Capitol Hill is a privilege. As one of the biggest businesses on the street, we take the responsibility we have to the community seriously. We will focus our efforts on our local neighborhood, Capitol Hill, as well as greater Seattle, for some specific efforts.

Communities of Practice: People in Our Industry/Profession

At face-value, we are an architecture and design firm, but at heart, we are artists with a deep sense of respect and gratitude to our fellow workers in the field. We support LGBTQ+ and people of color who desire to thrive in this industry, as there are often disproportionate opportunities, and we seek ways to diversify the industry’s talent pipeline. While not exclusive to this effort, we will give preference to organizations that support diversity and inclusion in their own values and efforts.

Communities of Interest & Identity: People Who Share Our Interest

We are a diverse group of talented individuals with unique interests, and we want to allow for support for organizations that are valued by the great people who work at Board & Vellum. As our engagement evolves, we may find interest in creating partnerships with unique and lesser-known organizations to widen our range of philanthropic interests.

Communities of Circumstance: People Brought Together by External Events

When events beyond our control breach our community, we don’t have to feel helpless. We can reach out to the most vulnerable of us who need support and action. Investment in our circumstances, good or bad, can inspire others to become their best selves and help an ailing community through their current need.

Communities of Circumstance are not something we can always plan for and so we will remain adaptable and focus our time and money to support our communities in need when events or situations arise.

We’re always striving to do more.

In addition to supporting the communities identified above, B&V matches employee donations for any non-profit which aligns with our company values.

And each community identified will be supported in three specific ways.

Community Partner Organizations

If appropriate, each community will have an organization that we will focus our financial and time resources to support. These organizations will reflect our values and will be supported for at least two consecutive years.

Financial Support

A minimum financial contribution set in the annual budget will be provided for each community, with a larger amount identified for the Community Partner Organization. Other donations to organizations that match our values will also be supported in this way through donation matching.

Our Time

We pledge and support all B&V team members to commit a minimum of 8 hours a year in support of one of the communities we aim to serve. The first 8 hours a year of volunteer services are counted as paid working hours. We recognize that some people have self-identified volunteer efforts and the time they spend working on those efforts counts toward these volunteer hours. Other staff may be looking for ways to help and B&V will help organize or schedule group events where they can volunteer their time. Remote staff outside of Seattle are asked to find an appropriate community organization to donate their time.


As our footprint in the community expands, Board & Vellum is ever committed to affirming engagement in our communities, great or small. We look forward to partnering with future events, programs, and organizations that match our interest in an effort to uplift our community.

Would you like to read more from the team?

If you enjoy reading our blog as much as we enjoy writing it, that just makes our day! You might also enjoy a few of the related posts below. And, if there is a topic that you wish we would cover, let us know!

Community Engagement at Board & Vellum

Giving back to the community has been part of Board & Vellum’s DNA from the beginning. Our commitment to community building led to one of our major 2022 initiatives: developing our Community Engagement Manifesto to help organize our company’s and employees’ charitable efforts.

Why I’m a Generalist Architect

Many architects and designers choose to specialize in a specific sector or focus on a single project type. That’s awesome and necessary, but it’s not Jeff. His journey as a generalist architect is why providing out-of-the-box services is part of Board & Vellum’s DNA, and it’s what keeps him dedicated to design of all kinds.

How a Philosophy of High Performance is Changing the Way We Work

Designing a home or building is one thing. Designing the work experience of your employees is quite another. But the design mentality we bring to our projects also allows us to adapt and innovate how we operate as a team. Though our firm has evolved over the years, our values have not, guiding us to adopt the philosophy of a high-performance team.

Considering a project? Or, just curious about something?

Send us your questions about design, architecture, interiors, landscape, LEGO rooms… Anything, really. We’re always eager to meet new people, and we’d love to get to know you, your project, and your goals.

Get in touch.