Women’s Fund Grantmaking Process Gains Power Year After Year

In 2018, one grant from the Women’s Fund provided $8,000 to the Oxford Community Youth Center for a restorative justice program, designed to help teen girls who are at risk of dropping out of school. The goal is to teach girls who get into trouble—two students who get into a fight, for example—how to make amends, repair relationships and solve problems. The program can serve as an alternative to suspension, says Tina Barber, the Community Foundation’s program officer. “They really want to keep these young ladies in school.”

Each year, the Women’s Fund’s Grants Subcommittee sits down to plan its next award cycle. The 12 women on the subcommittee talk about what they hope to accomplish, based on current needs in the communities we serve. Every year, of course, the overriding goal is to support projects and programs designed to improve the lives of women and girls. 

Members of the subcommittee also discuss how much money they have available to invest. That sum has seen a steady increase since the Women’s Fund awarded a total of $2,400 in 2004. In 2018, based on our growing endowment, the Fund awarded five nonprofit organizations a total of $26,000. In 2019, we expect to be able to give $30,000. 

With the ground rules established for the year, the Women’s Fund solicits proposals. Like the fund itself, the number of proposals has grown a great deal as more people have learned of our work. In 2018, we received 19 requests. 

Members of the Grants Subcommittee review those proposals on line and then meet in person to discuss their merits. Once they make their choices, they pass those recommendations to the Fund’s Leadership Committee for approval. That committee then sends the selections to the Community Foundation’s Board, which by law must approve all of the Foundation’s grants.  

From 2004 to 2018, the Women’s Fund has made 64 grants totaling $180,821. Those awards have covered a broad spectrum of needs. We have supported nonprofit organizations in their work to:

  • help girls gain life skills, build character and self-confidence, explore careers or make healthy choices
  • educate women with intellectual disabilities about healthy relationships
  • help mothers build their parenting skills, learn about nutrition or increase their financial literacy
  • assist victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence
  • provide for the special needs of senior women
  • offer information on how to find mental health services
  • help women obtain food or housing
  • produce a three-day festival of women writers

That’s just a sampling of the programs and projects the Women’s Fund has supported since 2004. 

To build its grantmaking power, the Leadership Committee has committed to increasing the size of the Women’s Fund to $1 million by its 20th anniversary in 2022. One vehicle for reaching that goal, and then surpassing it, is the Empowerment Society, an idea that came from Women’s Fund founding donor Karen Bearsch and quickly won endorsement from the Leadership Committee.  

The Empowerment Society offers an easy way for donors to step up their support for the Women’s Fund. To become a member, a donor pledges $1,000 for a calendar year. A donor can give the gift all at once, or—for greater convenience—donate $84 a month through a payroll deduction, an automated bank withdrawal or an automated credit card payment. A donor who wants to continue giving after one year makes a new commitment for the coming 12 months. 

The Empowerment Society raised $35,000 for the Women’s Fund in 2018. The Fund held a reception to thank Society members in October of 2018. We look forward to many more celebrations in the future, as our donors help the Women’s Fund expand in size, strength and reach.

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