First Week, First Blog

In the “can-do-right-now” spirit of the Women’s Foundation, I offer my first blog in my first week as Director of Communications and Philanthropic Programs!

I am Siobhán O’Riordan and I am delighted to both be joining the Foundation and bringing all my communications and programmatic expertise from eight years in Boston-area philanthropies. My work in philanthropy is fueled by the thrill of connecting; nothing brings me greater satisfaction than bringing people and ideas together on a path of discovery and learning. There are many ways to navigate the worlds in which we all live and pass between, yet the paths most traveled are ones of friendship, community and hope.

I believe that philanthropy – both the act of giving and receiving for the greater good – provides just the right place for meaningful connection, real community building and the rooting and growing of hope that together, we can make the difference. I look forward to meeting and learning from you all! Feel free to say hello at

Oprah Forces Philanthropy

Oprah’s latest gift to her ever enraptured audience was a feeling, not a Ferrari. She has challenged 300 people to accept $1,000 with the condition that they give it away. Since the show’s airing there has been much commentary and speculation on the popularity of this forced philanthropy, especially how it ranks amongst her previous benevolence.

I think it is brilliant. The only giving medium more powerful than philanthropy itself is teaching others how to get engaged. Thank you Oprah, for providing 300 people, who may or may not have been previously charitable, with the first step of getting the giving feeling.

The Challenge is ON – Help Us Reach Our Goal

24 hours and less than $2,337 to go! That’s where we stand with our $50,000 challenge grant where every gift made before the end of the day tomorrow will be matched by a donor to The Women’s Foundation.

We like to remind people that when they make a gift to The Women’s Foundation, it goes farther. That’s because we don’t just make grants, we work closely with some of the region’s best non profits, providing them with one-on-one trainings and access to critically important evaluation tools. Just a few weeks ago we began matching grantee partners with women who want to volunteer and lend their considerable skills to worthy organizations!

So…if a single gift to The Women’s Foundation goes farther…imagine what it can do when it’s doubled in value! Imagine the community you want to live in, where women and girls have access to the tools they need to reach their full potential. Click here and help us invest another $100,000 in stronger communities.

Ruth Swanson

THEARC for Everybody

Yesterday, I had my second visit to the THEARC (The Town Hall Education Arts & Recreation Campus), which is the new home of the Washington Middle School for Girls (WMSG) one of our Grantee Partners.

Anne Mosle, our fearless leader, and Barb Strom Thompson, who Co-Chairs the Rainmakers’ Giving Circle, also participated in the visit to meet with some of the WMSG students. Visiting with the WMSG students was pure pleasure. They are bright, articulate, engaged, and very honest. Most of them come from difficult family circumstances, but you would never know it by their spirit for learning and the goals that they have set for themselves. Yet, when looking at the neighbor that surrounds THEARC, you’re reminded that the girls are very much “at-risk.”

During the visit, a group of girls treated us to an a cappella rendition of their current favorite song they called “I Don’t Want to be a Murderer.” The passion with which the girls sang the song was the same passion that any young girl in any part of our region would sing a popular song. But, why where they singing a song about murder? Well to my surprise, the name of the song really is Unfaithful and it is a song about a conflicted young woman. I’m still not thrilled about the song’s message, however I am so glad that that WMSG allows the young girls to sing ‘their’ songs with passion while providing a creative learning space.

I wish that I had time to visit WMSG and THEARC everyday. It is a perfect reflection of what happens when vision, philanthropy, and political will sync up. I’m looking forward to THEARC 2.0 emerge in our region.

Let’s pop women’s philanthropy…..

There’s a growing movement of women who have given a million dollars to help women and girls. And hey, with women starting business and graduating from colleges and universities at record levels, isn’t it time? One of our own, Julie Jensen, will be honored next week at the National Capitol Philanthropy Day for her giving way above and beyond any call of duty—and for her passion for investing in women and youth. Julie is leading a new generation of women philanthropists.

For years, she has quietly and consistently helped to build key community institutions like the Latin American Youth Center. She gives her time, money, brains and heart.img_5516.jpg In the picture from left to right is Marjorie Sims, Stacey D. Stewart, Anne Mosle, Julie Jensen and Ruth Goins. She answered our call to serve as an Honorary Chair of Stepping Stones, our initiative designed to build the financial independence of low-income women who are heading families in our community. She stepped up with a leadership gift of a million dollars and has spoken across the country with other women donors, non-profit leaders and women clients. Julie, a widow, knows how hard it is to raise two sons alone—even when you have resources. She is one of the many women saying “I care. I want to give and get involved.”

Read more about her next Friday when she receives her award. In the meantime, I want to do my bit to pop women’s philanthropy. As you know, we have a challenge gift in play – with less than $10,000 to raise to meet our goal of $50,000. I will match any pledges made via this blog up to $1,000. Just let me know who you are and why you care! Pop!

Women Deserve a Critical Mass

David Broder’s recent column in the Washington Post made me flash back to the final days of the 103rd Congress. I was working for the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues and there was a strong interest in demonstrating that the 22 women elected to Congress during 1992 or “Year of the Women” had made an important difference in the types of bills that were introduced and passed. The Women’s Caucus did some analysis and learned that there were an unprecedented number of bills – introduced as well as passed by the 103rd Congress – focused on issues important to women and families.

That analysis, done 12 years ago by the Women’s Caucus, was an important illustration that not only do women in office make a difference, but the number of women in office makes an even bigger difference. We can thank Pat Schroeder and Olympia Snowe, who were the Women’s Caucus Co-Chairs then, for that first-ever documentation.

The Women’s Foundation reported similar findings in our 2003 report – A Portrait of Women & Girls in the Washington Metropolitan Area. The report also includes an ambitious set of recommendations for investing in women and girls in our region. One recommendation, in particular, urges that there be stronger investments in women’s leadership at all levels.

With the general elections three weeks away, transition teams are being assembled across the Washington region and a quiet debate among women’s advocates is happening. Some are questioning whether it is still important for us to put together a slate of women who are qualified to serve in cabinet positions and on local boards and commissions. It is puzzling after all these years of us knowing that the number of women makes a critical difference that questions are being raised.

Should we develop a slate of only women prospects? Yes! Advocates for women should identify and promote well-qualified women for key appointed offices. Not all will make it, but no newly elected or re-elected mayor, county executive, state office holder, or member of congress should be able to say that a qualified woman wasn’t identified for every key post.

60% to the $50,000 challenge

Friends, I am pleased to say that one week after the Leadership Luncheon we are rapidly approaching utilizing the full $50,000 match provided by our angel, Charlotte Perret. Thank you to those who have given – gifts have ranged from $10 to $5,000. board_laurie_emrich.jpgSpecial kudos to Women’s Foundation Board member Laurie Emrich, who has added another match to those contributions made by people who were her guests at the event.


We’ve got 13 days to get to the full $50,000. Let’s do it! Give Now.

What Muhammad Yunus knows and we aim to prove in the Washington Area

Today the world heard that Yunus (as he is known in the international development world) has been honored with the Nobel prize. What Muhammad Yunus knows, and what has been the backbone of the work of Grameen and all of its emulators, is that it’s the WOMEN who start their businesses, pay back their loans at nearly flawless rates, and go on to improve not just their own lives…but those of many in their communities. Washington Area Women’s Foundation congratulates Yunus, and all the women who have taken advantage of Grameen’s programs.

Don’t forget about our $50K Leadership Challenge matching grant (We ARE NEARLY HALFWAY THERE!). Every dollar you give today has twice as much impact. Help us continue to demonstrate – here in our nation’s capital – that as a community we “get” what Yunus and others have known for years – that “when women thrive, everyone thrives.” Give now.


WOW. WOW. WOW. What a day we had yesterday! THANK YOU!

Over 200 people attended the morning briefing and 1200 packed the ballroom for the lunch. We are on a high at the Foundation and hope you all are too. Don’t lose the vibe: check out the full set of unedited pictures, provided by our awesome photographic partner, Michael Colella.

YOU ALL LOOK BEAUTIFUL. And in our typical combination of substance and style, how about Patty Stonesifer, Ann Fudge and Judy Woodruff???

We are well on our way to meeting the $50,000 challenge announced yesterday, with over $13,000 received “in the moment.” Please spread the word about the challenge – and enourage people to give through our new secure site.

Check in here for more updates.

Welcome and Thanks!

Let me add my voice of welcome to Anne’s. I’m Donna Callejon and Chair the Board of Directors of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation. Whew, it’s been quite a couple of months for the team at the Foundation – Thanks to all of you who joined us at the annual Leadership Luncheon. Our team has been getting ready for this signature event, refining our metrics around Stepping Stones, bringing together donors, grantees and partners for a variety of convenings, and relaunching this website.

In my “day job” I work in the web philanthropy world, and so I am thrilled to be one of many faces and voices of The Women’s Foundation posting on this blog. To have the kind of vibrant community committed to investing in women and girls we need to be active – offline every day, and online every day. This is not your grandmother’s women’s foundation! Let me tell you about some of the women who make up The Women’s Foundation.

Lisa Ross, Senior Vice President at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, was a founding member of The Women’s Foundation board. While her hair is less “big” than it was in the past (that’s a picture of her from a few years back on the right), her commitment hasn’t wavered. She’s a rock star in the strategy and communications world and she rocks. Nancy Navarro was one of our first Grantee Partners. She co-founded Centro Familia. Nancy is now a member of the Montgomery County Board of Education, serving the 180,000 kids in that district.

Marjorie Sims, currently Vice President of Programs and Operations at the Foundation, was a founding Board member….and then she left us for LA for a few years. And when she said she’d come back as a senior member of the team, we could NOT have been more over the moon. She is a star – a thinker, a doer, a leader.

Cathy Isaacson is a relative newcomer to The Women’s Foundation, but she has made her mark quickly. A lawyer who returned to Washington just a few years ago, Cathy jumped in, became part of our Development Committee, and joined the Board two years ago. Cathy is always asking the best questions, making the best connections, and living and breathing The Women’s Foundation – whether in Washington, or on the road.

Let’s talk about Linda Butler. She is the Leadership Luncheon video. Now this is what we are all about. Linda is a single mom who broke free of the bounds of a dysfunctional family, and from frustration and poverty, working with Grantee Partner Northern Virginia Family Service’s Training Futures program. Linda now is a shining example of what is possible. And that’s what we are all about.

Finally, let me highlight Charlotte Perret. Charlotte, the quiet philanthropist. She’s the one who provided an angel gift of $50,000 – and all donations made by people who attended the lunch (or their friends) in the next month, will generate 2 times their contribution…thanks to Charlotte. Matching Angel. That’s sweet.

Come back and visit, tell us your story, give us your feedback. We are open for business on this website and we are all about this – the POWER of Giving Together.