Stepping Stones Research Update: December 2008

As part of our ongoing commitment–in partnership with The Urban Institute–to providing information and resources related to the goals of Stepping Stones, please find below a summary of recent research on issues of economic security and financial independence for women and their families.

This research is summarized and compiled for The Women’s Foundation by Liza Getsinger of The Urban Institute, NeighborhoodInfo DC.

Financial Education and Wealth Creation News

The Urban Institute looks at how the financial crisis is affecting retirement savings.  (Fact sheet) (Related text)

DC Fiscal Policy institute looks at why so many families in the city aren’t able to make ends meet, and offers policy recommendations on how to bridge the gap between earnings and basic expenses.  (Abstract) (Full text)

Jobs and Business Ownership News

The Urban Insitute looks at how scheduling and paid time off impact workers in low-skill jobs.  (Abstract) (Full text)

Child Care and Early Education News

The Urban Insitute reviews research literature on the impact of performance-based accountability on school and teacher behavior.  (Intro) (Full text)

Health and Safety News

ChildTrends explores what kids have available to them to eat at school, and what they’re really eating.  (Key findings) (Full text)

Other News and Research

The Brookings Insitution looks at how a new poverty measure would provide a more accurate picture of economic need in the United States. (Abstract) (Full text)

Weekly Round-Up: News and Analysis on Women and Poverty (Week ending December 19, 2008)

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, a national foundation-led initiative, is excited to collaborate with The Women’s Foundation to bring you the latest news and analysis on women and poverty.

Spotlight is the go-to site for news and ideas about fighting poverty. And every Friday, look for our weekly rundown of the top news stories on women and poverty.

Here’s this week’s news:

  • The Los Angeles Times profiles a transitional residence offering housing and support services to homeless women and their children.
  • Many are concerned that a last-second Bush Administration policy allowing doctors to refuse services on grounds of “conscience” will negatively affect women and the poor, as noted by the Los Angeles Times.
  • As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, a California judge struck down an eligibility requirement making it harder for some low-income women to receive state assistance with pregnancy and childbirth.
  • The Salt Lake Tribune reports that many women victims of domestic violence have difficulty finding affordable housing in a recession market.
  • The Associated Press notes a report saying that because of poverty and other factors, the percentage of women being incarcerated on the rise.
  • In a tough economic climate, a Connecticut organization offering literacy and life-skills training to low-income women needs basic goods like food rather than toys, according to the Connecticut Post.
  • The Wilmington News Journal reports on a training session for a women-centered volunteer day with Habitat for Humanity.
  • The Tulsa World covers a charity that assists low-income parents – often single moms – with infant care expenses.
  • The Casper Star Tribune highlights a Wyoming-based job training nonprofit that has been a success placing single moms in good jobs.
  • The Corpus Christi Caller-Times editorial board criticizes a city council decision to cut a grant to Planned Parenthood.

To learn more about Spotlight, visit www.spotlightonpoverty.org.  

To sign up for our weekly updates with the latest news, opinion and research from around the country, click here.

The Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity Team

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity is a foundation-led, non-partisan initiative aimed at ensuring that our political leaders take significant actions to reduce poverty and increase opportunity in the United States. We bring together diverse perspectives from the political, policy, advocacy and foundation communities to engage in an ongoing dialogue focused on finding genuine solutions to the economic hardship confronting millions of Americans. 

Arts are an important investment, even when resources are tight.

Looking at the recent grants issued by our two giving circles, they may seem a bit counter-intuitive given the current economic climate.

Some have asked me why I believe funding the arts for girls is so important when there are many other pressing issues and priorities in our city, and funds are so tight.

But I’m proud of these recent funding choices by our African American Women’s Giving Circle and the Rainmakers, who chose this grantmaking cycle to invest in the Cultural Academy for Excellence (CAFÉ), a music arts program for girls in Maryland, and The Art League, an art mentoring program for at-risk, pre-teen girls in Virginia.

I salute these choices because in tough economic times, so often the arts are among the first cuts made in schools and programs for youth.

And at The Women’s Foundation, it is part of our mission to encourage philanthropy that focuses on filling the gaps where services are most needed and our support can make a unique, significant contribution.

I am a long-time supporter of the arts. I serve on the board of the Cultural Development Corporation, which is committed to supporting artistic outlets in Washington, D.C. that also create economic return for our community.

I personally invest in the arts because I believe that they are a fundamental part of the health and vibrancy of any community, contributing a space for dialogue, reflection, spiritual and emotional growth and intellectual challenge. The arts remind us of our shared humanity.

Similarly, the programs our giving circles have chosen to support use the arts as a means to help our community’s young women to build self-esteem, academic skills, and an expanded sense of their place in their community and the world.

Opportunities like these are all-too-often lost in communities and families where resources are limited and must be directed to more basic needs like food, shelter and clothing.

So, at a time when attention is focused on where to cut back so many programs and opportunities, I’m proud to see our giving circle members taking the lead in recognizing the need for youth in our area to imagine and create a future based on all of their unique talents and potential.

Whether they lie in a book or on a computer, or on a stage or blank canvas.

Phyllis Caldwell is president of The Women’s Foundation.

College Essay Day inspires far beyond what's put on paper.

Tia’s post about College Essay Day at Urban Alliance inspired me to take a minute to jot down some of my thoughts on the experience.

I was invited as a mentor to participate, thinking that I’d be showing up with just a few others to help look at a few essays.  I was happy to do it, given how much I’ve enjoyed working with Tia over the past few weeks, and the seriousness with which I see her approaching her work, studies and college applications. 

I had no idea how big the event would be, or how many people from throughout the community would participate.  When I arrived, the room was packed with students, and the mentors filled an entire, large meeting room when we gathered for our orientation.

The essay readers included mentors like myself, but also professional staff–many journalists and editors–from the Atlantic Media Company, which is in the same building as Urban Alliance and partners with them on this program.

As I sat at the orientation and felt all of the energy around me as these professionals gathered to work with high school students, I couldn’t help but reflect on how the room seemed to embody so much of what The Women’s Foundation is about: the power of individuals to come together, give back, and have a collective impact.

When the staffer leading the orientation said that college acceptance rates had skyrocketed after this program was instituted, I wasn’t surprised. 

And the best part was that amidst the importance of the work at hand, the event demonstrated that giving back really does give back in itself.  Everyone there was having fun, getting to step outside of their day-to-day and have a one-on-one discussion with a bright, driven young person.

The student I was paired with was a remarkably bright, insightful young woman.  Her essays discussed challenges and experiences that humbled me given how motivated, independent and disciplined she was despite tremendous hardship. 

We spent time discussing her essays, and how she could reframe them to be a bit stronger and set her apart from other applicants for college admission and scholarships.  But then, with time left, we just talked about different opportunities, options, her questions about college life and my perceptions of her strengths and the assets that would help her succeed.

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Days after working with her, I continue to be inspired by her story, her passion as she discussed her dreams and her confidence in herself in terms of how she would meet her goals.

I also continue to be inspired by the collective spirit of giving that served as the foundation of the afternoon.  It reminded me in a concrete way that despite economic downturns, rising unemployment rates, holiday shopping madness and stress, that we truly do all have something to give.

And that generally, doing so will always give back.

Lisa Kays is The Women’s Foundation’s Director of Communications.  Urban Alliance is a Grantee Partner of The Women’s Foundation.

Help from community inspires improvement in college essays.

Last Friday, several District of Columbia students, myself included, filed onto the 8th floor of the Watergate building.  We were all interns with The Urban Alliance Foundation, and were there to get professional help from newspaper editors, lawyers, and other successful people, including my mentor Lisa Kays, on our college essays.

It is routine and mandatory that each Friday afternoon all interns attend a workshop class.  During this time, we are informed of events, discuss events that have happened during the work week, and are educated about key things to know when working in a professional environment and also that you will need throughout life–such as professional attire, how to use technology and managing money and bank accounts.

Since interns are seniors in high school, we have also been focusing a lot on college and making plans, setting goals and working to reach those goals.  We have been discussing applications and different scholarships that are available for us to receive.  Over the last few weeks, we have been drafting our college essay.

The dreadful college essay that most of us fear.  The one thing that is going to set you aside from hundreds of thousands of other applicants applying to the same school.

There have been several editors and writers who have come in and talked to the classes as a whole about writing our essays.  But on Friday, everyone received that one-on-one attention that they needed. 

We were paired up with a professional and then sat in a quiet area where we could focus and really think.

It was very helpful to get this sort of help. Little things that you might not catch, another person will, and it is those little things that can make a writing piece excellent. 

It was a very successful event.  No one was rude or judgmental towards anyone’s writing.  They were only helpful in as many ways possible.

In the end, every last intern walked away with a sense of confidence that they can write an excellent essay, and that it is going to get them into the college of their choosing.

Tia Felton is a senior at McKinley Tech High School and an intern at The Women’s Foundation through Urban Alliance–a Grantee Partner of The Women’s Foundation.  When she graduates from high school this year, she hopes to go to college and eventually to become a lawyer.

To learn more about the Urban Alliance internship program, click here.

Washingtonian: 64 ways to do good this holiday season, locally.

If you’re looking for creative, different ways to give this holiday season, don’t miss this month’s issue of the Washingtonian, with their cover article, "64 Ways to Do Good."

The article features a lot of different ways to make your local community here in Washington, D.C. a better place, from volunteering virtually to coaching a kid.

We were also proud to note that 13 of the organizations listed are Grantee Partners of The Women’s Foundation.  Congrats on being featured to:

We’re proud to partner with these outstanding organizations!

Lisa Kays is Director of Communications at The Women’s Foundation.  Tia Felton, who works with The Women’s Foundation as an Urban Alliance intern, contributed to this post.

Weekly News Round-Up: News and Analysis on Women and Poverty (Week ending December 12, 2008)

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, a national foundation-led initiative, is excited to collaborate with The Women’s Foundation to bring you the latest news and analysis on women and poverty.

Spotlight is the go-to site for news and ideas about fighting poverty. And every Friday, look for our weekly rundown of the top news stories on women and poverty.

Here’s this week’s news:

The New York Times focuses on a single mom’s struggle to pay rent.

• In The Nation magazine, Katha Pollitt calls on Barack Obama to be “Feminist in Chief.”

The Los Angeles Times highlights an L.A. nonprofit assisting a local single mom.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, local women, especially those of color, continue to suffer from an economic gender gap.

• A Baltimore landmark has been renovated as a residence for homeless women, as reported in the Baltimore Sun.

• In a story appearing in the Seattle Times, over a thousand local residents, most of them women, are seeking holiday assistance from the Salvation Army.

The Knoxville News Sentinel covers a holiday fund that helps out single moms.

To learn more about Spotlight, visit www.spotlightonpoverty.org.  To sign up for our weekly updates with the latest news, opinion and research from around the country, click here.

The Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity team

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity is a foundation-led, non-partisan initiative aimed at ensuring that our political leaders take significant actions to reduce poverty and increase opportunity in the United States. We bring together diverse perspectives from the political, policy, advocacy and foundation communities to engage in an ongoing dialogue focused on finding genuine solutions to the economic hardship confronting millions of Americans.

This is a time for strategy, smart investing and sacrifice on the part of foundations.

Last week, I had to inform my staff of two decisions—that will be the first of more, I am sure—that I never would have expected to make when I took this position almost a year ago.

As we hired staff earlier this year—filling several positions that had remained vacant in anticipation of my arrival—we planned to take over some additional space in our building to accommodate everyone comfortably.

We have put that decision on hold.

Times are different now, and with predictions that more than 100,000 nonprofits nationwide could close in the next two years, we’re considering all of our operational spending very carefully, and doing what we can to ensure that despite the downturn, we’ll be able to maintain—if not grow—our grantmaking over the next few years.

Our mission is to support our region’s nonprofits as they work to change the lives of women and girls.  Many of the organizations we support are small, or just starting to establish themselves. They have lean staffs and do their programmatic work on a shoestring budget.

So, rather than making sure that we have enough space behind our doors during these tough economic times, we’re turning our focus to doing what we can to help our Grantee Partners keep theirs open and providing critical services throughout our region.

This is a time when strategy, smart investing and sacrifice are going to be required of foundations, just as they are of individuals, to ensure that the impact of our giving is as meaningful as possible.

To that end, the staff at The Women’s Foundation recently completed a strategic retreat to reflect on our priorities, goals and how we can meet them as efficiently and effectively as possible during this economic cycle.

Last week , we sent out an email asking staff to bring their own lunches to the retreat, as food and beverage costs for meetings and other events are another way that we’ve identified to cut costs and keep the focus of our spending on our work.

It may seem like a small gesture, but over time these decisions will add up and allow us to focus resources where they are needed most—with the women and their families who are being disproportionately impacted by this economic downturn.

This is similar to our strategy of increasing the impact of gifts—whatever their size—by combining them with the gifts of others so that when we give, we give more and your dollars go further.

In many ways, applying The Power of Giving Together in every way we can has never been more important.

Phyllis Caldwell is president of The Women’s Foundation.

Weekly Round-Up: News and Analysis on Women and Poverty (Week ending December 5, 2008)

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, a national foundation-led initiative, is excited to collaborate with The Women’s Foundation to bring you the latest news and analysis on women and poverty.

Spotlight is the go-to site for news and ideas about fighting poverty.  And every Friday, look for our weekly rundown of the top news stories on women and poverty.

Here’s this week’s news:

In a story covered by the Birmingham News, Alabama has decreased child-support obligations for the poor.

President-elect Obama represents an example for kids of single moms, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Washington Times reports on a controversial new holiday present: Planned Parenthood gift certificates.

In a Boston Globe editorial, Randy Albelda, a professor of economics and senior fellow at the Center for Social Policy at University of Massachusetts-Boston, argues that the proposed job stimulus plan leaves out women.

A story in the Chicago Tribune sheds light on the struggles of single women in tough economic times.

The New York Times profiles a single mom struggling to support a daughter with special needs.

To learn more about Spotlight visit www.spotlightonpoverty.org.  To sign up for our weekly updates with the latest news, opinion and research from around the country, click here.

The Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity Team

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity is a foundation-led, non-partisan initiative aimed at ensuring that our political leaders take significant actions to reduce poverty and increase opportunity in the United States. We bring together diverse perspectives from the political, policy, advocacy and foundation communities to engage in an ongoing dialogue focused on finding genuine solutions to the economic hardship confronting millions of Americans.

Tough economic times don't have to turn you into Scrooge.

This is a cool Friday afternoon find.  Allison Fine and Marnie Webb have started an online project that is quickly catching on, asking people for ideas about how to give during this holiday season without spending a dime. 

The Give List already has tons of ideas posted, from Goodsearch (which is an easy online way you can even help The Women’s Foundation without spending a cent) to fun events that give back to helping a neighbor in need shovel their walk.

Check it out to post your idea or resource, or to find a way to give–what we call around here "beyond the check"–this holiday season.

As someone said to Allison and Marnie, “Just because I’m poor doesn’t mean that I have to be stingy!”

Well said.  Now, ready, set, give!

Lisa Kays is The Women’s Foundation’s Director of Communications.