Washington Area Women's Foundation

How a strategic plan can change a woman's life.

A strategic plan for a nonprofit can change a woman’s life.

We can prove it.

Computer C.O.R.E. (CORE), which helps low-income adults acquire the computer and life skills they need to pursue career aspirations, received grants in 2006 and 2007 from The Women’s Foundation to support a strategic planning process.

The process helped the organization redirect its mission from one that just provides computer training to one that also focuses on moving CORE students into better jobs—and the other skills needed to meet that goal.

Later in 2007, Donna Harrington received a significant promotion as a result of this planning process and CORE’s new focus.

A single mother and native Washingtonian with a 14-year-old daughter, Donna came to CORE with only a part-time job as a reservationist.  She began attending classes twice a week in July, spending two hours every night along with 11 classmates mastering Microsoft Office.

As a result of the new mission and focus, one hour each night was also devoted to the other skills required to advance a career: resume writing, interviewing and communication.

The investment paid off
Donna’s investment, and CORE’s investment in her, paid off.

Two months after graduation, she was promoted to the position of Transportation Supervisor at Senior Services of Alexandria. She now oversees six employees and the program’s billing.

Janet Barnett, executive director of Senior Services and Donna’s supervisor, says, “Because of Donna’s incredible desire to improve herself, she sought out the skills she needed and gained expertise. The position she holds today used to be held by two staff, but, because of Donna’s computer skills, she is able to efficiently and effectively handle all the tasks.”

The role of The Women’s Foundation
Just like CORE gave Donna a step up in her career, CORE credits The Women’s Foundation with supporting its growth and success over the years—positioning them to help Donna, and students just like her, in an increasingly effective manner.

And it wasn’t just about the initial funding. In fact, aside from a Leadership Award in 2003, CORE has received funds only to work on their own infrastructure and capacity—not their programs.

The Women’s Foundation is committed to investments like these because funding for operational support is difficult to find, yet crucial to the effectiveness of any nonprofit—particularly small, up-and-coming ones.

Therefore, all Grantee Partners of The Women’s Foundation are eligible to apply for Open Door Capacity Fund grants to improve their infrastructure, staffing and scope. The support CORE received to conduct their strategic planning process and hire their current executive director came through this fund.

“We are grateful to The Women’s Foundation for their strong support, financially and in expertise, throughout CORE’s development,” says Lynn O’Connell, executive director of Computer C.O.R.E.

The expertise Lynn refers to came following their Leadership Award, which brought CORE into The Women’s Foundation’s Grantee Partner community, where they had access to training, resources and support “beyond the check.”  And even beyond their Open Door grants. 

“The resources—media training, executive roundtables and a leadership retreat—were just what CORE needed to become an established organization in the community,” Lynn says. “The Women’s Foundation really went beyond merely being a funder and became a strong partner with CORE.”

Just as women like Donna need training and skills to open doors to higher salaries and better careers, nonprofits like CORE need training and funding to support their growth.

And their ability to serve our region’s women and girls.

And for them, The Women’s Foundation is proud to be able to open doors through the Open Door Capacity Fund.

June 2008 Open Door Capacity Fund grants: $145,000
10 year Open Door Capacity Fund grant total: $745,000

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