Washington Area Women's Foundation

Who says social change is slow? I blinked and nine powerful, inspiring years went by.

I blinked and nine years went by.

Okay, my eyes were open most of the time, but it is truly hard to believe that it has been nine years since my first Washington Area Women’s Foundation board meeting in 2000.

As I roll off The Women’s Foundation’s board – and onto the Board of the global Women’s Funding Network – I look back with a feeling of privilege and pride and still envision the promise yet to be realized by this dynamic organization and community.

When former president of The Women’s Foundation, Anne Mosle, asked Jane Fox-Johnson and me to join the board, we were both enthusiastic, but cautious. 

I told Anne, “Sure, I will join your board, but I will not ask anyone for money.”

What a difference a decade makes.

As she predicted, it soon became second nature to want to invite others into The Women’s Foundation’s big tent, because I was confident that our work was both effective and necessary. 

From Community Bridges in Montgomery County, to Tahirih Justice Center in northern Virginia, to FAIR Fund in D.C., The Women’s Foundation has had the privilege to support more than 100 organizations through grants, technical support, convenings and more. 

And, in the course of doing so, has established itself as an anchor in the Washington metropolitan area.

As I prepared for my final board meeting and reflected on where we are today, I found myself drawn back to the values and attributes that have made The Women’s Foundation unique and special.  When I reflected on our  “first principles,” and remembered that the common denominator of our success and growth has been our intense and purposeful attention to them, the core values that came to mind were:

  • In Washington, it is easy to define “diversity” merely on racial terms. But our commitment has always been, and will always be, to inclusion in its broadest – and constantly changing – sense. We can always make the tent bigger, but come to the Leadership Luncheon on October 20th and you’ll see what I mean in one room;
  • Collaboration – sometimes with unlikely allies – and true partnerships have been hallmarks of our work. We call our grantees “Grantee Partners” and we mean it.  From a philosophical standpoint, we believe we find better solutions through partnerships. And in this tough economic time, leverage is a key and necessary element of our impact;
  • I lost track somewhere around 2004 of the number of times people shook their heads and said, “But how can you do that, you are such a small organization?”  But from day one – and with Anne and Marjorie’s steadfast leadership, and now with Phyllis and the current team – one of the most exciting aspects of being part of The Women’s Foundation has been a willingness to step into uncharted territory, experiment wisely, and create breakthroughs because of it.  I hope this never changes;
  • Honoring the past and those who paved the way for this stage of our work has always been a core component of who we are. From our founders to former board and staff leaders, to the early funders who took a chance on us – inspiring women and men have provided outstanding leadership.  I thank them personally and say it has been an absolute honor to work side by side with you to make a difference for women and girls in our region; and,
  • Finally – and for those of you who know me – humor and fun have been integral to the spirit and, I believe, success of Washington Area Women’s Foundation. We take our work extremely seriously, but we can’t take ourselves the same way. Some of my strongest memories are of laughing with girls at one of our Grantee Partner’s programs…and dancing with my fellow board members at our retreats.

It has been an awesome privilege to call myself a member of this board – and I am excited to remain part of this community as it continues on its amazing journey.

Donna Callejon served on The Women’s Foundation’s board of directors from 2000-2009.  As of July 2009, she is a board member of the Women’s Funding Network and also serves on the boards of Nonprofit Village in Maryland and GlobalGivingUK.  In her professional life, she is the Chief Business Officer of GlobalGiving.