D.C. Government Slashes Funding for Some of the City's Most Vulnerable Women

Days after the District made the shocking announcement that $20 million had been cut from the homeless services budget for the 2010 fiscal year, advocates and organizations that provide shelter for the homeless are still reeling. One of The Women’s Foundation grantee partners is reaching out for help – as winter approaches and the organizations that assist the homeless face a crisis.

Calvary Women’s Services was notified Monday, September 28, by The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness (TCP) that contract funding for Calvary would be cut by nearly $75,000 beginning October 1st.  These funds support safe housing and other services for 150 homeless women each year.  TCP is an independent, non-profit corporation that coordinates DC’s Continuum of Care homeless services.

Calvary is one of many social service providers notified of cuts to their existing contracts. Emergency, transitional and supported permanent housing programs were all targeted as the city attempted to close an ever-widening budget gap.  The impact of these cuts on the overall homeless services system is going to be severe, with some housing programs reducing their services and others likely closing programs. 

Although these cuts may provide some immediate relief to the city’s budget problems, the real impact of the cuts will be felt by those in need of safe housing and support services.  Women who have already lost their jobs in this economic crisis will have fewer services and housing options available to them. These cuts will make women who are already at-risk much more likely to end up living on the streets or in unsafe situations.

The women who come to programs like Calvary are survivors of violence, women struggling with mental illness, and women working to overcome addictions.  At Calvary we make sure they have access to all of the services they need to address these challenges – in addition to providing a safe place to live.

We know that programs like ours work.  Every five days a woman moves out of Calvary and into her own home.

We have always relied on the support of both public funding and private donations to make our programs possible.  In the past, supporters have helped us close gaps like this one, and I am hopeful that the community will step up once again.  But I am also concerned that this gap may be too wide for our generous donors to close.

The coming months will be challenging ones for organizations like Calvary, as we try to find ways to continue to provide women in this community with critical, life changing services.  More so, they will be challenging months for women who need services like ours, as they face closed doors and reduced services at programs across the city.

 You can make a difference.  Support Calvary – or another agency facing these cuts – today. 

 Volunteer, donate or learn more at www.calvaryservices.org.

Kris Thompson is the Executive Director of Calvary Women’s Services, recognized as a 2009 Leadership Awardee by The Women’s Foundation.  Learn more about them on their Web site or on Facebook.

Rebecca Roberts: Join me and my mom for lunch on October 20th?

As journalists, my mom and I are often considered powerful women.

But we know that true power comes from much more than a job or a public voice. It stems from collective action and dedication to postive change–in ourselves, our families, our community and the world.

And that’s why we’re a part of The Women’s Foundation’s powerful wave of philanthropists helping improve our community through investments in women and girls.

So, we’re thrilled to be serving as this year’s luncheon moderators, along with emcee NBC4 News Co-anchor, Doreen Gentzler, and to help share The Women’s Foundation’s story of how investments in women and girls pay off infinitely in change within our community.

We hope you’ll join us on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at The Women’s Foundation’s 2009 Leadership Luncheon from noon-2 p.m.

You won’t want to miss our annual community-wide celebration of the powerful women’s philanthropic movement in the Washington metropolitan area!

As always, the Leadership Luncheon will be preceded by the annual Community Briefing, which will feature an update on Stepping Stones–The Women’s Foundation’s groundbreaking initiative that is helping low-income, women-headed families escape poverty and create lives of financial independence and success.

Please join us at the 2009 Leadership Luncheon, where we’ll stand together as a proud community of philanthropists and activists helping to transform our community through investments in women and girls.

Rebecca Roberts is an award winning journalist whose work can be heard on Talk of the Nation, Weekend All Things Considered, and the Kojo Nnamdi Show.  She is also a member of The Women’s Foundation’s Washington 100 and is co-chair of the 1K Club.  Her mother, Cokie, is an award winning journalist, currently serving as a senior news analyst for NPR News and a political commentator for ABC News.  Cokie is also a member of Washington 100.

Prince George's Gazette covers child care strategy that's smart for businesses and families.

New economic development initiatives can present outstanding opportunities for new partnerships – including partnerships that support employers and low-income single working women and their children.

That kind of thinking led Prince George’s Child Resource Center (PGCRC), with support from The Women’s Foundation, to reach out to Gaylord Hotels as it developed the National Harbor project on the Potomac River in Oxon Hill.

The goal: to connect low-income single mothers working at National Harbor to early care and education providers nearby.

The outcome: PGCRC is providing brochures and other information to National Harbor for its workers, and National Harbor is promoting PGCRC’s services through its human resources office and its internal communications with employees.

The work has also recently drawn the attention of the Prince George’s County Gazette.

No wonder. This is a smart strategy.

Gaining access to more affordable, reliable and convenient services for their children means the women working at National Harbor can become highly dependable workers, which has significant benefits for their employer and the community.

Gwen Rubinstein is a program officer at The Women’s Foundation.

Where is the real power in The Power of Giving Together?

Last week, seeing the story of the African American Women’s Giving Circle gave me such a professional high.  Nothing I had been involved in to date had been deemed so newsworthy as to grace the front page of The Washington Post!  So I was thrilled to be connected to this. 

As I read the story, I was enthralled with the description of the circle gathering place, the spirit of sisterhood shared by the participants, the commitment to community, and the excitement of nurturing their own philanthropic spirits.

I was thrilled with the tone and appreciation of the article, but couldn’t help but find myself wishing that all 20 of the amazing women in the circle could have shared the spotlight.  I know that a newspaper has limited real estate and that not everyone could be pictured or quoted, but knowing all of the dynamic and wonderful women who make up this group, I really wished that we could somehow reflect that collective spirit more clearly.

Then I glanced at The Women’s Foundation logo with our tagline, The Power of Giving Together.  And it made me wonder: Where is the power in “giving together”?

In the first few months that I was at The Women’s Foundation, I saw very clearly the power of the multiplier factor in giving together.  In a flash, a single contribution of $1,000 could be turned into $1 million

That is pretty darned powerful!

But as I reflect on the African American Women’s Giving Circle and the Rainmakers Giving Circle, and indeed all giving circles, I am struck by something else. A deeper, more subtle power…the qualitative power of the collective.

In North American, there is a lot of focus on individualism.  It seems that our entire culture is built on it. So I did a little research on the subject of individualism and found this:  "Individualism stands for a society in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after himself or herself and his or her immediate family only."*

Individualistic cultures like the United States (highest score = 1st rank) and France (10th rank) emphasize mostly their individual goals. People from individualistic cultures tend to think of themselves as individuals and as "I," distinctive from other people and emphasize their success/achievements in job or private wealth and aiming up to reach more and/or a better job position.

Now clearly this is not the sum total of the North American experience or values. But the basic elements are undeniable. Looking specifically in the world of philanthropy, some of the oldest and most established foundations derived from the wealth of an individual or of a single family.  When we traditionally look at donors, we tend to look at the individual.

From this perspective alone, I can understand why the draw is to identify with a single person or a few people. But a giving circle is really the antithesis to that.  It is about the collective, not the individual.

That is what makes giving circles so powerful and unique. And in fact, we can generalize that even more to say that The Women’s Foundation is really the antithesis to that with our overarching emphasis on collective giving and our inherent belief in The Power of Giving Together, whether through the giving circles, the 1K Club or Washington 100.

I think that most of us can recognize that power from a fiscal perspective, but perhaps not as much from a cultural and philosophical perspective.

Looking at the definition from the same source on the collective, or collectivism, I found this.  Collectivism "stands for a society in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong cohesive groups, which throughout people’s lifetime continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty."*

Collectivistic cultures have a great emphasis on groups and think more in terms of "we".

The sociologist in me is fascinated by this juxtaposition of the social pull in our culture to the individual and the increasing popularity of giving circles that exists only as a collective. But more importantly, the humanist in me is really heartened that we are redefining philanthropy in such an amazing way. There is no question that the sense of individualism is a critical part of what has made North America what it is today.

But, to me, there is always room for the “we,” and if we are to move forward, truly move forward in a way that supports the “global village” that we are creating, we are going to need to find the balance between the individual and the collective.

But for today, I am thrilled to work with women who put the “we” back in philanthropy.

Nicole Cozier is Philanthropic Education Officer at The Women’s Foundation.

Source: "Cultures and Organizations – Intercultural Cooperation and its importance for survival" Hofstede, Geert (1994)

Celebrating bright futures with Training Futures and the 1K Club!

One of the many things I appreciate about The Women’s Foundation is how deliberately it works to bring people together–both donors and Grantee Partners–to build community. For example, as a member of the 1K Club, I’m occasionally invited to special events that showcase Grantee Partners and their outstanding work.

Last Thursday, I attended such an event: the graduation ceremony for the latest class of the Training Futures program. This group of 48 women and men had completed a 25-week office skills training program for underemployed and unemployed workers.

Their graduation was held at the Gannett headquarters in McLean.  As students were called up to receive their diplomas, they were each complimented in a special way and challenged to move forward to continued success.

The pride in each of the graduates was palpable. Each graduate had been trained and given skills to become productive workers. They also developed ties to a nurturing community and support group that will be there for them when they need it.

This class represented more than 20 different nationalities and a variety of skill levels. We were told that the program creates an office simulation for trainees. Students are taught a full-range of current computer office programs, keyboarding, business English and math, filing, how to use a calculator, and customer service. They also are expected to dress professionally, arrive on time, complete office assignments, and interact professionally with their fellow classmates as well as their teachers.

In the process, Training Futures creates a community of support for their trainees who learn they are not alone, that others do care about them and want to see them succeed. They also work in internships and can earn up to 17 college credits from Northern Virginia Community College during their six months of training.

Obviously, this was a triumphant experience on many levels. Training Futures was able to show what they do and how effective they are (more than half of the 48 graduates have already found jobs and the others are interviewing), and thank the funders who continue to support them.

I look forward to celebrating the successes of other Grantee Partners in the years to come as The Women’s Foundation continues to both build and invest in our community.

Laura Forman is a member of the 1K Club and serves on the Open Door Capacity Fund Committee.  She is president of Laura Forman Communications LLC.

Training Futures is a program of Northern Virginia Family Services, a Grantee Partner of The Women’s Foundation.

I dare you to become a philanthropist…anyone can!

The recorded history of philanthropy can be traced back to the 1600’s. People have been finding ways to give of their time, talents and treasures for as long as we can remember.

So, what is the enigma called philanthropy, really?

Philanthropy is the act of donating money, goods, time, or effort to support a charitable cause, usually over an extended period of time toward a specific goal, or to achieve a specific aim.

In its most fundamental sense, philanthropy may encompass any altruistic activity intended to promote public good or improve the human quality of life. Such a simple and attainable concept really. Yet, somehow the definition of philanthropy has been increasingly narrowed and the term “philanthropist” has been a title reserved for the wealthy.

The truth is that philanthropy is not only a privilege for the Gateses, Buffets, Fords and Carnegies.  Anyone can be a philanthropist!

At The Women’s Foundation, we encourage people of all ages and incomes to think about how you can be a philanthropist right where you are today.  How can you harness your own philanthropic spirit to improve the human quality of life?

As you watch TV or read the paper, you are bombarded by reports of people facing difficult circumstances all over the country, and the world. But how often have you stopped to think about the people right in your own backyard that really need the assistance and support provided by our area nonprofits?

So, I ask you again…a little differently…how can you, through your own philanthropy, become a better steward of your community?

One great way is through The Women’s Foundation’s giving circles! Giving circles are a wonderful way to meet wonderful people, get involved, and transform a small contribution into funding with a big impact!

As we speak, the Rainmakers are poised and ready to make a total of $45,000 in grants to organizations in Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia that support programs to empower and encourage the healthy development of young women and girls.  (Proposals are due on April 28th.)

But the Rainmakers circle is already out of the gate you say?  How astute you are!  But you can be thinking about your participation for the next cycle to begin in 2009.

For the more eager among you, you are not without options!

The African American Women’s Giving Circle is in the process of recruiting new members right now!  To find out more, come to a gathering on April 30th.  If you interested in attending or becoming a member, contact me.

We are continuing to welcome new members to the 1K Club and the Washington 100.  And, let’s not forget, the Leadership Awards Program is looking for volunteers for the next award cycle!  If you are interested, please contact me.

So whether it is with one of these wonderful groups of women (and men), or with another organization that has been near and dear to your heart, take the leap!

Unleash the philanthropist within you.

I dare you!

Will you be The Women's Foundation's Facebook friend?

With today’s headline, "Despite Negative Press, Facebook Is a Powerful Agent for Social Change," it seems appropriate to let all of our faithful readers know that Washington Area Women’s Foundation officially has a Facebook Cause.

And we’d love for you to become our friend.  So far, we are 106 strong and hope to keep growing.

As our use of Facebook’s Causes application ramps up, we’ll be using it to inform our friends of upcoming events (especially for our new 1K Club), to post pictures highlighting our work and community, and to post information about the issues and challenges that impact women and girls throughout the Washington metropolitan area.

So, by all means, if you’re on Facebook and are interested in work that is changing the lives of women and girls in our region, we’d love for you to join us.  Just go to Causes and search for Washington Area Women’s Foundation.

Philanthropy resting more and more on women's shoulders.

What makes women’s philanthropy different from general philanthropy?  This is something we often discuss here at The Women’s Foundation, informally, in giving circle meetings, at Philanthropy 101 sessions.

So what fun to see an article today really try to break it down.  Michael A. MacDowell wrote a guest column yesterday for the Press & Sun Bulletin in New York called "Women to take on more responsibility through philanthropy."

In  his column, MacDowell explains how it has come to be that philanthropy is largely, and increasingly, dominated by women.   He writes, "Today, the odds are good that the majority of the people in the United States with altruistic intentions are women…Simply stated, there are 6 million more women than men in the country. Plus, more women hold an undergraduate degree or a higher diploma than their counterparts, and 57 percent of today’s enrollment in institutions of higher education are female…In 2005…46.3 percent of the nation’s wealthiest people were women…With combined assets of $6.3 trillion, their wealth has increased 50 percent in seven years."

Not to mention that over the next 50 years, women will control most of the $41 trillion expected to pass from generation to generation.

That sounds like some pretty serious money to me.

So that tells us where the influence of women in philanthropy is coming from.  But do women really give differently?  According to MacDowell, yes.

First of all, he says, women tend to listen to other women philanthropists more for advice about their giving.  Whether on a large scale–i.e. being influenced by Oprah or Maya Angelou, or on a small scale, such as what we see here at The Women’s Foundation with women meeting, networking and talking about their giving through giving circles, Washington 100, the 1K Club, Philanthropy 101s or the other avenues that encourage women not only to give–but to give smart.

And, according to the Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University, women do think differently about their giving:

  •  Women tend to be more cautious in their contributions, researching organizations more carefully than do men;
  • Women emphasize giving to individuals, rather than brick-and-mortar projects, as a result of a deeply held belief that individuals make a difference;
  • Women’s political and economic views are as diverse as men’s, but they tend to make decisions based more on anecdotal information and intuitive knowledge; and,
  • Women tend to be more "tactile" in their giving patterns. They like to see, and in some ways, participate, in the philanthropic activities which they support.

As with any generalizations made about any group of people, one could analyze, dissect and discuss whether these trends are an accurate reflection of  the diversity of women’s giving.

But perhaps the more important question around women’s giving is whether women will not only continue to establish themselves as a philanthropic force, but whether they will focus their giving on investments in other women. 

The success of the Women Moving Millions campaign, as well as of local women’s foundations and the organizations they support, will be very telling in this regard.

We can only hope that as women continue to carry an increasing portion of the burden in philanthropy on their shoulders that women and girls in local communities and around the world will find themselves being lifted up.

Leadership Luncheon '07: I was inspired to become part of the change!

Every year, I am inspired by the women at the Leadership Luncheon and this year was no exception!  What an amazing event!

My name is Wendy Weaver, and I have volunteered for Washington Area Women’s Foundation and watched its exponential growth for the last six years. 

It’s so exciting to be a part of this change!  I’m inspired to see how The Women’s Foundation impacts women like Laceiy and Sharan to change their lives for the better!  I love the idea that we can create a greater impact on women’s lives by working together and that we can leverage our resources to make a much larger contribution on our region than we could as individuals.

After the luncheon, I was so energized by the desire to change lives that I volunteered to co-chair the 1K Club. The 1K Club is a network of dedicated philanthropists committed to strengthening the effectiveness of The Women’s Foundation and its work to transform our community.

As a mother, wife, and professional, my time and resources are always stretched.  I believe that the 1K Club is a wonderful, affordable and rewarding way to get involved in philanthropy. I can’t wait to get started!

If you are as inspired as I am, if you want to continue to effect change, create an impact on our region, and feel the power of giving together, I invite you to join us in the 1K club.  To see who has already joined, view the 1K Club member list.

Wendy M. Weaver is a long-time volunteer of The Women’s Foundation and a co-chair of our new 1K Club.  She has invested and inspired, and now she’s a leader of one of our innovative networks of donors!  To learn more about these three ways that you can be involved in the Power of Giving Together, or to join the 1K Club, click here! There is a place for everyone at The Women’s Foundation…find yours today.