The inspiring independent women of Prince George's County.

I spent a few hours yesterday in Prince George’s County, Maryland, helping to facilitate a Voice and Vision session for Washington Area Women’s Foundation.

Although I’ve been on the board for seven years, I have been focused on pretty much everything except our programmatic work in an intense way. Don’t get me wrong, I can recite the stats and progress and impact and all that good stuff.

Like that the DC metro area is a "tale of two cities," with the highest paid and most highly educated women in America.  We’re the fastest growing city for women entrepreneurs, and we’ve got a woman presidential candidate living in our midst.

BUT, we’ve also got the highest rate in the country of new incidences of HIV in women, and 1 in 3 kids lives in poverty –more than 75 percent in households headed by single women. 

See, I didn’t even have to check my notes (or our research) to lay that out.

But yesterday, instead of talking about it conceptually, I was with some women in Prince George’s County who, themselves, have come through the fire and are now doing amazing work to help lift struggling women out of poverty, away from destructive behaviors and relationships, and to independence.

Deborah Avens runs a non-profit called Virtuous Enterprises, Inc. Kim Rhim runs one called Training Source.  (Both are Grantee Partners of The Women’s Foundation.)

These women are doing God’s work for sure — against a fair number of odds and in an area that is somewhat forgotten in a metropolitan area where many people don’t really know the geography and demographics of their hometown.

Prince George’s County is the ultimate tale of two counties. While folks there don’t like to hear it said this way, these women – and others who were there – most definitely framed up the "inside the beltway" vs. "outside the beltway" dynamics of this county, which is the most affluent minority-majority (aka majority black) "municipality" in the world.

I feel lucky and proud to work with The Women’s Foundation and with women like Deborah and Kim.  They inspire me to keep investing in the future of independence – financial and otherwise – for women in our community.

Donna Callejon serves on The Women’s Foundation’s Board of Directors, and is Chief Operating Officer of Global Giving.  This blog was originally posted here before we subsequently stole it.  (With permission, of course.)

Cultural relevancy half the battle in fighting teen pregnancy.

Earlier this week, there was hopeful news about the declining national and local teen pregnancy and birth rates.

Among the areas that still merited attention and focus, however, were culturally appropriate strategies for educating young men and women about healthy reproductive health choices.

For instance, while rates are declining among many populations, including African Americans, teen pregnancy rates among Latinas continue to rise.

The reason why? 

Applying the same approaches and strategies to Latinas that are applied to black and white communities isn’t working.

Translating a message into Spanish doesn’t necessary mean that it’s going to get across if other cultural factors aren’t taken into account–a reality discussed in an article in Newsweek this week, "Learning to ‘Think Twice’: A new salvo in the fight to prevent Latino teen pregnancy."

Alvaro Simmons, COO of Washington, D.C.’s Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care (a Grantee Partner of The Women’s Foundation), explains in the article that Latinos who are closer to their parents tend to delay sex, and engage in safer sex practices, due to an ingrained respect for elders that is part of Hispanic culture, as an example.

"Literature shows that this concept is unique to the Latino community," Simmons says.  "It is one [teen-pregnancy] intervention that works when tested against other communities. "

The article, and the work being done by Mary’s Center and other innovative organizations that are applying a researched, gender and cultural lens to the issue of teen pregnancy, are a great reminder of the importance of investing in social change strategies that take into account realities specific to culture, gender, geography, etc. to achieve marked impact.

Otherwise, even the best-laid efforts and intentions can be lost in translation.

Drop in teen pregnancy rates shows power of investing in women and girls.

According to today’s Washington Post, there’s good news to celebrate for our region’s women and girls–a declining teen pregnancy rate over the past decade.

In Washington, D.C., Arlington and Prince George’s County, teen pregnancy and birth rates have markedly declined–along with those around the nation–and have inspired hope that programs aimed at young people–and especially young women–are working.

A few take-aways from the article:

  • Investing in issues that impact women and girls works.  For everyone.
  • To be effective, efforts require a unified effort across communities.
  • Investing in messages and work that protects the health and well-being of women and girls does inspire marked behavior change.
  • Efforts to truly impact diverse communities, such as Latinas, where rates are, unfortunately, still rising, requires approaches that view challenges, problems and program design through a culturally appropriate lens.
  • Providing information and access to health care to young women leads to wise decision-making.

In all, a very hopeful picture about the power of investing in women and girls.

But there still remains much work to be done, particularly in our region.  In Montgomery County, teen birth rates crept up this summer.  Alexandria’s teen birthrate increased over the past decade, and experienced only a minimal decline in its teen pregnancy rate.  Rates among Latinas are rising.

Overall, however, a hopeful picture of how investing in programs, messages and people that improve the health and well-being of women and girls does lead to positive change that impacts not only those women and girls, but their families and entire community.

A great message to carry with me as I prepare for Thursday’s Leadership Awards meeting, where a group of volunteers who have been working for the past few months to evaluate and learn more about innovative, effective nonprofits that are impacting the health and safety of our region’s women and girls, will award eight of them with a Leadership Award of up to $10,000.

The news from this article is a great note on which to finish up our efforts this year–and to remember that the decisions we make about how we invest our money, and the organizations and issues that we support, do have a defining impact on the health of our community.

It’s nice to have a voice in work that’s really making a difference.

The Leadership Awards committee is just one of many ways that you can be involved in the work of changing women’s lives through The Women’s Foundation.  Learn more.

Women's philanthropy: Steppin' up to social change, together.

On Wednesday, the day our challenge grant closed more than $25K over our goal, I couldn’t help but notice the serendipity when I saw this headline across my reader: "Women step up in philanthropy."

Don’t they ever.

The article focuses on women’s philanthropy in Utah, but illustrates the general and growing power of women’s philanthropy everywhere.  What is true in Utah is certainly true here, where our Leadership Luncheon just broke a record breaking attendance goal of 1,500 and a fundraising goal of $1 million.

The lesson we learned?  Never doubt the power of women’s philanthropy.

And it’s not just here.

In her piece, the author explains how women’s roles in philanthropy have shifted dramatically, from stamp lickers to the social change agents making the decisions and writing the checks.

The article states: "Women’s philanthropy is a rising trend. You’re seeing women have access to financial resources as never before," said Kathy LeMay, a professional "social change fund-raiser" and president and CEO of Raising Change.  "Always, women have been combining their time, their talent and their treasure to make a difference," she said. "This is the time for women to have the greatest impact for women in history. Hands down."

The article discusses some of the fundamental differences between men in philanthropy and the way women do it.

"More so than men, women tend to become more involved in a cause than simply donating money on a regular basis, LeMay said. They also tend to better leverage their donor dollars by invoking what she calls the "three Cs" of philanthropy: connection, collaboration and community.  Philanthropy is one of the vehicles where women can affect change … it’s a place where a lot of women find their voice," she said.

I couldn’t help but wonder if LeMay had been hanging around these halls when I read that, and taking a glance in at our committee meetings, at our board’s tremendous involvement, at a Leadership Awards deliberation meeting, at our site visits–where women are participating, every day, and lending their voice to our work, to their community.

Finally, the article ends on the note that women must live their values with their money.  "Write checks where your heart lives," she added.  "The possibilities are available to every single woman in that room.  Together we’re stronger. Don’t try to go it alone."

These words sound like a page out of our Leadership Luncheon, where Ralph F. Boyd, Jr., Executive Vice President of Community Relations, Freddie Mac and Chairman of the Freddie Mac Foundation, reminded us of the proverb, "To go fast, go alone.  To go far, go with others."

Or out of African American Women’s Giving Circle member Claudia Thorne’s thoughts in this blog, and in her Washington Post op-ed, on all she has gained from giving together, on the importance of giving with the heart.

Today, this spirit is catching, particularly among women, whether they’re giving their time, their talent or their treasure.  Whether they’re giving $10 or $10,000.   Whether they’re giving in Salt Lake City or Washington, D.C. 

Together, women are looking to give together, to give smarter, to give where they are, in their own backyard, to build better communities by supporting other women.

The Power of Giving Together.  It knows no bounds.

To step up to find out how you can join the powerful wave that is women’s philanthropy in your backyard, click here if you’re in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area

If not, visit the Women’s Funding Network to find a women’s fund or foundation near you.

Leadership Luncheon '07 raises $1 million! We did it!

Well, I just came out of a wrap-up meeting of the Development Committee about our fantastic Leadership Luncheon.  Who would have believed it was possible to raise a million dollars from a luncheon?

Last year we thought we were pretty great to raise $670,000.  A goal of $1 million for 2007? No way!

But WE DID IT.  Amazing!

Last year, we thought we were pretty great to have 1,225 people at the luncheon.  But this year, we had just over 1,500 there (give or take those who showed up with guests unexpectedly and those who didn’t show).

An amazing increase!

The Omni Shoreham ballroom was bursting at the seams.  Not just with people, but with excitement, enthusiasm, good will and dedication to a worthy cause.

Only superlatives can be used to describe every aspect of the luncheon – the video, the program, the WAWIT participants, the panel, all the materials – even the food.

It happened because of the wonderful network of committed board members, staff and Leadership Luncheon Committee members who worked all summer long to make this luncheon so very special and very successful. I had the honor of being the chair of the Leadership Luncheon Committee and am awed by the effort of our 33 members to expand our network thoughtfully, thoroughly and productively.

I think I should quit while I’m ahead.  I can’t imagine a more successful luncheon in the future!

But there will be.  Stay tuned.

We’re brainstorming about it already.

Marion Ballard chaired the 2007 Leadership Luncheon Committee, and has played an instrumental role in every Leadership Luncheon The Women’s Foundation has held.  She is a former board member and a tremendous supporter of The Women’s Foundation.  She truly epitomizes all of the ways that you can give back and be a part of The Women’s Foundation and changing women’s lives.  Learn more about how you can become part of The Power of Giving Together.

The Dalai Lama gets it.

At The Women’s Foundation, we have a phrase for men who support our mission.  We call them guys who get it.

We’re lucky to have many wonderful, supportive men in our camp here in our local area, including Leroy Pingho, Ralph Boyd, Jr. and Frederic L. Ballard, Jr.

This past Sunday’s Washington Post has a wonderful and thoughtful article in the Outlook section written by the Dalai Lama, titled, "My Vision of a Compassionate Future. "

He writes so eloquently about how we, as a global community, can and must bring about a more peaceful world through non-violent, pro-active approaches to social change. He tells us that we need to instill a sense of caring for others, to tap our compassion, and to teach our children to develop their brains and their hearts.

He goes on to write: "To promote greater compassion, we must pay special attention to the role of women. Given that mothers carry the fetus for months within their own bodies, from a biological point of view women in general may possess greater sensitivity of heart and capacity for empathy. My first teacher of love and compassion was my own mother, who provided me with maximum love. I do not mean to reinforce in any way the traditional view that a woman’s place is confined to the home. I believe that the time has come for women to take more active roles in all domains of human society, in an age in which education and the capacities of the mind, not physical strength, define leadership. This could help create a more equitable and compassionate society."

This paragraph nearly jumped off the page for me. The Dalai Lama speaks of something that we at The Women’s Foundation have known for a long time: that the world would be a much better place if women were given equitable opportunities and a chance to reach their full potential.

The Dalai Lama is definitely a guy who gets it.

Jennifer Cortner is president of EFX Media and serves on The Women’s Foundation’s board of directors and as the chair of the communications committee.  Our committees are just one of many ways that you can get involved in our work and making sure the women of our region get a chance to reach their full potential.  There’s a place for everyone at The Women’s Foundation.  Find yours today.

Leadership Luncheon '07: The Power of Giving Together is catching!

People everywhere are joining the powerful wave of philanthropy that is The Women’s Foundation.

Our community was challenged at the 2007 Leadership Luncheon to raise $50,000 by October 24th.  And when we do, every dollar will be matched three times.

For every one dollar invested, The Women’s Foundation will receive $3 more.

You’re doing the math, I can tell.

In the end, if we meet this match, we’ll end up with at least $1 million for the women and girls of our community.

As a result of these matches, which are bringing out The Power of Giving Together, we’ve been amazed by the support we’re receiving–from near and far, small and big.

We’ve received donations from $10 to $1000. 

New supporters of The Women’s Foundation, Erin Currier and Drew Smith, gave a donation because they knew that the small amount they could give would transform into so much more.

And they’re right!

Their $50 contribution will turn into $200 if we meet our match.

Help us get there by tomorrow–October 24th!  Donate now.

Leadership Luncheon '07: A behind the scenes take on transformation.

Putting on a luncheon for 1,500 people isn’t easy.  As the event gets closer and closer, one finds oneself so mired in the millions of important details that you can’t remember anymore what you’re really working for.

You can’t see the forest, in other words, for the trees.  Or, the purpose for the nametags.

It begins, after a while, from the inside, to feel like chaos for the sake of chaos.

And then you’re at the event, and after all the running around and the worrying and the making sure everyone is seated, the video comes on.

And you remember, instantaneously, what it’s all really about.

I remember vividly standing against the wall in the back of the ballroom watching that video for the first time and thinking, this is real, this transformation.  It’s not just a slogan or a logo or a theme.

The change is real.

Watching Laceiy’s story, and then hearing her and Sharan tell their stories to all 1,500 of us, without nary a cracking voice, you could feel it.

That the power of everyone in that room, and everyone who supports The Women’s Foundation and the work of our Grantee Partners, was working.

That it was changing lives, changing families, changing women, changing everything.

When you see a group of women sitting around a construction work site talking about changing their lives, and supporting each other and sticking through the challenges of moving into work that most never even consider as women’s work, you know.

This change is real, and it’s big, and it’s unstoppable.

And that it’s not just about Laceiy or Sharan or the many women who will follow in their footsteps, but that it’s about all of us.

That when we invest in and open new doors and pave new pathways for women and girls anywhere, it impacts women everywhere by removing barriers, changing perceptions and removing limits.

And that’s what I thought about as I stood against the wall at the luncheon, watching the video, and then listening to Laceiy and Sharan tell their stories, is about how it’s easy to get lost in the details and the statistics and the numbers when it comes to investing in social change, in building communities, in contributing to stronger families.

Sometimes, you can lose the forest for the trees, or the story for the statistics. 

Because really, sometimes, what it all comes down to is one opportunity, one chance, one choice.

One pathway to change a life, a family, and a future.

And that’s what I love about The Women’s Foundation.  Is that we do that every day, mulitiplied thousands of times over throughout our region.

We invest in stories of lives changed.

And once a year, we get together to celebrate that investment, that choice, that strategy.  To remember the stories, for the trees.

It rocked.

Ready to invest in women and girls and create more stories of tranformation?  Help us meet our challenge grant, or find another way to get involved in The Power of Giving Together.  There’s a place for everyone at The Women’s Foundation.  Find yours today.

Leadership Luncheon '07: Awesome is the only word that comes to mind.

Thank you so much for letting me know about the two attendees at your Leadership Luncheon who handed off the HOBO bags they’d won to Laceiy and Sharan.  Of course, I am thrilled to learn that Laceiy and Sharan went home with Hobo bags.  They are two incredibly eloquent, graceful, and inspirational women—I feel proud to have been present to hear their stories and to celebrate their triumphs.

Awesome is the only word that comes to mind.

Of course, it was HOBO International’s pleasure to be a sponsor for The Women’s Foundation’s luncheon again this year.  It really was a beautiful function—and what an amazing panel discussion! 

We at HOBO International feel honored to be associated with such an outstanding local organization and feel renewed in our mission to be a part of the solution.

Wendy Pierce is a staff member at HOBO International, which makes handbags by women, for women.  For the last two years, HOBO International has donated handbags to be used as a give-way at The Women’s Foundation’s Leadership Luncheon. 

Do you want to be part of the solution, like HOBO International?  If so, join us.  There is a place for everyone at The Women’s Foundation.  Find yours today.  You can invest, and help us meet our challenge grant and get to $1 million by October 24th.  You can inspire an aspiring local woman or nonprofit.  Or you can innovate through one of our unique donor networks that changes lives through The Power of Giving Together.

Reflections on a transformative Leadership Luncheon!

I find it hard to believe that the big day, our most anticipated event, the 2007 Leadership Luncheon, has come and gone. 

The luncheon followed an invigorating and positively inspirational morning thanks to the Community Briefing with Assistant Chief Groomes, Department Commander Cheryl Pendergast, Camille Cormier, Director of Local Programs and Policy at Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW); and Tamieka Bridgett, a trainee preparing for a career in law enforcement through WOW’s program, the energy of the Luncheon began filling the atmosphere.

As I watched a diverse crowd of hundreds flow into the ballroom and our panelists preparing for their positions, it was a great reminder that there are still women and men out there, fighting the good fight, and believing in the power of giving together. The crowd was filled with families, friends, couples, volunteers, college students, and individuals from all walks of life.

One woman stopped me to remark on the energy, how she was just so excited and couldn’t believe all the energy she felt in the ballroom. From the Mystic Mayhem’s awesome dance moves, to the heartwarming and inspiring video of our Washington Area Women in the Trades (WAWIT) graduates, and the many powerful speeches given, the day was one to be remembered.

As I scanned the expansive ballroom floor filled with roundtables of over 1,500 individuals, transformation was evident in every way, shape, and form. As The Women’s Foundation is transitioning towards more growth in our community, partners, and philanthropic education, our Grantee Partners’ clients are transitioning towards better jobs, better wages, a life replacing despair with hope for them and their children.

As I reflect, "metamorphosis" was an appropriate theme for a year filled of growth and renewed energy!

For me, the luncheon was a time to reflect, educate the community on our work at The Women’s Foundation, emphasize the impact that investing in women and girls has, and celebrate our work and the uniqueness of it (incorporating a gender lens, recognizing and highlighting the importance of women in nontraditional occupations, etc).

I’m thankful for all the participants, attendees, volunteers, board, staff, and the countless others who put their effort, time, and resources into this event to make October 10 a big success. I can’t wait to see next year’s luncheon–it can only get bigger and better!

Become part of our expanding community of people, corporations, nonprofits and community leaders investing in women and girls.  There is a place for everyone at The Women’s Foundation.  Find yours today, and help us get to a record-breaking $1 million by October 24th!