Reflections on the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative

Editor’s Note: Fight For Children was a part of the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative for four years before leaving in 2014. Skip McKoy, Fight for Children’s Director of Programmatic Initiatives, shares his reflections in this guest blog post.

Fight For Children, SkipAt the end of June, Fight For Children will transition off of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative to focus our attention on Joe’s Champs, our early childhood, school-based education program. We developed Joe’s Champs to provide principals, assistant principals, and teachers with professional development and mentorship opportunities focused specifically on students ages 3-4, a period sometimes overlooked by educators but vitally important to a child’s academic and social development. Without the extensive discussions with funders of the early childhood space—including those we met through the Collaborative—we would not be as confident in the success of Joe’s Champs as we are today.

When Fight For Children joined the Collaborative in 2010, we were primarily a grant-making organization.  The Collaborative provided us with an opportunity to engage with and learn from other local organizations interested in supporting early childhood development. As Fight For Children shifts from a grant-maker to an organization that designs and runs its own programs, the Collaborative remains a valuable resource for us, other local funders, and early childhood education leaders.

As I reflect back on our four years as a Collaborative member, I am grateful for the many opportunities and lessons learned. Here are a few that stand out to me:

  1. On the Collaborative, Fight For Children has had the opportunity to join forces with other organizations to leverage our impact on local children. For example, in 2013, as a member of the Collaborative we contributed to the support of ten early childhood education projects, in addition to the projects we support on our own.
  2. Fight For Children has a small staff that goes into the community throughout the year to research potential organizations with which to partner. Being part of the Collaborative exposed us to projects otherwise unfamiliar to us, given our limited resources.
  3. As a non-profit focused on children within DC City limits, Fight For Children staff do not readily have opportunities to learn about innovative approaches occurring elsewhere in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia region. The Collaborative has facilitated our experiences with early childhood education and development projects outside of DC, which we were then able to reference during our development of Joe’s Champs.

Any of these reasons alone would be a powerful incentive for an early childhood funder to join the Collaborative. But, there is another value-add to being part of the Collaborative: the group of funders* represented at the table are all well-respected and thoughtful. They represent a cross-section of foundations and corporations dedicated to improving early childhood care and education in this region. Having different organizations bring to light the multiple sections of the proverbial early childhood education elephant provides a better sense of the big picture, allowing each of us to be more thoughtful change agents and resulting in an even greater, systemic impact.

*The Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative currently includes: The Boeing Company, Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, PNC Foundation, Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, and Weissberg Foundation.

Funders Work Together to Influence Local Early Childhood System

By Stacey Collins, PNC Foundation and Karen FitzGerald, The Meyer Foundation

sponsorship-fpo-2Six years ago, Washington Area Women’s Foundation launched the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative, an effort to bring together local and national funders to increase the quality and capacity of, and access to, early care and education in the Washington region.  We – Stacey Collins of PNC, and Karen FitzGerald of The Meyer Foundation – are pleased to serve as the Collaborative’s current co-chairs.

Many of us on the Collaborative have focused on the value of investing in early childhood for many years. However, early childhood issues have recently taken center stage in national conversations.  As a group of funders investing locally, we know that high-quality early care and education can help close the “readiness gap” for low-income children entering kindergarten.

We invest together through the Collaborative to influence systems-level change.  We seek to influence the quality and capacity of early care and education options, and to ensure that low-income families in our region have access to these options.  This year, our grants include local advocacy investments to preserve and increase public support for early care and education, and investments in the professional development of early care and education providers (to increase the quality and capacity of programs in our region, and to support the career advancement and earnings of the predominantly female workforce).

Beyond our grantmaking, how does working as a collaborative influence our individual approaches as funders and investors?

From my perspective, at PNC…

The collective voice is greater than our individual voices, even on the same topic. From feedback and advocacy to funding, the impact is greater when we work together.

As a collaborative effort, by design, we keep early childhood at the center of the conversation. We focus our investments around programs that create the biggest impact. It is not just about making more dollars available for quality childcare in the region, although that is important. It’s also about getting to know what influences, how trends and policies shift the way early childhood education (ECE) happens, and which organizations are on the cutting edge of driving those changes. Often, that means defining quality and really understanding what the programs we fund are doing to change the trajectory of ECE in the region.

I personally have learned so much from being a part of the Collaborative. It’s a group of smart and passionate advocates. Our discussions about program effectiveness, and how to assess that when no universal quality standard pre-K assessment tool exists, are a great way to learn from others. It’s an opportunity to delve into the “why” behind each other’s focus areas.

From my perspective, at The Meyer Foundation…

Pooling resources and focusing on the entire ECE system – rather than on individual child development centers – helps Meyer have a bigger impact in ECE than we would have through our individual grantmaking.  We fund some ECE work in our education program area, but we don’t focus on it.

The Collaborative gives us the chance to learn more about ECE from funders who know more about the issue than we do. We especially value the opportunity to work alongside corporate and family foundations, who share our commitment to the issue and whose different perspectives make for rich discussions and grant deliberations.

The Collaborative has elevated for us the issue of ECE quality so that it is now an important priority of our grantmaking in this area.

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Click here to learn more about the Collaborative.

The Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative currently includes: The Boeing Company, Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, Fight for Children, Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, PNC Foundation, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, and Weissberg Foundation.

Women’s History Month Q&A – March 10, 2014

Q: Who is the woman who’s listed in the Guinness Book of Records for being the first woman to become a millionaire by her own achievements?

A: Madame C.J. Walker was a hair care entrepreneur whose hair and beauty products for African American women made her the first woman to become a self-made millionaire.  She used her wealth to become a philanthropist, donating to the NAACP, the YMCA, schools, orphanages and retirement homes.  She made the largest contribution to save the Anacostia home of Frederick Douglass.

Want to play along? Join us on Facebook for the daily Women’s History Month Q&A for your chance to win a Women’s Foundation t-shirt. Questions go on our Facebook page each weekday at 9 am.

Sharon Williams Luncheon Remarks

Sharon-SpeakingOn October 23, Sharon Williams spoke at The Women’s Foundation’s 2013 Leadership Luncheon. The following are her remarks. After speaking, Sharon received a Visionary Award for her commitment to improving the lives of women and their families. Please click here to learn more about the Visionary Awards and click here to see a video featuring Sharon and her story.

Good afternoon everyone- It is kind of strange seeing myself up there on the big screen.  As I listen to myself talk – it really does remind me of how much my life has changed. You saw a little of my story in the video, and I’d like to share a bit more with you now.

Upwards of 10 years ago, my life was very different. I spent a lot time asking God, “Why me?”

I was in high school – 10th grade to be exact when I had my first child. I’m not sure if I was afraid – but I can tell you that I was more determined than ever to be and make a difference for my child. Part of that difference was getting married – which I did at 17.  By the time I was 21 years old, I had two children, my own successful daycare business, three vehicles and I purchased my first home – with a white picket fence. I decided that having a daycare was the best thing because I wanted to spend time with my children and everything that I did was for them.

That all sounds nice, but my personal situation was not good, but as I look back on it now I still feel like I made the right decisions especially with the cards that I had been dealt.

And then – life happened.   I got divorced. I closed my business – moved out of my home into an apartment– shared custody of my children and I felt cheated. I began to ask God, “Why me? I’ve done my best – I’ve tried so hard to be a better person and now look!”

I was getting frustrated with life itself and something within me stirred up like a fire and once again – I wanted to make this situation better for my children.

I began taking classes at Prince George’s Community College.   I learned about the Next Step Training and Education Program and I wanted to try it out.

This was one of the best decisions that I could have made.  The Next Step program not only assisted me with tuition but I was also given additional supportive services and tools to aid in my future success.  One of the most rewarding on the most rewarding gift that I took away from the program is a lifelong mentor in Cecelia Knox, the program’s director.

Once I was accepted into the nursing program I was ecstatic!  You would have thought that I hit the Powerball ten times over – and I don’t even play the lottery!

I want you to understand how huge it was for me to go back to school. College was never a goal for me. So you can imagine how shocked I was not only to be back in school… not only to be passing all of my classes… but getting a 4.0 GPA!

I must say to you all – and especially Cecelia – I am so grateful that the Next Step program was in place to assist me when life happened. What do I mean by “life happening?” What I mean is this: When circumstances place you in situations beyond your immediate control. No two situations are the same, and I know everyone in this room can relate to that.

Next Step put me back in control. You see life wasn’t just happening to me but it was I that decided what life would be.

For me, that meant becoming a registered nurse at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center. It meant an opportunity to provide my children with more stability and security.  It meant taking advantage of opportunities to travel the world – and I have.

I received a full scholarship to Notre Dame of MD University to complete my Bachelor’s Degree.  I traveled to Australia and South Africa – learning about their health care systems and volunteering with TB clinics and HIV orphanages.  I visited Nelson Mandela’s prison cell – I walked in his garden – I strolled in the limestone quarry – just like he did.

But what made a most lasting effect on me was my visit to a nursing home – because that’s where I met Mrs. Christian.  She was a proud elderly South African woman who grew up in the brutality of apartheid.

I sat at her feet as she told our group about seeing the horrors of families being ripped apart and how she stood on the front line with the activists in fight to end to apartheid. Although her comments were towards the group as a whole – she looked into my eyes as she spoke – and I found myself once again asking God, “Why me?”

“I have fought for you to be free,” she said. “And you are under obligation to take advantage of the education available to you and use it to better yourself, your family and your community!”

And she told me – me – that she was proud of me and in that moment my priorities in life changed and my thinking changed and I made a conscious effort to see greatness in others.

I began to believe within myself that if given the opportunity – people living in less than ideal conditions and having less than ideal situations could and would do great things – and  honestly my friends – that is the belief that NSTEP had in me.

As a Registered Nurse I have helped a lot of people old and young alike and I have found babies to be the most interesting species of them all.

Some of them come out kicking and screaming and ready to run for the world and others are born not so active.  They need extra attention – maybe some oxygen and a sternal rub in order to get them to breathe – to get their arms flailing and their legs kicking so they too can be ready to run for the world.

It’s that way for adults sometimes too –  Some are fortunate enough to have had a background and upbringing that allowed them to take off running – while Others need that sternal rub so to speak to help us breath again and give us the strength to stand up and take off for the world as it were –  And when we do – it’s a beautiful thing.

It’s been about two years now since my trip to South Africa and I have worked hard to help others. I know that I have encouraged and inspired others to go back to school.   I often have the privilege of returning to Prince George’s Community College to speaking with women in orientation for the Next Step program and I listen to their stories – I listen to their hopes and dreams without judgment – because I remember being in their seat.

Today, I work roughly 10 miles from where I grew up. Knowing my history – knowing where I come from and where I am now has caused me to ask at times:  Am I one in a million? A needle in a haystack – No.   There are many success stories emerging from the streets of S.E. Washington, DC just like mine.  How? Because we have been given an opportunity and found someone to believe in us more than we believed in ourselves and for me – that was Cecelia Knox and Ms. Myrtle Christian.

Today, my conversations with God are very different. I say a humbled thank you for my 22-year-old son who is my pride and joy – for my 20-year-old daughter who completed high school at 15 years old and is now is studying to become a child psychologist… and for my 11-year-old daughter who is smart and so talented and plays the violin exceptionally well!

Today, I say thank you to God for the courage to keep my head up despite adversity and for allowing me to become an example for those who have the potential to succeed although they may not even realize it – yet.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to be with you fine people today and have you hear my story.  I am grateful that The Women’s Foundation invests in places like Prince George’s Community College – a place that has assisted me in my present and future successes – and hopefully I have been able to show you that what appears to be impossible is possible.

Today, I place you all under obligation to take advantage of what is before you and join me in making our community better than it was yesterday.

Thank you.

VIDEO: Families are Transformed When We Stand With Women

We are so excited to announce the release of our new video from Stone Soup Films!  With your help, we are using strategic investments to create economic security for women and girls in the Washington region.

Great change is possible – when we make smart investments in our community.  Please share this inspiring new video with your networks!

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Turning 15: Celebrating Our Supporters

What do you remember about turning 15? What I remember most about that incredible year was learning to drive. Getting a learner’s permit and being able to hit the road (with a licensed adult) was my first really big step toward independence and, if my mother’s terrified face over in the passenger’s seat was any indication, I was starting out enthusiastically but needed a little guidance. Her hand on the wheel helped steer me away from the mailboxes and signs that lined Roswell Road. Her slightly strained voice reminded me that I needed to switch lanes after checking my blind spot (and turning just my head, not the whole minivan). She taught me how to read a map to make sure that I was going in the right direction. Eventually, she kept her hands off the wheel and trusted me to change lanes without saying “car! Car! CAR!” to me with increasing urgency.

In January we announced that Washington Area Women’s Foundation turns 15 this year. Our anniversary comes on the heels of some big transformations (strategic planning, a new mission, and a new logo) and right in the middle of a growth spurt (the Campaign to Prosperity). Since 1998, there have been several donors whose guidance, generosity and support have helped the Foundation grow into the catalyst for change it is today.

Marion Ballard began making donations to The Women’s Foundation even before the organization was incorporated. She holds the record for longest consecutive giving history (17 years!). Anne Morrison, Anne Mosle and Jim Whitney have been giving for 16 years each. And Nancy Folger has been giving for 15 years. Donors who have supported the Foundation consecutively for the past 13-14 years are: Maya Ajmera, Coralie Bryant, Susan L. Butler, Donna Callejon, Lisa Claudy Fleischman, Julia Horman and Marjorie Pray.

More than a decade ago, these donors made a commitment to a small organization with a big goal: to transform our community by investing in women and girls. That commitment has been reflected in their continued philanthropy, but it goes beyond that. They have helped us grow by enthusiastically sharing our work with others – in fact, many of you probably heard about The Women’s Foundation through one of them. They have helped us map out our future. They trust the staff of experts at the Foundation to make changes when the environment and community call for them. And they remain well-informed and connected throughout the region, helping us keep an eye on the blind spots.

Thank you to the donors who got on the road with us 15 years ago and to those who have joined the ride since.

Want to share a memory about one of our early donors? Leave a comment below or email us at communications@wawf.org.

Celebrating All of Our Naana's on International Women's Day

JB_GrandmotherI was born and raised in Ghana in a society where, traditionally, a woman’s role in the community was limited to motherhood. Only a few had the audacity to transcend social expectations and affect the lives of other women around them. My grandmother was one of them.

I saw my grandmother lead and inspire. I saw a great teacher who devoted her life to transforming the lives of young women in her community. As the leader of the women’s group at her local church, Naana, as everyone affectionately called her, became the mother many people wished they had. She counseled women of all ages with various life issues – some coming from low-income households, single-mothers, and teenage mothers. For them, she offered hope. As a young girl, I could hardly understand what she talked about, but I grew up with a constant reminder of the smile that wiped the tears off the women’s cheeks and carefully tucked it onto my memory.

My grandmother took care of her family and worked as a volunteer pastor. And though she had no formal training, most people considered her a teacher and a counselor. I became convinced that hers was the most important profession; no matter how informal the setting, she was still very effective. My grandmother’s counseling sessions did not end in her makeshift office at the church premises. Women in our neighborhood sat next to her for hours in my family’s living room. She prayed with those who needed prayer, she shared her Christian faith and offered hope. Some women needed to learn vocations like cooking, sewing and handmade crafts. My Naana taught them all of that and so much more.

As a young girl, nothing made a bigger impression on me than my grandmother’s ability to connect with other women from different ethnic and tribal backgrounds, social and academic statuses, and with religious differences. When I was old enough to understand the wisdom in her words, I found out how the best teaching moments are in sharing one’s life lessons and the wisdom gained from those experiences. Also, Naana not only shared lessons learned, through her connections she helped some of the women gain apprenticeships and work with local traders who found their skills very valuable, thereby helping them gain economic security. For them, this teacher didn’t only impart knowledge to them; Naana had given them a lifelong desire for hard work and dignity. Most importantly, she had given them hope.

Since joining Washington Area Women’s Foundation, I’ve learned that there are many Naanas right here in our community. They teach every day. They inspire in every moment. They challenge us all to commit ourselves to our vocations – any vocation – and give it our best effort. They give us the audacity to believe in our own futures, and to contribute to the community around us. They validate the Ghanaian proverb, “Obi nnim a, obi kyere,” which means: “If one does not know, another man teaches him.”

My grandmother’s work and impact were all the more impressive because she was redefining her role in our community and getting other women to think about theirs, too. My mother, for instance, opened her own business, a story that I shared last year on International Women’s Day. And as it turns out, Naana was ahead of her time. Now, when I go back to visit Ghana, I’m amazed by all of the progress. The women I grew up with are lawyers and engineers in addition to having families – or choosing not to. We are Naana’s legacy; the result of her investments in our community.

Mother Teresa once shared her thoughts about seemingly insignificant actions: “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” My Naana understood her value even as a “drop”. The Women’s Foundation celebrates the value of women like my grandmother Naana. We celebrate the commitment that women all over the world make to positively impact someone else’s life in spite of their own challenges.

Julliet Boye is the development associate at The Women’s Foundation.

Top Blog Posts of 2012

An election, volunteering, a new logo, historic events, and opportunities to learn more about the needs and lives of women in our community. 2012 was a very busy year at Washington Area Women’s Foundation and much of it was captured on our blog. Here are our favorite blog posts of the year:

# 10: A Lot Left Unsaid at Presidential Debate Donna Wiedeman, executive assistant to the president of the Foundation, took the presidential candidates to task after the second debate when they failed to talk about Americans living in poverty and safety nets for low-income women and children.

#9: A New Look for The Women’s Foundation In this post, Foundation President Nicky Goren shared her excitement about unveiling our new logo and tagline, “Stand Together. So She Can Stand on Her Own.”

#8: The Women’s Foundation Supporters Volunteer on the MLK Day of Service Nearly 100 volunteers joined us as we helped A Wider Circle (a Foundation Grantee Partner) prepare donated items for families in poverty on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.

#7: International Women’s Day – Celebrating the Impact of Women on the World Our Development Associate, Juliet Boye, shared how her mother’s entrepreneurial spirit in Ghana inspires Juliet’s work at the Foundation.

#6: Low-Income Women & Their Families Can’t Afford a Gender Wage Gap In this post, Nicky shared why working to “close the gender wage gap is part of ensuring that every woman and girl has the opportunity to reach her full potential and help her family and community thrive.”

#5: Food Stamp Challenge Foundation staff and other community members took part in the Food Stamp Challenge, spending a week learning how difficult it is to live on a food stamp budget – $30 per week. They reflected on the challenge in a series of blog posts.

#4: Closing the Achievement Gap for Students Begins Before Kindergarten After being extremely disappointed to learn about new educational goals for students based on race, I wrote to encourage educators to work on closing the achievement gap early on, so students and school districts won’t have to play catch-up later on.

#3: When the Clock is Ticking, Support Networks Become Lifelines for Working Parents Vice President Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat wrote about support networks that make all the difference to moms trying to juggle work and family.

#2: Witness to Olympic History Nicky recalled fulfilling her lifelong dream of attending the Olympics and how exciting it was to witness women’s history at the 2012 Olympics in London.

#1: Walk in Their Shoes How does safe, reliable transportation impact low-income women and their families? Walk in the shoes of a single mom who showed us her shockingly long commute in this short video.

A History of Women's Philanthropy

In the spirit of the theme of this year’s Women’s History Month, “Our History is Our Strength,” I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the history of women’s philanthropy specifically, since it is a particularly important part of our organization’s history.

The relationship between women and philanthropy has evolved significantly over the past 250 years.  Starting in the 1800s, women began aligning their philanthropy with their volunteering – a model that persists today. Early on, many women chose to donate their time to aiding soldiers and their families during times of war and disasters. Providing assistance to widows and children – especially the poor – began to grow in popularity in the 19th Century and wealthy women were devoted volunteers and donors to these efforts. Typically, however, women’s giving was usually tied to their husbands’ or family’s wealth and was more about “charity” and meeting the needs of the “less fortunate” than addressing the sources of those inequities.

The 1960s brought a significant amount of change and activism around civil rights and anti-war ideologies, changing the face of engagement, volunteering and activism in profound ways. In the 1970s, a number of organizations developed for and by women emerged; organizations that also started to challenge the status quo. At the same time, women were moving into the workforce and sought higher education as a means to better their economic and intellectual standing. Their power to gather together and promote women’s issues and interests increased and their desire to fund their own movements was a powerful motivator.  As the late, great Audre Lorde said:  “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”  Being in control of their own resources was a critical piece of this model for change.

Women’s Philanthropy Today

Today, women own one-third of America’s private businesses and control more than 51 percent of the wealth in the United States. Among the nation’s top wealth holders, 43 percent are women, according to the Treasury Department.

No longer having to rely on spousal or familial resources, women with increased access to personal resources stepped into philanthropy with gusto. A recent study of women’s philanthropy found that women give 3.5 percent of their wealth compared to 1.8 percent for men and that single women are more likely to give to charity than single men. Women also tend to be the decision-makers in their family philanthropy (both individually and for family foundations).  Given this, it is probably not surprising that both married men and married women are more likely to donate than single men.

The Six Cs

But not only are women giving more… they bring a new giving paradigm to their philanthropy. Sondra Shaw-Hardy and Martha Taylor – gurus of women’s giving – developed the six “C”s as a way to summarize women’s motivations for giving. These characteristics of women’s giving have been fundamental to the way that women give as individual donors, and in the development and operation of women’s funds.

#1: Create: Women want to create new solutions to problems. They like to be entrepreneurial with their philanthropy.

#2: Change: Women want to use their money to change the community. They want their giving to make a difference. They’re less interested in providing unrestricted support to preserve the status quo of an organization or institution.

#3: Connect: Women prefer to see the human face their gift affects. They want to build a partnership with people connected with the project they fund.

#4: Commit: Women commit to organizations and institutions whose vision they share.  They often give to an organization for which they have volunteered.

#5: Collaborate: Women prefer to collaborate with others as part of a larger effort.  They seek to avoid duplication, competition and waste.

#6: Celebrate: Women want to celebrate their accomplishments, have fun together, and enjoy the deeper meaning and satisfaction of their philanthropy.

Sondra Shaw-Hardy says that this paradigm of women’s giving has had significant results that she sums up in three additional C’s:

Control: Women are taking control of their lives, their finances and their philanthropy.

Confidence: They have gained the confidence to become philanthropic leaders.

Courage: Women have the courage to challenge the old way of doing things and take risks with their giving to bring about change.

Ours is a rich history of giving, and one that has overcome many obstacles along the way, yet, what makes history useful, and not just an exercise in nostalgia, is how we use what we have learned to shape our future.

Today, we are in greater need of philanthropy than ever and most of us feel competing priorities about what needs our attention.  The truth is, we need many more of our resources –  our time, talent and especially our treasure –  to meet the needs abroad, and right here in our own backyard.  And like so many arenas, in philanthropy we are not fully leveraging the power and solutions that women bring to the table.  History has taught us not to underestimate the talent and resources that women can bring to the table.

Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals

It is estimated that $41* trillion in wealth will be transferred to Baby Boomers over the next forty-five years.  Women will stand to inherit 70 percent of this wealth. That translates to $28.7 TRILLION.  Think about what we could do if we could harness even a fraction of that wealth and put it in the hands of critical change-agents in our communities!

My colleague Donna wrote a blog post where she shared the recent return on investment from out Stepping Stones Initiative (our $270,000 investment yielded returns of $5.9 million!) and challenged us to see what we could do with the Macy’s million dollar makeover.  Taking that challenge one step further, I think about our foremothers who dared to have B.H.A.Gs – big, hairy, audacious goals – and I want us to set our sights even higher! $41 trillion…people!  Just imagine!

Our history is indeed our strength.  It has taught us so much and prepared us for this moment.  How we step into it is up to all of us.  Let’s do our foremothers proud!

*In the interest of transparency, this was the number quoted before the recession, I am not sure what the impact of the economic downturn has been on this estimate.

Nicole Cozier is the Philanthropic Education Officer at Washington Area Women’s Foundation.