The Art League: One hour of media assistance has had a long-term impact on our work.

This spring, The Art League was fortunate enough to receive media assistance from The Hatcher Group thanks to The Women’s Foundation’s commitment to technical assistance and "beyond the check" support to its Grantee Partners.  Though our session with The Hatcher Group only lasted one hour, the impact has been far longer reaching.

The media assistance they provided and the hard work The Hatcher Group did on follow-up led to a story in The Washington Post on May 31st on our Space of Her Own girls’ mentoring program

But that wasn’t just an article–it’s had a direct impact on our mentor recruitment and fundraising efforts. 

We have been actively recruiting mentors across the past few months, and we recently held our first mentor recruitment meeting. Of the 22 potential mentors who attended, four said they first learned of the program through the Post article, and another three said that reading the article added to their interest in serving as a mentor.

We shared the article with The Art League’s constituents by putting a link to it on our blog and Facebook page, where it received many hits.  Mentors also posted the article on their personal Facebook profiles and e-mailed it to family and friends. While we could not quantify this, we know that there was a huge distribution of the article link online.

Additionally, I am using the article in upcoming grant applications.

Finally, we were very excited to be contacted by the Scripps Networks, the media company comprising several lifestyle TV networks, including HGTV (The article subtitle, "HGTV-Style Surprise Caps Girls’ Year With Alexandria Program" was quite an attention grabber!).  Thanks to the Post article, Scripps Networks learned of SOHO and approached co-manager Linda Odell about funding opportunities.  We have now submitted a proposal for funding for the Old Town Alexandria program, and Scripps is also interested in opportunities to fund new arms of the program, including one on the West End of Alexandria. 

Needless to say, we were just thrilled to be contacted by Scripps! 

As you can see, the article–and being part of The Women’s Foundation’s community–has certainly had an impact! 

And we have plans to continue using it as well. We are incorporating it into our updated SOHO display in the Torpedo Factory Art Center. 

We are also redesigning The Art League’s Web site, and the link to the article will be included on the new SOHO page there.

The Washington Post article has been a phenomenal tool to help spread awareness of the SOHO program and bring in financial and volunteer support for this program.  We believe it will also help to spread awareness to help start other SOHO programs in the Washington, D.C. area and beyond, enabling us to extend our reach and impact even further.

We are so grateful to Washington Area Women’s Foundation for providing us the opportunity to work with The Hatcher Group and make this happen.  The assistance we recieved, and the article that ensured, will have an impact on our SOHO girls, mentors, volunteers, and The Art League’s work for a long time to come!

Kate Gelatt is The Art League’s Director of DevelopmentThe Art League is a Grantee Partner of The Women’s Foundation as of 2008, when they received a grant from the Rainmakers Giving Circle for their Space of Her Own program.

Calvary Women's Services: When you're serious about making a change.

Irene, a woman who lives at Calvary Women’s Shelter, recently said, “Calvary’s where you go when you’re serious about making a change.”

Irene credits her own new direction in life to the support she has received at Calvary. “Now, I do what I have to do. I just work on changing from the inside out.”

The J. Jill Compassion Fund was created to help women like Irene.  Each year it awards grants to organizations that help low-income and homeless women become self-sufficient. Calvary Women’s Services was selected as one of 28 organizations across the country to receive a $10,000 grant from the Compassion Fund. This grant helps us continue to provide homeless women in Washington, D.C. with “a safe, caring place for tonight; support, hope and change for tomorrow.”

Each year, we support 150 women as they journey from homelessness to self-sufficiency. Many of the women in our programs have experienced both drug addiction and mental health problems.  Many are survivors of domestic violence.

And all of them have known what it’s like to be without a safe, stable place to live.

Our programs work with women as individuals to empower them to take control of their own lives—helping them not only find permanent housing, but also to address some of the reasons they became homeless. Because our programs are small, our staff can provide personalized support to each woman as she works to become self-sufficient.

Each year, 60 percent of the women who come to Calvary move into their own homes. Many others take positive steps to prepare for independent living.

Earlier this year, The Women’s Foundation recognized Calvary’s work with a Leadership Award in recognition of our work with low-income women and their families.  In addition, they have been providing support for our communications and marketing efforts as part of their technical assistance "beyond the check."     

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.

We're celebrating $1.1 million in grantmaking this year!

As school lets out for the summer, there are many proud moments to celebrate, whether it’s a graduation milestone, a decent report card or the beginning of something new.

Here at The Women’s Foundation, we’re celebrating meeting an ambitious goal: maintaining our grantmaking as we close out the fiscal year!  With our most recent approval of grants, we hit our goal of granting $1.1 million to nonprofits working to improve the lives of women and girls in our region.

Our Stepping Stones grants support critical work in the areas of financial education, job training and early care and education, all of which provide the essential tools and support needed to assist low-income women and their families during these tough economic times.

Organizations like Community Tax Aid, Doorways for Women and Families, and Manna, Inc. will continue their work with low-income, women-headed families by providing them with the financial education and tax prep assistance needed to start them on a path of economic success.

SOME and Year Up are providing the job training that is essential to putting women on a career pathway.

Food stamps are an important work support and play a critical role in moving a women and her family out of poverty.  DC Hunger Solutions will continue its advocacy work to ensure that eligible women and their children are receiving food stamps.

Another key work support is access to quality child care. Montgomery College Foundation, Prince George’s Child Resource Center and WETA will work to improve the quality of early care and education.

Now more than ever, nonprofit organizations face a myriad of challenges and navigating complex systems can be overwhelming. The Human Services Coalition of Prince George’s County will work to improve public policies so they enhance, rather than hinder, the effectiveness of the work nonprofits do on behalf of low-income, women-headed families in Prince George’s County.

Through our Open Door Capacity Fund, we’re funding capacity building work that aims to shore up the long-term sustainability of organizations. This work is essential to ensuring that these organizations have the necessary resources to address key organizational and operational improvements, while maintaining the much-needed services they provide to our region’s at-risk women and girls.

Please take a moment to review our most recent grants and take pride knowing that together we’re making a difference in the lives of women and girls in our community.

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat is the Vice President, Programs at The Women’s Foundation.

Wash Post: Rainmakers Grantee Partner does room makeovers for girls in Alexandria!

Things like this make me just love my job.

A few weeks ago, staff from The Hatcher Group, who help out with The Women’s Foundation’s public relations, came in to do hourly one-on-one sessions with select Grantee Partners that we thought would benefit from some training and technical assistance in media relations. 

This is all part of The Women’s Foundation’s approach to "beyond the check" grantmaking, wherein we not only provide grants to help our partners conduct their work, but also support them in doing that work more effectively and efficiently.

We started this particular capacity building effort last year at The Hatcher Group’s suggestion and it was a great success, with a number of the meetings leading to significant media coverage, such as that for Fair Fund around their work combatting human trafficking.

This year, they’ve worked their magic again, and yesterday, new Rainmakers Grantee Partner, The Art League–and their "Space of Her Own" program–were featured in a Washington Post story.

According to the story, Space of her Own was created in 2003 when the Alexandria Court Service Unit and the Art League started it "with the goal of helping low-income girls who were identified by their school as at-risk, including many who had a relative incarcerated. The hope was that adding to the girls’ support systems would help keep them out of the juvenile justice system. This year, 12 fifth-graders on the east end of Alexandria participated in the program, and the group aims to expand to the west side of the city next year."

The program culminates every year in an "Extreme Home Makeover-esque" event in which the girls’ mentors help makeover their bedrooms. 

But the changes from the program go well beyond the aesthetic.  As the article continues, "Ta’Janae, 12, who was working on her room next door with mentor Samantha Sirzyk, described attending a tea party and going ice skating for the first time. She spoke in a whisper but is much less shy after going through the program, said her sister Diamond, 13. "She broke out of her shell," she said."

Leading me to remember Phyllis’ post when the Rainmakers first decided to invest in The Art League, that it’s important to invest in the arts, even when resources are tight

As Phyllis said, "The programs our giving circles have chosen to support use the arts as a means to help our community’s young women to build self-esteem, academic skills, and an expanded sense of their place in their community and the world.  Opportunities like these are all-too-often lost in communities and families where resources are limited and must be directed to more basic needs like food, shelter and clothing.  So, at a time when attention is focused on where to cut back so many programs and opportunities, I’m proud to see our giving circle members taking the lead in recognizing the need for youth in our area to imagine and create a future based on all of their unique talents and potential."


Now, go check out that story to learn more about Space of Her Own and to see the makeover pics!

Lisa Kays is The Women’s Foundation’s Director of Communications. 

Fair Fund: Leadership Award meant far more than $15,000!

The following is an excerpt from the speech Caroline Tower-Morris gave as a representative of Fair Fund, to congratulate the newest Leadership Awardees and welcome them to The Women’s Foundation’s community.

In 2007, Fair Fund was a Leadership Award recipient, and winner of the on-line vote.  I am proud to be here this evening representing FAIR Fund, as well as honored to be able to pass the torch to the new class of award recipients, including Polaris Project, winner of the 2009 on-line vote.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Washington Area Women’s Foundation on behalf of FAIR Fund for everything, and we look forward to a continuing fruitful partnership.

Over the past year, I discovered how truly fortunate FAIR Fund was to have received the 2007 Leadership Award and to have won the online vote. The Leadership Award and online vote meant more to us than $15,000, which, of course, was also extremely helpful.

On a deeper level, the Leadership Award helped to position FAIR Fund’s presence in the women’s and girl’s advocacy and service community.  Prior to the award, FAIR Fund had been working inside D.C. schools and youth centers to reach out to and assist teens, in particular girls, who were at high risk toward sexual violence and even commercial sexual exploitation, but this award helped us to deepen our level of commitment and service.

When my Executive Director, Andrea Powell, told me that up to 70 percent of teens in classes reported knowing another teen involved in some form of commercial sex, I was truly shocked and realized that the need to provide comprehensive community support and outreach was greater than possibly imagined.

With the support and community connectionsThe Women’s Foundation offered to FAIR Fund last year, we were able to reach out to a broader D.C. community.

For example, we were offered a chance to work with The Hatcher Group on our media strategy, resulting in multiple press coverage opportunities, including the Washington Post and

The Women’s Foundation believed in FAIR Fund as we sought to educate the community and build support for young women and men trapped by pimps and traffickers, who often trick their victims by pretending to be a boyfriend or friend, then demand that they have sex with others to keep that relationship, and often even just to keep their own lives.

These young women and men deserve to be heard, and The Women’s Foundation helped strengthen FAIR Fund’s voice.

Starting last year at this very Leadership Awards ceremony, FAIR Fund began to form new partnerships with other Leadership Award recipients in order to deepen our community connections to other women’s programs. We formed special relationships with agencies that are now our partners is assisting exploited and neglected girls. Together, we are addressing the myriad of challenges that small nonprofits face as colleagues.  We are also there to help facilitate outreach in new communities in D.C. and provide assistance to identified exploited girls.

This past fall, the support from The Women’s Foundation continued to strengthen FAIR Fund’s role in the D.C. women’s and girl’s advocacy community when we partnered at our first annual Youth Ally Awards and Pathways event to raise D.C. community awareness of the plight of commercially sexually exploited teens.  During that evening in November, The Women’s Foundation supported FAIR Fund as we shared findings from a two-year federally funded study of 60 teens in D.C. and Boston who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation. Many of our colleagues from The Women’s Foundations were there, as were many of our own partners in the community, including Polaris Project–a Leadership Awardee this year and winner of the online vote!

The resources the award offered to FAIR Fund over the course of the year have helped give a small organization such as ours a leg up in many areas. In this uncertain economic climate, giving to others does not, or cannot, always take precedence, and The Women’s Foundation through their award and numerous priceless resources, has insured that the plight of many women and girls in Washington, DC does not go unnoticed.

FAIR Fund plans to continue the work for which The Women’s Foundation has honored us, and we are inspired to strive for even higher goals.

FAIR Fund is proud to stand alongside The Women’s Foundation today as we recognize the 2009 Leadership Awardees and the winner of the public online vote, Polaris Project.

FAIR Fund and the Polaris Project are strong partners in building a D.C. that is safer for young women and girls. 

Recently, FAIR Fund and Polaris Project staff worked together to rescue a young woman who was a victim of human trafficking.  As our two agencies worked tirelessly through the night, it reinforced the idea that no one agency can do everything.  However, this one night and the following days of assisting this young woman proved that together we were able to help her escape her abuser and begin to access services and shelter, and finally to re-build her life.

Caroline Tower-Morris is co-founder and chair of the board of directors of Fair Fund, a 2007 Leadership Awardee of The Women’s Foundation.  This post is an excerpt of the speech she gave on April 7, 2009, at the ceremony to honor the 2009 Leadership Awardees and to welcome them to The Women’s Foundation’s community.

Shift in Open Door Capacity Fund signals focus on sustainability.

You’ve seen the headlines. You’ve watched the stock market drop.  You’re well aware that the country is in a recession and our economy is the worst it’s been since the Great Depression.

Additionally, late last year, analysts predicted that more than 100,000 nonprofits nationwide could close over the next two years.  Many have asked: What does this mean for our region’s nonprofits.

The Women’s Foundation is asking: What does it mean for our Grantee Partners?

The Women’s Foundation has spent considerable time thinking about that question and asking ourselves what role we could play in helping our Grantee Partners remain sustainable over the course of this downturn. 

First, we looked internally and confronted our own long-term sustainability.  Remaining 100 percent committed to maintaining our grantmaking this year, we made several difficult decisions. 

In December, our President Phyllis Caldwell announced the first of these decisions—postponing an office expansion, saying, “This is a time when strategy, smart investing and sacrifice are going to be required of foundations, just as they are of individuals, to ensure that the impact of our giving is as meaningful as possible.”

Further sacrifice came in January, when The Women’s Foundation made the difficult decision to eliminate two staff positions

At the same time, we meticulously examined operating expenses and made further strategic cuts, including reexamining the costs incurred as a result of meeting space and food.  Lastly, cost-sharing mechanisms for employee health benefits were instituted.

Taken together, we believe these decisions will allow us to weather this economic storm and ensure our long-term sustainability.

To that end, now more than ever, we remain focused on our mission to support our region’s nonprofits as they work to change the lives of women and girls.

Many of the organizations we support are small, or just starting to establish themselves.  They have lean staffs and do their programmatic work on a shoestring budget.  Few have the time or resources to step back from the day-to-day grind and think creatively and strategically about what they need to do to shore up their long-term sustainability. 

Our region has demonstrated tremendous leadership in addressing the plight of nonprofits by providing a host of educational, hands-on tools to help “weather the storm.”

The Women’s Foundation is pleased to announce one more tool in this arsenal: a funding opportunity that will provide our Grantee Partners the time and the resources to undertake sustainability planning. 

Today, we released a request for proposals (RFP) through our Open Door Capacity Fund.  This RFP, open to the majority of our Grantee Partners, seeks to fund sustainability planning and activities and is designed to encourage our Grantee Partners to think outside of the box and ask themselves: How do we make it through a recession and poise ourselves for recovery?

It is our hope that not only will this focus on sustainability help our Grantee Partners to continue to do the critical work they’re doing for our region’s women and girls, but that it may also serve as a model to other funders throughout our region and the nation, and that together, we’ll be able to help turn this challenging time into an opportunity to make the nonprofit sector–and the work it does on behalf of our communities–stronger and more effective than ever.

What are you doing differently to ensure your sustainability?

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat is The Women’s Foundation’s Vice President, Programs.

First round on grantmaking committee highlights rigor, hard work that goes into investing wisely.

I always knew the Women’s Foundation’s grantmaking process was rigorous, but it wasn’t until I joined the Open Door Capacity Fund Committee that learned why it is so successful in identifying the most deserving organizations and in holding each of them accountable for the greatest possible impact in their community.

My first round on the Open Door Capacity Fund Committee was this past spring, and I’ve been reflecting on it lately since we’re about to head into another round in a few weeks–what will be my second as a committee member. 

The committee makes relatively small grants to existing Grantee Partners for capacity building.  Because the applicants have already been vetted by The Women’s Foundation, I figured the process would be somewhat relaxed.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Each organization that applied for a grant was asked to provide detailed information about the history and operation of the organization, its governance, financials and the project for which the money would be used.  Each member of the committee was then assigned to do a detailed evaluation of the information provided and present that analysis at a committee meeting in which all members assessed and questioned the organization, the information provided and the merit of the project proposed.

Next, site visits were set up and two members of the Open Door Committee met with members of senior management at the applicant organization’s headquarters to see the operation first-hand and discuss the committee’s findings, any reservations and questions.  Detailed site visit evaluations were then completed and the committee mets one last time to make final decisions on the grants.

It was so inspiring to me how hard this committee works to ensure that each donor dollar is devoted to the worthiest, most vibrant organizations and the projects that would make the greatest difference.

Cathy Isaacson is a member of The Women’s Foundation’s board of directors and serves on the Open Door Capacity Fund Committee.  She is also a member of Washington 100.

The Open Door Capacity Fund is now accepting proposals from eligible Grantee Partners.

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

See where we're investing more than half a million dollars!

The Women’s Foundation is proud to announce that the board of directors has recently approved grants totaling $645,500 to be invested in the Washington metropolitan area.  This brings our 2008 grantmaking total to more than $1.1 million.

See where and how we’re investing.

Our grants are made with gifts from people throughout our community who—through The Power of Giving Together—make their charitable investments go further by pooling their dollars to make grants that have a significant impact on local nonprofits that are changing the lives of women and girls.

At The Women’s Foundation, we give more, by giving together.

Join in The Power of Giving Together!

Grantee Partner reflects on the value of technical assistance.

I’ve been working with Washington Area Women’s Foundation for a number of years in my role as director of development and volunteer services at one of their Grantee Partner organizations, Alternative House

As I prepare to leave this position and take on a new one with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, I couldn’t help but reflect on what the partnership with The Women’s Foundation has meant for the development of Alternative House as an organization, and for my professional development as well, over the years. 

I have really enjoyed working with The Women’s Foundation.  I have benefited from some very valuable Grantee Partner workshops, got to attend the Leadership Luncheon last year (which was very powerful), and wrote and received an Open Door Capacity Fund grant. 

The Women’s Foundation is a wonderful resource for nonprofits like us.  I am grateful for all that they have done. 

One of the workshops I attended was on communications, specifically communicating with the media.  One of the presenters was a former reporter who now runs a communications consulting company.  She helped us see into the mind of the reporter and the tactics they use to get the information they need on deadline, and gave us tips for responding to reporters so we can ensure our facts are right and we maintain our credibility.

A few weeks ago, a staff member at The Women’s Foundation reviewed our corporate statement.  The suggestions were invaluable.  We have since redone the statement, presented it to our board last week and received good feedback from them. 

The help from The Women’s Foundation really made a tremendous difference for us!

Karen Horowitz was formerly the director of development and volunteer services at Alternative House, a Grantee Partner of The Women’s Foundation.  Currently, she is the development officer for the Virginia chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.