Women & Girls Fund – The Power of Pooled Resources

“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world,” said 1800s poet William Ross Wallace of women. While that statement is no less true today, it is perplexing to learn that according to nationwide statistics, less than six percent of every traditional charitable dollar is given to organizations that target women and children, and less than five percent of all foundation grants are directed to programs for women and girls.

Founders of the Women & Girls Fund wanted to increase that number. Operating under the premise that if the lives of women and girls are improved, the entire community benefits, the Women & Girls Fund provides grants to non-profit organizations for under-funded programs that address significant problems and challenges facing these groups.  These grants are drawn from a permanent endowment that is being built from the pooled resources of donors who want to target their philanthropy at improving the lives of women and girls in Maryland’s mid-shore region.

The Fund started in 2002 as the grassroots effort of a group of women looking for an effective way to address significant local problems. After working with the United Fund and Mid-Shore Community Foundation to learn about the region’s needs, the first donation was received that year and their first grants were awarded in April of 2003.   

As of April 28, 2008, the Fund has awarded $152,516.55 in grant dollars to 44 organizations in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties. Non-profit 501(c)3 status organizations are eligible to submit grant requests. The grants committee, which includes board members and donors, carefully reviews each applications for those that fall within the parameters of the Fund’s mission.

Each year the number of applications has grown. In 2008, the Fund received almost twice as many applications than it had the year before, says Dorothy Whitcomb, member of the board of directors for the Women & Girls Fund. “The need is very real and the vast majority of those were fundable applications,” she says. 

CASA of Caroline and CASA of Queen Anne’s counties were among the 2008 grant recipients. This national not-for-profit agency provides trained advocates for abused, neglected, or abandoned children who have been put under the authority of the court and placed in foster care.

Other beneficiaries included New Beginnings Youth and Family Services, Inc., Dorchester County Family YMCA, Character Counts!, Rebuilding Together, Prince Theatre, Visions American Community Development Corporation, and St. Martin’s Ministries, Inc. to name a few. 

Through the hard work of the board members and many volunteers, resources are collected for the fund through direct appeal campaigns and fundraisers. “We encourage donations of any amount.” says Dorothy. “Our smallest contribution has been $12 and our largest $25,000. We treasure them both and every donation in between.”

One upcoming fundraiser is a speaker series featuring National Public radio correspondent and syndicated columnist Cokie Roberts as well as Paola Gianturco, author of the inspirational book “Women Who Light the Dark,” who will speak on October 7th at Chesapeake College. 

In addition to awarding the grants, each year the Fund honors a community member who has made continuing personal contributions towards understanding and addressing the needs of women and girls. This year, Sister Patricia Gamgort, Founder and Executive Director of Saint Martin’s Ministries received the award.

For more information about the Women & Girls Fund please visit www.womenandgirlsfund.org, or call 410-770-8347.

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