Opinion

Important to reach out beyond the Island

Susie Tull and Carrie George
Island Forum

It’s important to serve our local community. The marvelous volunteer and financial commitment that Islanders demonstrate through organizations like PTAs, Youth and Family Services, Boys and Girls Clubs is vital for our community to continue to thrive.

Our broader community also needs our support. As our kids get older, we have chosen to focus much of our volunteer time, energy and resources on the Washington Women’s Foundation (WWF), an organization dedicated to educating, inspiring and increasing the number of women committed to using philanthropy to strengthen community and demonstrate the impact of informed, focused grant making.

WWF is a membership organization of approximately 500 women. Each woman contributes an annual donation that is divided into three parts: 1) individual grant making where the member directs funds to one or more non-profit organizations of her choice, 2) pooled grant making that provides five significant ($50,000-$100,000) grants each year, and 3) education programs and administrative expenses.

The pooled grant-making process is WWF’s cornerstone program. WWF volunteers join the Grants Committee, divided into five workgroups, one in each of WWF’s funding areas: Arts and Culture, Education, Environment, Health and Social Services. Workgroup members research Washington non-profit organizations in their funding areas, looking for grant candidates whose proposals meet at least one of WWF’s funding criteria:

  • Responses to urgent and critical need;

  • Bold new ventures; and/or

  • New approaches to old problems.

    After a rigorous review process, the Grant Committee provides a ballot with two finalists in each area to the entire WWF membership, which then votes to determine the grant recipients.

    In 2007, WWF awarded grants to Seattle Arts & Lectures’ “Writers in the Schools” program, bringing writers into classrooms to promote literacy and creative expression; Seattle MESA (Math, Engineering, and Science Achievement) that helps girls and students of color in disadvantaged high schools to achieve academic success; Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, working to limit toxic run-off into our Sound; the Youth Suicide Prevention Program that helps youth recognize and address symptoms of depression that can lead to suicide; and the Seattle Milk Fund’s childcare funding program for full-time college students.

    In addition to the financial impact of the grants, the process educates WWF members on how to research and evaluate grant proposals and on current issues in Washington state. This theme of skills and issues-based education is echoed by the WWF Education committee, which hosts forums to train members on philanthropic skills (e.g., understanding board governance, getting your children involved in family philanthropy) and on issues in the community (e.g., “The State of the Arts,” which addressed whether Seattle is truly arts-friendly, and how to keep our area culturally vibrant).

    In addition to the educational benefits of membership, WWF also enables women to be a force for change through sound social investing and to get to know women from many walks of life who share core values. Each member is an equal in the organization (one woman, one vote). WWF is a “no guilt” organization that welcomes members who do a little or do a lot, depending on their personal circumstances and interests.

    Our involvement in the Washington Women’s Foundation is very rewarding. We have learned much and found great inspiration working with like-minded women to support our Washington state community. To learn more, visit www.wawomensfoundation.org.

    Susie Tull and Carrie George are both long-time community volunteers. Tull is a transportation consultant and member of the Reporter Editorial Board. George is the former president of the Mercer Island School District Board of Directors.

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