Women helping women: The demand grows
Women helping women: The demand grows
Women’s Fund of Hawaii featured in Pacific Business News!
By Jenna Blakely
General Assignment Reporter, Pacific Business News
June 14, 2013
The Women’s Fund of Hawaii is aiming to expand its donor base as requests for its services grow. The eight-year-old nonprofit, which counts many high-level professional women among its members, raises funds for other local nonprofits, helping grass-roots programs that empower Hawaii’s women and young girls.
It branched off from the Hawaii Community Foundation in 2005 and formed its own board. Women’s Fund research shows that, nationwide, programs serving women and girls receive only 8 percent of all philanthropic dollars. Half of all single mothers in Hawaii live in poverty, the research shows, and young women and girls in the Islands are particularly susceptible to sexual exploitation and trafficking.
Executive Director Melissa Pavlicek said educating the community on those statistics and supporting at-risk women and girls is crucial.
“Obviously there are grants that go to the community, but so few specifically target women and girls,” she said. “We feel there is a strong need.” The Women’s Fund has donated about a half-million dollars to local organizations in the past eight years and aims to award $50,000 in grants annually, with a maximum of $5,000 per grant. It has about 100 regular donors and plans to increase that number.
The fund relies on two major annual fundraisers — a golf tournament and a champagne and tea event. It also has a two-year-old endowment that was seeded with a $100,000 donation.
“We have the ability to use revenues from the endowment for grants, and we will be doing that,” Pavlicek said. “The two events and other small donations are all put toward the grant funding.”
The Women’s Fund has helped organizations such as the Pacific Aviation Museum, which used a $5,000 grant to start a science program for girls. It also inspires start-ups. “There are other community groups that have never formed, but they have this unspoken, hidden desire of what they would like to do and haven’t let it out yet,” Pavlicek said. “I like that our grants can help people take on new projects.”
Hawaii Women in Film-making is one of those startups. It received a $5,000 grant to help launch a summer camp for girls.
“The Women’s Fund of Hawaii helped us create the position for girls to learn about film and film-making,” said Vera Zambonelli, founder and creative director. “We’re trying to create a hui through film.”
She said last year’s pilot program was such a success that she is bringing the summer camp back this year. The program currently is part of the ARTS at Marks Garage, but she wants to make it a standalone nonprofit by the end of the year.
Beth Whitehead, board chair of the Women’s Fund of Hawaii, said the fund is looking for ways to support more organizations.
“There are so many grass-roots organizations that fall through the cracks of traditional funding, so we are able to make grants — confined by fundraising abilities — to fund grass-roots organizations that wouldn’t have gotten funding otherwise from traditional sources,” she said.
As word-of-mouth information about the fund continues to spread, it has seen an increase in grant applications. “Our biggest challenge is funding all of the grant applications we get,” Whitehead said. “We’re still trying to figure out how to get out there and raise funds, just like any nonprofit that faces the challenge of going out there and attracting a donor base.”
Individuals currently account for 75 percent of the donations to the fund, with foundations and corporations supplying the rest. One of the fund’s strategies is to rally support among women business leaders.
It also is targeting men.
“This will be the first year that our annual golf tournament is open to men,” Whitehead said. “So our goal is to bring in the most golfers as we can to raise the most money possible to fund grants.”
Another strategy is to personalize the act of giving, she said.
“Were looking now at telling stories on social media — almost like crowdfunding for grants,” she said. “So, [donors] are not just saying I’d like to donate to the Women’s Fund, but I want to participate in this particular grant.”
Telling stories of programs in need can relate to potential donors on a more personal level, motivating them to make a donation, and utilizing social media provides an easy platform to make online donations.
Simply getting out into the community is still a helpful tool as well, Pavlicek said.
“Awareness is always an issue because the Women’s Fund of Hawaii sounds similar to other organizations, so we do want to establish our identity and have people be aware of us,” she said.
For example, the fund recently joined with Social Wahines at a women’s-only networking event, setting up a booth to educate and network with potential volunteers and donors. Pavlicek plans to do more partnerships, noting that the event helped to spread its mission to some new faces.