Women's Giving Circle announces first grants to budget-clipped nonprofits

More difficulties seen for many that have had to cut staff and programs

November 02, 2003|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Jean Moon didn't waste time on niceties in her welcoming remarks at a "Tea Party" held by the Women's Giving Circle, a philanthropic organization of 226 Howard County women.

"My job is pretty straightforward - to ask you for time and money," Moon told the approximately 125 members and potential donors who assembled last week at Ten Oaks Ballroom in Clarksville.

Established in February last year by Moon, Yolanda Bruno and Linda Odum, the Women's Giving Circle seeks to build a community of female philanthropists committed to address the needs of women and girls in Howard County.

$247,000 now in fund

Its mission is to create a permanent endowment fund - now at $247,000 - and to award grants to organizations that share their concerns.

The founders and the first 13 members gave $5,000 each to launch the group, and they also put together a database of women who served in community leadership positions - on a board, as a volunteer, on the job, at school.

From that list of more than 600, about 200 became members.

A sense of urgency

At last week's gathering, the Women's Giving Circle announced its first round of grants to local nonprofits that have been hit by state budget cuts. The money will be used to pay for services the group views as meeting "urgent community needs."

The awards include $5,000 in scholarships to Howard Community College so women of low and moderate incomes can take courses needed to enter the work force; $3,000 to Grassroots homeless shelter to pay clients' transportation to work, job interviews and other appointments; and $2,000 to the Domestic Violence Center for transportation to counseling and meetings with police and lawyers.

Joanne Saltzberg, the Women's Giving Circle vice chair for finance, presented research conducted by the group that predicted more difficult times for the agencies, many of which have had to cut staff and programs.

`The invisibility factor'

In addition to facing economic woes, Howard County human service agencies must contend with "the invisibility factor," Saltzberg said.

"We live in a place where often those in chronic need and crisis are hidden behind a screen of manicured grass and seasonal plantings," she said. "And that same invisibility at times envelops the nonprofit agencies that serve them."

Based on research by the Women's Giving Circle, Grassroots - the county's homeless shelter - received more than 600 requests for emergency shelter in July and August that it could not accommodate. Families and single women accounted for nearly 40 percent of the requests.

In June, a Head Start program operated by the Community Action Council reduced its child care services after the loss of $500,000 in state funds, according to the group's research.

Commitments sought

Moon used those statistics to strengthen her request of the women to make multiyear commitments rather than single donations. She encouraged new members to join the organization with a pledge of $500, paid in $100 installments over five years.

"We don't want them to just write checks," Moon said a day after the meeting. "We want them to really invest in the Women's Giving Circle and see this as something they're doing in perpetuity."

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