The Women's Fund
● Published by Wendy Sipple
Photo by Dante Fontana
The Women’s Fund El Dorado is a non-profit organization with a twist – donors choose exactly where their money goes. “It is very unique,”
Executive Director Bill Roby says. “The women all vote on where the money goes. It’s rare for donors to give input after their donations.”
Once a year, the approximately 270 members meet to vote on where the money raised over the past year goes, funding such organizations as the Boys and Girls Club, the Food Bank of El Dorado County, the Center for Violence-Free Relationships, and The Upper Room (a local food bank for the homeless). Despite its name, the organization doesn’t discriminate in either its membership or those whom it benefits. “Anyone can be a member,” Roby says. “We have nine men, and a number of business owners joined as a business.”
The Fund was the brainchild of three women who had tossed around the concept for some time. Madeleine Tammi, Stephanie Cresse and Katy Peek made their dream a reality two-and-a-half years ago when they officially founded the fund. The Fund is designed to benefit everyone on the Western Slope of El Dorado County, from Echo Summit down. In 2008, $23,000 in grants were awarded and the number rose to $52,000 last year, and Peek said this year’s grants will be even greater despite the poor economy.
Money is raised in what Roby calls a traditional giving circle. A percentage of members’ donations goes into the organization’s endowment, which currently sits at $78,000, while the rest flows directly to the community. The endowment is never touched, and the interest it earns complements the money brought in through donations. Annually, these donations have a specific focus, and this year’s is basic needs.
“There’s an expanding population seeking the basic needs of food, shelter, medical supplies and clothing,” Roby says. “The Women’s Fund of El Dorado is positioned at a perfect time to help the community meet those needs.” Every dollar donated by the organization is what Roby refers to as an “educated dollar.” In order to help members make sure thaye are directly assisting those in need, the Fund brings in experts to report on what the community’s needs are. On April 28, the organization will host Kelli Corrigan, author of The Middle Place, at the Union Mine High School Theater. For more information, go to eldoradocf.org and click on the “Women’s Fund El Dorado” link.
Though the organization boasts close to 300 members, each has a story and a reason for joining. “I am somebody who believes in sharing what we have,” says member Vera Nicholas. “What appealed to me about the Women’s Fund is that by pooling our money we can really make a powerful donation. It really makes a difference – they can fund a whole program from what we can do together,” continues Nicholas.
For Peek, seeing the organization grow from a single idea held by three women, has been a heartwarming experience. “I have been very encouraged by women’s enthusiasm to get to know about philanthropy and how it can benefit our own local community,” shares Peek.
For more information about the Women’s Fund El Dorado, visit eldoradocf.org.