Women's Fund of Portage County
c/o Community Foundation of Central Wisconsin
1501 Clark St Stevens Point, WI 54481
Established in 1997, the Women's Fund of Portage County is administered by the Community Foundation of Central Wisconsin. It is a unique collaboration of three area foundations - the Community Foundation, St. Michael's Foundation, and the Stevens Point Area YMCA Foundation - all of whom are committed to supporting programs that create opportunities for women and children through responsive philanthropy and community involvement.
Early History of the Women's Fund of Portage County
How We Began
In 1996, as Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Central Wisconsin, Ann Shannon attended a workshop where she heard a presentation about developing a Woman’s Fund. Excited about the idea, she sought out two partners she felt could help establish a Women’s Fund for our Community. She approached Phyllis Devlin, who was then Director of St. Michael’s Foundation, as a result of St. Michael’s interest in healthcare issues facing women and children. Mary Pat (Linton) Kleven, Development Coordinator for the Stevens Point Area YMCA Foundation was approached because of the number of children the YMCA serves, especially in the area of childcare. Ann believed the strengths of the Women’s Fund would include the permanence of the endowment, as well as the collaboration of the three organizations and founding donors.
An initial gathering of the Women’s Fund was held in February of 1997 with 72 people attending. The Executive Director of the Women’s Fund for Madison, WI provided insight about how their fund was established and organized. A number of attendees volunteered to form a planning committee to create a Women’s Fund for Portage County. This core of women volunteers evolved into the initial Women’s Fund Steering Committee led by Kathy Davies. In November of 1997, Sister Lois Bush of Ministry Health Care provided inspiration to 87 Founders Dinner attendees. The event launched the campaign to create the Women’s Fund of Portage County. At that time, a kickoff gift of $10,000 was received to start the endowment fund. A goal of $100,000 was set for the Women’s Fund endowment, and by June of 1999, the goal was met - six months earlier than expected. Fifty-five Founding members donated $500 or more to the endowment and were given a custom designed pin created specifically for the Women’s Fund by Brenda Gingles.
Each of the three founding organizations (the Community Foundation, St. Michael’s Foundation and Stevens Point YMCA Foundation) agreed to be equal partners in the creation of the Women’s Fund of Portage County. For the first three years of the fund, the partners agreed to share expenses, provide clerical/administrative/leadership support and not receive any allocation from the Fund. After the three year period, providing the endowment was established, the three organizations hoped the fund would be self-sufficient both financially and administratively through volunteers.
In addition, guidelines were established for the three organizations to each receive 1/3 of the spendable income from the endowment (based on allocations worksheet) to be used for their programs that directly adhere to the mission of the Women’s Fund of Portage County. Each year the three organizations are to submit in writing to the Women’s Fund Steering Committee their plans for their portion of the allocation. Additionally, guidelines were established to ensure net proceeds from Women’s Fund-sponsored programs and events were added to the Community Foundation’s portion of the endowment allocation and to be distributed during the Foundation’s Women’s Fund allocations process.
The Community Foundation of Portage County, having no programs of their own, annually allocates their portion back to the Women’s fund allocations. St. Michael’s Foundation and the Stevens Point Area YMCA foundation seek programs within their organizations that meet the mission of the Women’s Fund. Their portions are placed in pass-through accounts at their respective Foundations.
Income raised at special events are not placed into the endowment, but are disbursed during the allocation process at the discretion of the Steering Committee.
To celebrate our ten-year anniversary, Women’s Fund set a goal to grow the endowment to $300,000. Once again this goal was met. Over 40 people contributed $500 or more from January 2006 through January 2008 to become “Legacy Leaders.” A custom designed necklace by Brenda Gingles was awarded to each Legacy Leader.
To celebrate our fifteenth anniversary, Women’s Fund set another goal to grow the endowment to $500,000. That goal was surpassed by 72+ “Sparks” who contributed $1500+ over a three-year period and countless who gave at different levels.
Why does our community need the Women's Fund?
The trend to establish women's funds began in the early 1980's. These targeted funds grew from the increasing recognition of obstacles that face women and children: poverty, employment discrimination, inadequate health care, insufficient child care, teen pregnancy, and violence both inside and outside the home. Locally, organizations and agencies are seeing increased needs for special programs and services.
Women control more than 50% of the wealth in the United States, yet only about 6% of foundation dollars go to fund programs that specifically help women and girls, where needs are greatest. Women and children make up 70% of the low-income population.
Despite the fact that 60% of Wisconsin women are in the labor force - fifth highest in the nation - it falls to 43rd in the nation when rating the number of women in managerial or professional roles, where incomes are higher. We have the opportunity to turn the scales here in Portage County, where 77% of women are in the labor force.
The first fundraising goal of $100,000 was achieved in 1999. Women's Fund grants continue to help hundreds of women and children, and through our history we have granted over $500,000 to 55 different organizations.
Thanks to the foresight of strong Portage County women and men, the Women's Fund is becoming a catalyst for change.