Former stockbroker leads board of women’s foundation

 By Ret Boney

Twenty years ago, while Katie Grover was a stockbroker working in Manhattan, her sister introduced her to a foundation that promotes women and girls.

Today, Grover chairs the board of the Ms. Foundation for Women, is integral to its $35 million endowment campaign and is planning to spread the story of the group and the women and girls it funds.

“The foundation is a 30-year old organization that aims to move society closer to the one we all imagine,” Grover says.  “We’re aiming for a true democracy, where each woman and girl is valued.”

The foundation, based in New York City, was started in 1972 to collect and redistribute the profits of Ms. Magazine, started by feminist Gloria Steinem and others.

No longer formally tied to the magazine, the foundation works to advance women and girls through advocacy, public education, training and grants in the areas of health and safety, economic security and leadership.

The foundation has assets of about $36.5 million, about 40 employees and makes grants totaling about $3.5 million each year in addition to the $500,000 it spends on training efforts.

In the mid ‘80s, Grover’s sister, Carol King, wanted to invest $5,000 in a women’s group and, after canvassing the country, found that the Ms. Foundation was the only one with an endowment, Grover says.

After making the investment, the sisters began working with the foundation, starting its Women’s Business Advisory Council, which Grover says attracted several hundred women to the group.

With undergraduate degrees in history and psychology, Grover had planned to pursue a master’s degree in social work, but needing to earn money to finance graduate school, she briefly worked as a teaching intern at a preschool, then went to Wall Street.

                        Katie Grover

Position: Chair, board of directors, Ms. Foundation for Women, New York

Education: B.A., history, psychology, Wellesley College; master’s, social work, New York University

Born: 1957, Upper Montclair, N.J.

Family: Husband, Michael Campbell; son and daughter, both 12; two grown stepsons

Hobbies: Travel, reading

Favorite destination: Italy or China

Just read: “An English Lady in Chinese Turkestan,” by Lady Macartney

Currently reading: “Our Last Best Shot: Guiding Our Children Through Early Adolescence,” by Laura Sessions Stepp

Book to recommend: “The Trouble with Islam,” by Irshad Manji

During her eight years with Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette in New York City, she was the first woman inducted into the firm’s Chairman’s Club for high earners, she says, and was the fifth-highest earner one year.

But success alone wasn’t enough.

“I didn’t find it all that rewarding,” says Grover.  “I really wanted to work with people in different ways.  I wanted to work more directly with people on issues that are important to them.”

That led her to New York University to pursue her long-held goal of earning a master’s degree in social work, which she completed two weeks before her twins, a boy and a girl, were born in 1993.

And in the 12 years since, she has been indulging her desire to help others through philanthropic interests, including supporting an orphanage in Tibet, serving on the board of the Centers for Women at Wellesley College, her alma mater, and increasing her involvement in the Ms. Foundation.

In 2001, she joined the board of directors, as did her husband, Michael Campbell, forming the board’s first husband-and-wife team, and together they made a $1 million leadership gift to the group’s Ms. 35 Endowment Campaign in 2003.

“There was a need and a feeling that, given the political shift of sands, we needed to have the confidence that we could always have the resources to do the work we needed to do,” says Grover of the foundation’s campaign.

She says the decision to make such a large personal gift was difficult because neither she nor her husband had come from wealthy families, but the desire was there and they are paying their pledge over several years.

“I believe in long-term investment,” she says, noting her experience as a stockbroker.  “In a way, the foundation has invested in me in a long-term way and I’ve invested in them in a long-term way.”

The foundation has raised more than half of the $35 million and hopes to complete the campaign by 2008, in time for its 35th anniversary, a goal Grover has dedicated herself to as board chair.

“My experience having been a broker has inadvertently provided me with a certain comfort in talking to people about money,” she says.  “I bring that to the fundraising effort.”

Sara Gould, president and CEO of the foundation, says the board’s choice of Grover as chair was a good one.

“She can talk to anyone about anything,” Gould says.  “She brings both her financial skills from her time on Wall Street and her relational skills.  And Katie completely gets us.”

As chair, Grover plans to tell the story of the foundation and the women and girls who have inspired her, many of whom the group has recognized with its Gloria Awards, named after Gloria Steinem and honoring women who foster grassroots change and social activism.

“Every one of those stories blows you away and it’s hard not to be inspired by them and think if only there could be more money to throw at these problems,” she says.

“We forget in our nice homes that there are people so far removed from access to services that might be available to them,” she says. “There are so many pockets of idiosyncratic situations where women and groups of women are totally out of the loop.”

Grover is also hoping to harness the passion of the foundation’s supporters, perhaps inspiring in them the same evolution of commitment to the organization that she experienced.

“I’d like to develop other ways to use people who volunteer and offer us help,” she says.  “Writing a check is most helpful.  But because people are inspired by the work, there are people coming to use asking what can we do.  You don’t want to lose out on that time and talent.”

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