Marking its fifth year of supporting local women and children, the Women’s Giving Network of Wake County awarded $140,000 in grants to five local nonprofits, glanced back at its accomplishments and began gearing up for the future.
The latest round of grants brings to $564,000 the total the Women’s Giving Network of Wake County has awarded since its inception to help feed, educate, protect, house and nurture local women and children.
The 165 members of the network, which is a program of the North Carolina Community Foundation, each pledge to donate $1,200 a year for five years.
Of that annual total, $1,000 goes into a grantmaking pool for local nonprofits and the remaining $200 covers administrative fees and member education.
“The goal is to make grants of size and significance in order to make an impact,” says Pam Dowdy, chair of the network’s grants committee. “We have been, are and will be a means to results.”
This year, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle received $55,000 for its Lunch Wagon, which delivers free meals to homeless people, with a special emphasis on children.
Communities in Schools received $25,000 to provide one-on-one help for disadvantaged students through its Making the CASE program.
A grant of $25,000 will help the Carying Place bolster the self-sufficiency and life-skills training and mentoring it provides through its Working Homeless Mothers and Children Project.
The Child’s Advocate, which provides legal representation for children involved in domestic violence, domestic-dispute or other high-conflict cases, received a $25,000 operating grant.
And for the first time, the Women’s Giving Network awarded a grant of less than $25,000.
The fledgling Green Chair Project received a $10,000 “seed grant” to further its mission of collecting and distributing used furniture to benefit families forced to relocate due to natural disasters, job loss or homelessness.
Lowering that threshold for support was an important move, says Liza Roberts, chair of the network, because it allows the group to provide critical funds for smaller or start-up nonprofits.
“We realized we were missing an important segment,” she says of the change, which likely will be permanent. “If the point is to connect for change, that can be done with smaller grants.”
With five grant cycles completed, the Women’s Giving Network paused to look at the impact its funding has had on a few past recipients.
With the help of a $25,000 grant in 2009, the Fostering Bright Futures program at Wake Tech hired mentors to work one-on-one with youth transitioning out of the foster-care system and launched life-skills workshops to ease that path.
Now each youth in the program has a mentor and participates in workshops, and four students are on track to graduate from college within the next year.
A grant of $58,000 in 2008 allowed InterAct of Wake County to launch an integrated crisis phone line that can provide victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and incest with “immediate response and access to life-saving services,” says Leigh Duque, executive director of InterAct.
Since receiving the grant, calls to the crisis line have surged to 15,000 a year from 8,000, she says, almost one in 10 of those coming from victims under age 24.
Read and Feed was able to double the number of children from working-poor families that it reaches with its recreational vehicle loaded with food, books and volunteers.
Using a $45,000 grant it received from the network last year, the nonprofit purchased a second RV and now serves 250 kids a week.
“This program links communities together,” Jan Elmo, the group’s founder and president, told network members. “It’s not us and them anymore. What you as a network have done is create a community. You can make a difference, and you have.”
Ready to embark on the next five years, Roberts, the network chair, has begun to marshal the resources for what she sees as growing need in Wake County.
With the first cohort of 64 network members completing their initial five-year commitment, Roberts and a few other members are making personal visits to discuss renewal.
So far, about nine in 10 members say they’ll be on board for the next five years, Roberts says.
This member “stewardship” effort likely will become more formalized now that a new group of members will be completing their commitment each year.
As she heads into her second and final year as chair, Roberts says, her goals are clear.
“I want to retain as many renewers as possible and attract as many new members as possible so we can have an impact on the community,” she says.