Impact. The word has several definitions and a multitude of synonyms. From collision and contact to the meaning of the print, the meaning varies depending on its context. For the Women’s Fund of Smith County, impact has been at the heart of our mission since the organization was founded in 2008. In this context, I see impact as the power of the elevator, like the book by Melinda Gates, âThe Moment of Lift: How Women’s Empowerment Is Changing the World.
Anyone who has traveled by plane knows the last seconds of waiting (even anxiety) before take off, as you rely on the forces that pull the plane up. We all want to soar. Ms. Gates uses this analogy to ask herself, “How can we invoke a moment of upliftment for human beings – and especially for women?” Because when you elevate women, you elevate humanity.
The Women’s Fund generates momentum by bringing together kindhearted women. Our Mission: Through collective donations, we transform our community by funding programs that enrich the lives of women and children. Our Method: With funds raised each year by our circle of donors, the Women’s Fund provides high-impact grants designed to help nonprofits in the region achieve higher levels of service to women and children. children. Whether you think of these grants as rocket fuel, seed money, or transformational giving, the goal remains the same: impact.
So how do you measure the impact? It is certainly not in dollars and cents. Rather, it’s about assessing and understanding the importance of each grant – what the impact of that funding was in the year it was awarded and beyond. In 2021, I had the honor of chairing the Women’s Fund’s Community Impact Committee. This committee focuses on assessing the short and long term impact of
Fund grants to see if they meet expectations and broadly illustrate the mission of the Women’s Fund.
Over the past few months, community impact committee members have met with 17 nonprofit partners – agencies that have received one or more grants from the Women’s Fund since 2009. Through structured interviews and site visits , we studied the results of the investment grants for women and children. served, the agencies themselves and the community as a whole. In short, we investigated whether a grant creates a ‘lift’ – has it ultimately given hope, produced positive results, and helped women and children take flight?
I am happy to report that our initial conclusions on impact are very positive. Of the 20 grant projects we studied, 50 percent met expectations and 50 percent exceeded expectations. In 70 percent of the cases, the subsidy programs are still active. This number is phenomenal, especially considering that grants from the Women’s Fund primarily fund new or expanded programs, as nonprofits venture to turn possibilities into realities.
The Community Impact Surveys have also served to take the pulse of our community by asking leaders of nonprofits about the challenges currently facing the people they serve and the organizations themselves. As you can well imagine, the effects of COVID-19 are wreaking havoc in the ever-fading global pandemic. From the loss of charitable funding to the loss of staff and volunteers, regional agencies are suffering. So are their clients, as COVID-19 has resulted in job losses, hunger, uncertainty and depression in children and adults. These deep truths are heartbreaking at times. . . but broken hearts open us to understanding and to actions that can make a profound difference.
The work of the Community Impact Committee has just started, with 2022 being another key year to measure the impact of the focus on granting from the Fund for Women. By nurturing close relationships with our nonprofit funding partners, we can listen, learn and respond. We can generate the lift.
As Ms. Gates aptly notes, love is what ultimately uplifts us. It allows everyone (men, women and children around the world) to be connected and everyone to belong. She concludes: âNo one should be left behind. Everyone should be involved. Our call is to uplift women – and when we come together for this cause, we are the elevator.
In this season of thanksgiving, the Women’s Fund of Smith County offers its sincere wishes in honor of all who serve our community. We are a donor circle of nearly 300 women, who collectively deliver high impact grants that benefit women and children. For more information on membership, please call 903-509-1771 or visit www.womensfundsc.org.
EDITOR’S NOTE: âGive Wellâ is a weekly column written by Dawn Franks of Your Philanthropy, Kyle Penney of the East Texas Communities Foundation and representatives of the Women’s Fund of Smith County.
– Marty Wiggins is a past President of the Women’s Fund and provides professional fundraising advice to charities.