Philanthropy 101 – for women
July 20, 2006
Speakers at a conference Monday hope people realize philanthropy isn’t an elite club for the wealthy – that it involves more much more than indiscriminately cutting checks.The Women’s Foundation of Colorado is hosting the event at The Gant from 9 to 11 a.m. Jane Leighty Justis, a trustee and the executive director of the Leighty Foundation, will tell women how they can make the biggest impact on other women and girls with their donations – even if they aren’t millionaires.”You don’t have to have a trust fund to be a philanthropist,” Justis said. The Leighty Foundation directly raises funds for causes like the environment and education, but also promotes philanthropy and volunteerism in communities around the country.The Women’s Foundation specializes in helping women and girls who live below poverty level, said foundation President and CEO Gretchen McComb. The organization gives grants totaling more than $500,000 to other organizations that help women around the state.”We focus on the girls and women in most dire need,” McComb said. Because women still make less money on average than men, women have a harder time making ends meet when social services like healthcare get more expensive. There is still a wage gap even locally, McComb said. In Pitkin County women make $33,000 annually compared to $40,000 for men, according to U.S. Census figures. In Garfield County, there is more of a disparity – women make an average of $27,000 annually compared to $37,000 for men.Education is essential to helping women rise above poverty. There are relatively few adult women without a high school diploma in Pitkin County – only 174 women – but that number rises to 1,619 in Garfield County.”If these girls don’t get out of high school (with a diploma), their chances of being economically self-sufficient is pretty slim,” McComb said.McComb and Justis hope that Monday’s will help women see that there are other women like them who need help.”One of the things women are passionate about is helping other women,” McComb said.Justis explained that philanthropy is often mistaken to just mean dollar signs. But it’s a sense of giving to the community, which someone can do with any amount of volunteer time or money. “It’s the sense of giving back,” she said. “The more money people have, the more important it is to have that ethic.”Justis encouraged women to give to causes they are passionate about. Plus, people should look into organizations to find out what that group’s mission is and how it achieves it. Knowing how your money is spent is key in any investment, and philanthropy is no different.Volunteering with those organizations can also help donors learn more about the organization first-hand. And if the organization is a good one, the best way to help is by telling other potential donors about it.”You want to make sure you’re investing in an organization that will give you a good return on your investment,” Justis said. “You’ve got a much better sense if you’re on the inside of an organization.”Greg Schreier’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.