Corinna Goff is living proof that when women
thrive, their families and communities thrive.
But a friend told her about a nonprofit that helped women with job training, so she signed up for a six-week course. That gave her the confidence to enroll in technical college where she studied two more years before embarking on a successful career in technical support.
Goff, 45, says the Washington Women’s Employment and Education program in Tacoma gave her the personal and professional skills she needed to lift herself out of poverty and into a stable lifestyle. The program also prevented what could have become a generational cycle of dependence on government assistance.
“I couldn’t even look people in the eye,” Goff recalls of those “dark” days when she lacked self-confidence. “I talked down in my hands.”
Today, she owns her own home in Tacoma and is a technical support worker for Comcast where she has been employed for the last 12 years. “The program helped me break the cycle of just working for minimum wage jobs,” Goff says. “It showed me how to climb back up the ladder.”
her spare time, she is a key speaker and volunteer for WWEE,
which provides job-readiness and computer skills training, along
assistance to low-income Pierce and King County residents. Her
grown daughter, a pharmaceutical technician, and her mother also
with her. “I might not have a lot of money to give but I
can give my time,” she says.
Founded in 1983, WFA raises and distributes money to marginalized and under-funded groups that promote progressive change for women, such as the job-training program that helped Goff.
The Women’s Employment and Education program is just one of more than 130 nonprofits in the Puget Sound region that have benefited from WFA, receiving more than $5 million over the past 26 years.
The funding helps these groups raise their profiles and articulate their needs to the greater funding community.
Over the years, Women’s Funding Alliance has emerged as one of the nation’s most successful women’s funds, distributing nearly $600,000 a year. In addition to WWEE, it has helped fund shelters for abused women; women on welfare; and abortion, immigrant and legal rights groups.
“We believe that when women and girls thrive,
our entire community benefits,” Moss
The multi-year donations from Seattle philanthropists Nancy Nordhoff, Rebecca Norlander and Donna and Matt Bellew are the largest WFA has received in its history. “At a time when it’s so easy to hold back out of fear and uncertainty, they have taken a bold step forward to give more, not less, during this economic downturn,” Moss wrote in a recent WFA newsletter.
WFA donations were part of a global campaign to get women to donate $1 million each to women’s funds that help women and girls. The Women Moving Millions campaign, spearheaded three years ago by the San-Francisco-based Women’s Funding Network, raised $180 million from more than 90 donors to help women and girls, exceeding its original goal of $150 million.
“If you help women you help families and you help communities,” says Nordhoff, a 77-year-old Whidbey Island resident who was the first to pledge $1 million to WFA. “I look at a gift as an investment in the community.”
A Seattle native with three children and seven grandchildren, Nordhoff says, “If you can’t stabilize your life, what happens to you?”
Nordhoff and WFA will be honored this month for their philanthropic efforts by the Washington chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. WFA is the recipient of the Outstanding Philanthropic Organization award for 2009 and Nordhoff was named the Outstanding Philanthropist of 2009. The awards will be presented Nov. 13 during a luncheon at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center.
Nordhoff’s million-dollar donation helped
inspire Norlander, a Seattle software executive,
and the Bellews, longtime supporters of WFA, to significantly
increase their level of funding.
Bellew, 42, said she was struck by a recent WFA study that ranked Washington state 42nd in gender equity and showed that single female heads of households in King County are seven times more likely to live in poverty than married couples, and three and a half times more likely to live in poverty than single male heads of households. She and her husband wanted their money to go toward changing those statistics.
The 2007 study went on to show that despite gains in business, education and politics, many women in this region still face daunting challenges economically. Minority women, especially immigrants and refugees, were described as particularly vulnerable in the five areas covered by the report: economic security, education, health, personal safety and leadership.
The report’s research team reviewed data from dozens of federal, state and local sources and convened focus groups to determine the status of women and girls in King, Snohomish, Pierce and Whatcom counties.
It showed that women make about 75 cents for every dollar earned by men in the region, with minority women earning even less. Nearly 180,000 women and girls in the region live in poverty. The poverty rate is slightly higher than for men, but the gap for single women widens when compared with households headed by married couples or single men.
On a national level, those statistics are even worse today. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports that the national gender wage gap widened in 2008, going from 77.8 cents on the dollar in 2007 to 77.1 cents.
And the U.S. Census recently released a report showing that growing numbers of women and children fell into poverty, saw their incomes decline and lost health care coverage (more than one in seven women).
Moss of WFA says that because the $1 million donors are spreading their gifts out between three and 10 years, it is a significant boost to WFA’s future. “This helps us get a jump start on our five-year vision as well as helps us with our long-term sustainability goals.”
With a mission to bring justice, health and opportunity to thousands of women and girls, WFA this year embarked on an ambitious agenda toward more intentional targeted granting, improved long-term financial stability and increased visibility in the community.
WFA will be showcasing that agenda at its first annual fundraising breakfast Nov. 5 at the Sky Bridge in the Washington State Convention & Trade Center. There is no entry fee for the “Amplify! Raise the Volume” breakfast, but guests are encouraged to make a gift that is meaningful to them. More information may be obtained on the Web site: www.wfalliance.org.
Since January, WFA has distributed nearly a quarter of a million dollars to organizations in the Puget Sound area, almost two-thirds of which will be going directly to efforts that promote economic opportunity for women.
WFA also is meeting with
other funders and policymakers to build
facing women and
Many of them
are using the WFA
study to inform their work.
Moss has been working to improve the lives of women and families for more than two decades. Upon moving to Seattle from Michigan, where she studied psychology and sociology, she was determined to get to the root of problems and not just put Band-Aids on them.
“Women are more vulnerable than ever right now,” Moss says, adding “and families are being affected like they’ve never been affected before.”
Reflecting on the many women and families she’s worked with over the years, Moss recalls a low-income single mother of an autistic son who had a love affair with cars and wanted to open a used car lot. She was gutsy and tenacious but facing a mountain of barriers. When Moss met her, she was directing a women’s microenterprise organization designed to help women become self-sufficient.
Several years after she left that organization she returned for a 15-year anniversary celebration. The woman she had met years earlier greeted her, grinning from ear to ear. “She hadn’t opened one business, she told me; she had opened three: a used car lot, a towing company, and an auto body repair shop.”
It is women like her and Goff of Tacoma that are at the heart of WFA. “These women are the backbone of this economy,” Moss says. “And yet they are incredibly vulnerable.”
WFA provides a variety of grants to organizations for programs and initiatives that advance economic opportunity for women and girls in the Puget Sound region. It also gives to programs that are working to improve women and girls’ education, health, safety and leadership. 2009 WFA grants were given to the following organizations for specific programs:
WFA also partners with employers through workplace giving campaigns to raise funds for unrestricted operating grants. In 2009 recipients of these grants included many of the organizations listed above, as well as:
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