Monday, April 30, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Washington Women's Foundation | Getting more women into the ranks of givers

Washington Women's Foundation

Assets: $3.9 million in grant-making and endowment funds

Contributions: $900,000 in 2006

Major beneficiaries in 2006: The Vera Project, Team Read, EarthCorps, Pike Place Market Foundation, Washington Women's Employment and Education

Twelve years ago, Colleen Willoughby noticed two contradictory facts in her work raising money for community causes: Women, as a group, had more money than ever. Yet women's contributions to charitable causes weren't on the rise.

"Women weren't asked to be philanthropists," she said.

With a handful of friends, she formed the Washington Women's Foundation to encourage more women to give and help them figure out how best to do so.

In its first year, the foundation drew 116 members and gave its first grant of $100,000 to Mothers Against Violence in America.

The foundation now has 460 members and gives away about $900,000 a year — about half in large, pooled grants, and half in smaller ones.

Members each contribute $2,300 a year for at least five years. One thousand dollars goes to the pooled fund, and members vote on how to distribute that money in five grants of $50,000 to $100,000 to nonprofit organizations in the arts, education, the environment, health, and social services.

Each member gives an additional $1,000 to one to three causes of her own choosing. The remaining $300 goes for administration.

The group has inspired women in at least a dozen other cities to start similar efforts.

"The challenge of philanthropy is to continually make giving an attractive opportunity for as many people as possible," Willoughby said. "There's room for everyone to be a philanthropist."

— Linda Shaw

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company


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