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Are women’s issues getting enough charitable love?

There have been national-level rumblings recently about whether women’s and girls’ causes are getting a big enough slice of the donations pie.

Marketwatch reported in October that Melinda Gates pledged $1 billion to benefit issues that serve the interests of women and girls. The article noted that only a sliver of charitable donations nationally go toward women’s and girls’ causes.

And according to a report by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, just 1.6 percent of charitable dollars went toward women’s and girls’ group in 2016, the most recently available data.

So it seems appropriate to take a look at the local landscape of charitable giving and see how nonprofits aimed at women and girls are faring. The answer seems to be OK, but not without some help from government grants and other sources that aren’t strictly charitable donations. Like all nonprofits these days, they have to keep seeking innovative ways to raise enough funds to ensure their programs are successful and continue. It’s hard to make yourself heard amid the cacophony of voices pleading to help various causes.

We talked to three local organizations: Coffee Connection; Willow Domestic Violence Center; and the YWCA.

Coffee Connections

Joy Bergfalk, executive director at Coffee Connection, says that she thinks that funding levels are likely affected by her organization’s mission and structure. Coffee Connection solely employs women recovering from addiction. Essentially, the coffee shop hires individuals that most companies would consider too risky to hire.

Joy Bergfalk

Joy Bergfalk

“The women that we’re working with are considered ‘bad’ women making bad choices because people don’t understand that addiction isn’t a choice and how it’s connected to trauma,” says Bergfalk.

Education is an important component to show the public the important work that Coffee Connection is doing to help keep women clean and out of jail and free of the dangerous cycle that drugs lead to.

“We use social media and speak at a lot of events. We do a lot of networking,” says Bergfalk. “We’re also working with some colleges, and we’ve had exposure on television and in newspapers to help spread the word.”

Coffee Connection uses a systems integration program with design thinking to have a holistic approach with each of her employees to help them stay clean and functional citizens. Rather than measuring the success of the organization with numbers, Bergfalk finds ways of measuring the behaviors and faces of her employees to decipher outcomes.

According to Bergfalk, the organization has an 80 percent success rate of keeping female addicts clean.

Coffee Connection stays open thanks to donations, grants and through the revenue from shop’s operations. Bergfalk has not found much success at increasing charitable giving through collaboration with other organizations or foundations, which may be a result of misunderstanding of the design thinking approach that is less explicit in outcome measurement, which foundations and other organizations look at to determine the success of an organization.

Willow Domestic Violence Center

Willow Domestic Violence Center is celebrating 40 years of serving domestic violence survivors, with its first shelter opening its doors in 1979. According to president and CEO Meaghan de Chateauvieux, Willow serves over 7,000 survivors annually, and they reach an addition 12,000 through crisis intervention workshops.

Meaghan de Chateauvieux

Meaghan de Chateauvieux

With a current budget of $3.6 million, one-third comes from the Monroe County Department of Human Services, which grants reimbursements for emergency shelter beds; one-third is from grants—mostly public government, grants; and the final third comes from donations from private individuals and local foundations.

De Chateauvieux, who has been with Willow since 2013 and was named president and CEO just over one year ago, notes that domestic violence impacts every demographic in our society and is the root of so many pressing issues that our community faces—mental health, substance abuse, truancy, crime, poverty. All of these significant concerns have some connection with family trauma.

“It’s such a foundational issue and I think we had been hiding in the shadows for too long to protect survivors,” says de Chateauvieux. “But the agency doesn’t need to hide. We should be out there in much bigger ways, and we’ve been doing that work and engaging partners in the community.”

Since de Chateauvieux started at Willow in 2013, she has seen private contributions rise from $200,000 annually to almost $1 million this year. De Chateauvieux says that strong community partnerships aid in elevating Willow’s stance in Rochester.

“We work closely with the YWCA. We have a couple of shared public grants with them that have led to some really great collaborations between our staff and in serving the need,” says de Chateauvieux. “We complement each other really well, and having that comprehensive support is appealing for both public and private funders.”

The YWCA of Rochester and Monroe County

Anglea Panzarella

Anglea Panzarella

Angela Panzarella, president and CEO of YWCA of Rochester and Monroe County, admits that it is difficult to pinpoint if the amount of charitable giving YWCA receives is affected by the fact that the organization is aimed at serving women.

“There is an element here that asks whether an organization like us that focuses our efforts on women and children resonate with everybody who controls charitable giving,” says Panzarella. “But one positive trend we’ve been seeing is more of the wealth passing into the hands of women. Women are a greater source of potential for us.”

YWCA has been an essential organization in Rochester since 1883. The nonprofit is mission-driven toward providing permanent housing for some of the most vulnerable members of the community, particularly impoverished women and children.

Holly Beaston, director of development and marketing, notes that housing is an important issue that people of all demographics can relate to, which benefits YWCA in terms of gaining donors and charitable giving.

“Housing is one of those things that cuts across all different strata,” says Beaston. “Everyone understands the need and importance of having a home.”

The organization’s motto is “Eliminating racism and empowering women.” Without acknowledging the pervasive social injustice issues like racism, women cannot be empowered, the organization believes.

YWCA provides emergency housing in shelters for women and families all the way through long-term affordable housing in its facilities around the community. The organization also provides support services, including residential substance abuse treatment.

“We’re the only organization in the community that allows women in substance abuse treatment to reunite with their children,” says Panzarella. “Our focus is always on how we can make sure we keep families together and how we can help people transition from crisis to stability to thriving.”

Like Willow, YWCA relies heavily on government grants and programs from the federal, state and local levels. Partnerships with other local organizations and foundations supplements these grants to continue funding YWCA’s programs. Willow serves nearly 600 individuals each year, and more than half are children under the age of five.

Monroe County DHS covers half of the cost of operating the shelter through the reimbursements, and the rest requires reliance on private foundation and donor support.

Panzarella says that YWCA is focusing on outreach toward women in positions of charitable giving to show that they can have a keen impact on the community.

“The biggest challenge for not-for-profits is that we don’t have marketing budgets,” says Panzarella. “It’s very much a matter of one-on-one relationships and communication and hoping that we can encourage the women who support us today to communicate to people they know.”

nsheldon@bridgetowermedia.com / (585) 363-7031

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