When Merle Chambers established Chambers Family Fund, one of her priorities was to build something of lasting value in the states where her family’s oil business operated. Drawing from Merle’s experience in establishing The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, Chambers Family Fund launched an initiative to increase philanthropic support of organizations serving women and girls in Wyoming, Montana and Oklahoma.
We partnered with community foundations in 2000 to create new statewide women’s funds, the Wyoming Women’s Foundation and the Women’s Foundation of Montana. In 2003, we initiated a partnership with the Communities Foundation of Oklahoma to create the Women’s Foundation of Oklahoma.
Reaching the Million Dollar Mark
Our goal was to create a $1 million endowment for each women’s fund. We successfully accomplished this with strategies that included:
- Providing an incentive for others to give by making a challenge grant to each fund that matched up to $500,000 raised for endowment.
- Giving $50,000 annually for each fund’s grantmaking to nonprofits focusing on women’s economic self-sufficiency and girls’ futures.
- Contributing $125,000 over five years for research, staff and materials.
- Creating videos to illustrate the need and promise of each women’s fund.
Chambers Family Fund continues to provide annual operating support for these women's funds. With the fundraising and grantmaking expertise of the existing community foundations and advisory boards made up of women from across each state, the women's funds are growing their endowments and making grants to organizations supporting women and girls.
Extending Our Reach To North Dakota
In 2008, we explored opportunities to provide funding to benefit women and girls in North Dakota, another state in which the Chambers family oil business operated. We made multi-year commitments for endowment and operating support to two existing women’s funds within community foundations, the Women’s Fund of the Fargo-Moorhead Area Foundation and the Women’s Fund of the Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Region. To attain statewide reach, we also made a multi-year operating support commitment to the North Dakota Women’s Network, a policy and advocacy organization that promotes policies for the advancement of women in North Dakota.
Building Women's Philanthropy
All of the women’s funds are building women’s philanthropy in geographic areas where few philanthropic dollars were dedicated to programs serving women and girls. Women in philanthropy have historically given their time more than their money. In the last 20 years, women’s funds have created social change through philanthropy by supporting forward looking programs, connecting donors with grantees and investing in long term organizational growth.
Chambers Family Fund authored Creating a Women's Fund Within a Community Foundation: A Philanthropic Strategy for Women and Girls (*PDF) based upon our journey championing women’s funds in Montana, Oklahoma and Wyoming. This guide provides successful strategies and offers recommendations on creating a women’s fund.
*PDFs require the Acrobat
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