Our $1 Million Dollars Created Real Social Change in Our Community

Our $1 Million Dollars Created Real Social Change in Our Community

In May, the Foundation's WomenGO! Giving Circle celebrated a significant milestone in local philanthropy. Since 2005, members of the circle have collectively awarded $1 million in grants to Santa Clara and San Mateo county nonprofits that serve women and girls. A member of the giving circle, Sarah Longstreth, reports on the event.

Left to right: WomenGO members xx, xx Michelle Cale and xx, CEO of the Women's Foundation of California Surina Khan and WomenGO member xx.
Left to right: WomenGO members Erica Cicero, Sarah Longstreth, Michelle Cale and Annelise Mora; CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California Surina Khan; and WomenGO member Linda Longstreth.

I became a member of the Women Giving Opportunity giving circle about three years ago. I joined because I was interested in learning more about the amazing work local organizations are doing to advance the education and economic security of women and families in my area. I also really liked that, by pooling relatively modest donations, members collectively make more of an impact in our community.

But Women Giving Opportunity—or WomenGO, as we like to call it—came into existence long before I joined. Under the auspices of the Women’s Foundation of California, the circle was founded in 2005 by Jing Lyman and others, to address the grim economic reality faced by some women and families in Silicon Valley: low-wage jobs, high childcare costs, expensive housing and limited educational opportunities. In its first year, the Women of Silicon Valley Circle (as it was then known) gave away $80,000 in grants to four organizations: the Girl Scouts of Santa Clara County, Girls for A Change, The Support Network for Battered Women and WAGES (now called Prospera).

Over the last eleven years, 62 women have been members of WomenGO. We have supported 18 different organizations (some through multi-year grants). And, this year, we will award our millionth dollar to local non-profits.

To mark this important milestone, on May 25 we held a celebration that brought together past and present circle members, representatives of some of the circle’s 18 grant partners, local elected officials and representatives from the Women’s Foundation of California.

Surina Kahn, CEO of the Women’s Foundation, emphasized the power of women’s collective philanthropy, estimating that WomenGO’s grants have directly impacted 15,000 people and indirectly impacted 145,000 people in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties over the last eleven years.

Michelle Cale, a member of our circle and the incoming Board Chair for the Women’s Foundation of California, rightly noted that celebrating our millionth dollar is more than anything a celebration of our phenomenal grant partners.

“You would not believe how much these organizations can achieve with just a little bit of money! We often come away from site visits to grant applicants asking ourselves. ‘How do they do it? How do they do so much with so little?’ And every year as we make our grants, we wish we had a million dollars to give to every one of the organizations that has applied to us. Every one of them is doing great work and deserves our support,” said Michelle Cale.

In addition to representatives from Ableworks, Breakthrough Silicon Valley, Each One Reach One, Girls to Women, Nuestra Casa, and Peninsula College Fund—all past or present grant recipients—we were fortunate to be joined by Camille Llanes-Fontanilla, the Executive Director of Somos Mayfair, which has a long standing relationship with the circle and its members.

Camille graciously outlined what it’s like to be a WomenGO grant partner. She noted that Women GO is uniquely positioned to “advance a strategy that is both focused and flexible.” And this, in turn, serves as a “refreshing reminder [to Somos Mayfair] to be bold, to take risks, to continue to hold a greater vision for our neighborhood, to be relentless in our commitment to our mission, to strive for systemic change that profoundly affects women, girls and our most marginalized communities.”

We are proud of what we have been able to achieve as a community of women donors working within our community and alongside grassroots leaders who are dedicated to strengthening women’s economic well-being, creating opportunities and removing barriers facing women on the Peninsula.

Learn more about us and our grant partners and reach out if you’d like to join us. We would love to have you join us as we get started on the next million dollars!

Reported on by Sarah Longstreth, WomenGo giving circle member.

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