What 130 ladies couldn’t achieve separately, they do together as part of the San Juan Island’s Women’s Fund.
Since 2003, members have combined their donations to support selected local projects, totaling more than $200,000 to island nonprofits. At the San Juan Island’s Women’s Fund’s annual meeting on June 21, the ladies will celebrate 15 years of working together to give back.
“It’s fun to see each individual woman and the work they are doing in the community,” said Amy Saxe, volunteer coordinator for the Women’s Fund.
It was at a Roche Harbor reception in 2003 that the initial 104 members paid their tax-deductible $100 to join the budding organization. That minimum fee remains the same today.
Another constant is many of the inaugural members, including founders Jan Cyre, Carla Wright and Vikky Dauciunas.
Dauciunas recalls the “packed” reception that first laid the roots for the local power of collective giving.
“We saw how the pulling of funds from many women can actually make a difference in contributions to the community versus an individual,” she said.
The founders were inspired by a similar fund in Seattle. Saxe explained that islander Candy Bowers, who is deceased, was also “a driving force,” behind the San Juan Island Women’s Fund, as well as fellow founder Liz Illg, who has since moved off of the island.
Three times a year, Women’s Fund members select from a list of grant applications vetted through the San Juan Island Community Foundation Grants Committee. A group of about 20 Women’s Fund members reviews, then recommends grant proposals from those local nonprofits for their membership to vote on to decide which receive monies. Funds are awarded after votes are tallied.
Unlike many organizations, the Women’s Fund doesn’t have regular monthly meetings or events. That can be a selling point for those who have little time but big hearts, according to Community Foundation Executive Director Carrie Unpingco.
“It’s a really easy way to get involved in the community,” she said. “What people love about it is that it’s not a big time commitment. It’s just a really good way to connect with what’s going on in the community.”
At the annual meeting, for instance, members receive reports on organizations they funded the prior year and listen to a speaker from one of the organizations.
From 2003 to the first quarter of 2018, the ladies gave almost half of their funds to educational nonprofits, as well as 26 percent to charities related to health and human services, 14 percent to the environment and 10 percent to the arts.
Since the inception, the organization has donated to more than 40 projects of San Juan Island nonprofits, including Island Stage Left, San Juan Community Home Trust, The Whale Museum, San Juan EMT Association and the San Juan Island Library.
The Women’s Fund is the only pooled donor-advised fund through the Community Foundation, which differs from the roughly 20 donor-advised funds at the foundation. Typically, the latter are made up of individuals, couples or families who can also donate to the Community Foundation’s vetted grant proposals.
Anyone can join the Women’s Fund for a $100 minimum donation, while those who are able to are encouraged to donate more. Members can also sponsor others to join by paying their membership fee. Grant applications cannot go directly to the Women’s Fund but must go to the Community Foundation instead. Anyone can also donate to the Community Foundation, to specific projects or the organization as a whole, at sjicf.org/giving-center. Those interested in joining the Women’s Fund can contact Saxe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the next 15 years, Dauciunas hopes to add more fresh faces to what has become an island staple for funding nonprofits.
“I’m looking forward to it being a venue where new people can contribute to the Women’s Fund and the community,” she said.
For more information, visit www.sjiwomensfund.org.