Nonprofit spotlight: Women for Women’s “giving circle” reaches far and wide in WNC

Power of the Purse: Last year, Women for Women’s annual fundraiser event featured longtime activist Gloria Steinem (right, center). (Pictured, left to right: CFWNC President Elizabeth Brazas, Mardi Letson and Carrie Keller of Women for Women, Esther Chavez and Shaw Canale of Mountain BizWorks). Photo courtesy of WFW photo courtesy of WFW

Women across Western North Carolina are pooling their financial resources to fund high impact grants through the Women for Women giving circle, an initiative of The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina. Since 2006, WFW has funded 30 grants totaling more than $1.75 million for a variety of programs that help women and girls across Western North Carolina. These programs have helped make WFW one of the most successful women’s giving circles in the Southeast.

Here are a few ways the program puts its money where its purse is.

Mountain Bizworks’ Women’s Business Center provided business planning and support services to 1,275 low-income women.

MANNA FoodBank expanded Food Nutrition Services outreach in Graham, Mitchell and Polk counties, generating $1.7 million in federal dollars. The economic impact on these counties was estimated at more than $3 million.

• REACH of Cherokee County’s Turning Point project, a collaboration with Tri-County Community College, provided 112 women with education and job and life skills, increasing their collective incomes by more than $300,000.

• One of the most successful Women for Women grants has been the development of the Women’s Financial Empowerment Center at OnTrack Financial Education and Counseling. The center improved the financial literacy of 965 women and has been nationally recognized as a model. “Thanks to Women for Women’s two-year investment, the Women’s Financial Empowerment Center has an amazing foundation for future growth,” says Celeste Collins, OnTrack’s executive director. “Our participation and connections continue to increase as more women learn about our free financial literacy education and counseling resources customized for women.”

“Women for Women believes philanthropy for women by women is an investment in our future. Our volunteers work hard to review grant applicants to select the projects that will make the greatest difference in the lives of women and girls. I am so proud of the work we do,” says Carrie Keller, chair of the WFW grant committee.

Jennie Eblen, chair of WFW’s steering committee, says, “The advantage of a giving circle is that each member has a voice and a vote in how our funds are spent. It is empowering for women to come together and decide how their collective giving can positively impact other women’s lives.”

On Thursday, May 23, Women for Women’s 2013 grants will be announced at the Ninth Annual Power of the Purse luncheon, featuring a performance from Anna Deavere Smith. Women for Women is an initiative of The Community Foundation of WNC and is always accepting new members. For more information, go to

— Beth Ellers is a member of WFW and an adjunct film-studies professor at Warren Wilson College.

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