For the Love of All - Women's Foundation California

By Sande Smith, Director of Communications, Women’s Foundation of California

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I hear my friends talking about love and romance – the bitter, the sweet and the non-existent. Valentine’s Day has become a holiday for taking stock and asking the hard-hearted question – are we a failure or a success in love?

That made last night’s Valentine’s Day celebration of love a delight. I spent the evening with people who have been supporting the Women’s Foundation of California for 10 plus years. It was the second of two inspirational evenings – one in San Francisco and one in Los Angeles – held to show appreciation and love for our long-time donors. From a variety of backgrounds and incomes, the attendees were united in their conviction that philanthropy can live up to its Greek etymological roots: Love of Humanity.

In San Francisco, we heard from Diana Spatz, the founder of Lifetime, a long-time grant partner. Diana started Lifetime as a self-help group for other women like herself who were receiving welfare. These women were raising families and determined to change their life circumstances by getting a college degree. Unfortunately, their case workers didn’t always support their educational aspirations, so the women depended upon each other for mutual respect and concrete tactics for achieving their dreams. A masterful storyteller, Diana held the group enthralled as she described Lifetime’s beginnings and model of peer support: “There’s nothing like seeing someone else, who looks like you and has been in the same situation, getting a college degree.”

Thirteen years ago, the Women’s Foundation provided Lifetime with one of its first grants. Today, Lifetime provides direct services to help more than 400 parents annually enroll in and complete education and training programs.  Because Lifetime is also concerned with systemic change, the group educates and engages parents in changing policies that act as roadblocks to their economic prosperity.

The Los Angeles evening featured Stella Kim who works with the California Partnership, a statewide coalition of community-based groups. They coordinate their efforts to advocate for programs and policies to end poverty.  A Women’s Policy Institute fellow, Stella told stories of how learning the ins and outs of policy making is so important for her work. We’ll be sharing more about the California Partnership in future posts.

During both events, donors shared how and why they were so committed to the Foundation. Long-time LA supporter Dr. Lo Sprague explained that from her first contact with the Foundation, she was impressed with how strategic and smart the activities were.

San Francisco donor Susan Swan, a supporter since the mid-80’s, described how she learned about the Foundation.  “I was complaining about how few women’s groups the United Way supported back then. My friend told me that the Women’s Foundation supports women. So I sent a check.”

What happened next surprised her. Susan received a call from a staff person, thanking her for her gift and asking about her interests.

“Wow, isn’t that nice. I’d never given money to an organization that said I want to talk to you about your interests.” That conversation led to Susan’s long-term involvement and participation in Women’s Foundation donor circles, which yielded new friends, new understandings and the opportunity to help change deep-seated ideologies and policies. Now that’s the stuff that love is made of.

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The feminist future we are building together in California is going to be built by all of us sharing our time, our money, and our skills.  Please consider contributing today.

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