Women empowering women through philanthropy

WHEELING – In a roundabout way, it’s a philosophy of women giving and women bettered because of it.

At the core of the Women’s Giving Circle are women empowering women through philanthropy, according to Susie Nelson, executive director of the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley based out of 1310 Market St., Wheeling.

“The Women’s Giving Circle was started in 2011 by the women members of the CFOV’s board of trustees. They quickly recruited 14 others to join, and it has taken off from there,” Nelson said. “Today there are more than 130 members.”

While the circle is working to bolster its numbers – women give a minimum of $500 per year to participate, $250 if they’re under age 40 – it also is looking to award another round of grant monies with 5 p.m. on Sept. 2 being the deadline for applications.

The Women’s Giving Circle, a component fund of the CFOV, welcomes grant applications for organizations in Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler counties in West Virginia and Jefferson and Belmont counties in Ohio, according to Nelson.

Organizations must address the following needs of women in the community, including:

Increasing life skills of women and girls, i.e., pre-kindergarten through 12 education, economic empowerment, physical and mental health, violence and crime;

Encouraging the healthy development and personal authority of young girls; and

Raising awareness of gender disparities in local communities.

Grant applications can be found at www.cfov.org and can be mailed to the CFOV Office, 1310 Market Street, Wheeling, WV 26003. Applications also may be hand delivered to Suite 1 of the same address.

To date, the Women’s Giving Circle has awarded more than $66,000 in grants, according to Nelson, who noted that half of each gift from a circle member goes into an endowment fund and the other half goes into an annual grantmaking fund. (See accompanying story below.)

“The Women’s Giving Circle makes grants or establishes projects that will measurably improve the lives of and provide lasting results to women and girls in the Upper Ohio Valley,” she said. “This requires careful study, evaluation and willingness to provide ongoing support, when appropriate.”

While the organization evaluates each grant opportunity on its own merits, it’s not afraid, Nelson said, of a well-calculated risk, and “is willing to be a venture capitalist and fund new activities that hold promise for women and girls and provide multi-year support as programs grow from start-up into sustainability.”

In its grantmaking, the Women’s Giving Circle:

Uses community research to develop initiatives;

Focuses on prevention and effective intervention;

Supports new ideas and untested efforts as well as programs that have demonstrated results and impact; and

Establishes expectations for sustainability, significant value and lasting impact.

The Women’s Giving Circle makes strategic, researched-based grants, Nelson continued, that:

Facilitate systemic change to improve how women and girls are served in its community;

Apply creative solutions to critical needs; and

Produce lasting and measurable impact on the lives of women and girls.

“The mission of the Women’s Giving Circle is to build a community of philanthropists and create a permanent legacy to address the needs of women and girls in the Upper Ohio Valley of West Virginia and Ohio,” Nelson said.

Its purpose, according to the website, is “to educate, inspire and increase the number of women committed to philanthropy in order to strengthen the Upper Ohio Valley community and demonstrate the impact that can result from informed, focused grantmaking.”

The Women’s Giving Circle, Nelson added, is committed to

Reach out and welcome all women who wish to join;

Build relationships among women united in their desire to improve the lives of women and girls;

Develop a membership of educated philanthropists who understand community needs and become informed, pioneering grantmakers;

Collaborate with funding partners and community organizations to empower women and girls; and

Conduct grantmaking with integrity, fiscal responsibility and respect for the grantees grant recipients.

“Any woman may join at any time,” Nelson emphasized. “All they have to do is send us their $500 payable to CFOV with ‘Women’s Giving Circle’ in the memo line of their check. They can, of course, call us first for more information. If they join by Oct. 1, they can vote at the October grants meeting,” Nelson added.

For would-be members under age 40, the membership fee is $250. Contributions are tax-deductible. Checks can be made payable to the: CFOV-Women’s Giving Circle, 1310 Market Street, Wheeling, WV 26003.

Nelson explained the Women’s Giving Circle has the following goals in the following areas to meet its mission and purpose:


Provide information and tools that support and encourage women’s participation in philanthropy;

Promote volunteerism and effective philanthropy; and

Expand philanthropy and increase giving by local women.


Encourage community and cooperative spirit among its members and those it serves;

Empower and mentor women in the community and effect change through collaborative giving; and

Make a difference in the community by contributing time, talents and monetary resources.


Build a network of women that is a catalyst for positive change;

Increase the life skills of women and girls; and

Encourage the healthy development and personal authority of girls and young women.


Build a permanent endowment fund; and

Sustain the fund for future generations.

The Wheeling-based CFOV merged with the Community Foundation of Jefferson County on June 30, 2012, and is committed to promoting how residents of the counties its serves can participate and benefit, according to Nelson.

With a mission to “increase a permanent endowment that can respond to the current and future needs of the Upper Ohio Valley,” the foundation works with donors and financial advisers to provide “a flexible, efficient and lasting way for them to benefit their community,” according to promotional material.

“The WGC is building a community of women philanthropists and creating a permanent legacy to address the needs of women and girls in the Upper Ohio Valley of West Virginia and Ohio. The goal is to assist women and girls to achieve lifetime goals that might not otherwise be attainable without the support provided by the giving circle,” Nelson said.

For information, contact Nelson by phone at (304) 242-3144 or (304) 280-3908 or at the website at www.cfov.org.