A press release: February 16, 2006

Albany, N.Y. – Armed with the knowledge that the number of female heads of households with children under age 18 living below the poverty rate in the Capital Region has increased steadily in the past decade and aware that just seven percent of all philanthropic dollars raised in the nation are earmarked for programs for women and girls, the Community Foundation for the Capital Region, United Way of Northeastern New York and United Way of Schenectady County have formed a unique collaboration to create the Women’s Fund of the Capital Region. The goal of the fund is to promote women’s economic self-sufficiency and create opportunities for girls.

In establishing the fund, the three organizations hope to encourage philanthropy among women and to address systemic, community-wide change through grants and education efforts to bring about and sustain economic self-sufficiency for women and girls in the Capital Region, according to Deb Ryan, chief executive officer of IA Systems and chairwoman of the Women’s Fund.

“We know that women will help other women when real needs are identified, and we’re certain that others in the Capital Region will support this fund too because it will make a real difference in our communities,” Ms. Ryan said.

The Women’s Fund of the Capital Region will invest in the power and potential of women and girls by identifying issues that affect them; leveraging financial, social and intellectual resources to sustain successful efforts; creating change through the power of collective giving; increasing involvement of women in community investment and philanthropy; and impacting issues critical to the well-being of the entire community. It will create and manage a permanent endowment fund to perpetuate grantmaking explicitly for women and girls.

The fund was launched this evening at a reception held at The Century House in Latham. Abigail Disney, founder and president of the Daphne Foundation in New York City, was the featured speaker. The Daphne Foundation supports programs that confront the causes and consequences of poverty in New York City. Ms. Disney has provided support to The White House Project, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to enhancing the public perception of women in leadership. She has also advised the Ms. Foundation for Women, the Women’s Venture Fund and the Global Fund for Women.

“While our goal for this reception is to inform attendees about the needs of women and girls in our communities and to generate some excitement about the Women’s Fund, our goal for the first year is to enlist the help of 500 women who will each donate at least $500 to the fund,” said E. Kristen Frederick, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for the Capital Region. “With a commitment from these ‘Founding Five Hundred,’ in a relatively short period of time the fund will have $250,000 available to address community needs.”

“Philanthropy is a means of achieving positive change in conditions and in our communities,” said Katherine D. Pelham, president of United Way of Northeastern New York. “Research bears out that, through time, women have a significant role in shaping families and communities. National research indicates that when surveyed 71 percent of women had a high interest in donating time or money to causes that help women. It’s logical then to create a Women’s Fund in our region.”

“We want to engage more women in our effort to get at root causes of barriers to social and economic development,” Ms. Pelham added. “The Women’s Fund will provide opportunity for more women to have a significant and unique role in changing conditions for women and girls in our region. We’re hoping to attract donors who may have not yet participated in large fundraising campaigns or grant-making decisions. Our goal is to involve as many women as possible in effecting community-wide change that will impact our region for generations to come.”

The Women's Fund defines self-sufficiency as the income working families need to meet basic necessities without public or private assistance, including realistic costs for housing, food, childcare, transportation, health/medical expenses and taxes.

“Research shows that many working women are caught between poverty and a true living wage,” said Karen Bilowith, president, United Way of Schenectady County. “These women typically must overcome multiple obstacles on the path to independence.”

“Examples of programs the Women’s Fund might support,” Ms. Bilowith added, “include those providing support services for women following job placement in order to help them overcome obstacles that might prevent ongoing employment or those providing financial management assistance to help women learn how to create a household budget, identify resources to pay off debts and begin a personal savings plan. We also hope to fund small business and entrepreneurial opportunities for women.”

The Women’s Fund of the Capital Region fund will also invest in programs that help girls reach their full potential in life, including programs that focus on skills development and career exploration and programs for gifted and talented girls.

According to the fund’s creators, the number of female heads of household, with children under age 18, living below the poverty rate in the region has increased steadily in the past four measurable years, growing from 33 percent in 2000 to 35.5 percent in 2003.

Single women with children make up the fastest growing family type in our region and across the nation, Ms. Ryan said. “Pooling our resources to maximize the impact they can have makes good business sense and good economic sense. Women need to be fully engaged in order for this region to have economic prosperity.”

There are more than 100 women’s funds across the nation leveraging the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars into resources for women and girls. The Women’s Fund of the Capital Region is a member of the Women’s Funding Network, which has a worldwide membership of more than 100 funds committed to social justice.

Bank of America is the Presenting Sponsor for the launch of the Women’s Fund. Sawchuk, Brown Associates is also a founding sponsor of the fund.

Founded in 1968, the Community Foundation for the Capital Region administers charitable funds established by individuals, families, businesses, private foundations or other not-for-profits intent on building a permanent endowment for the benefit of the communities of the Capital Region. Serving Albany, Rensselaer, Columbia, Schenectady, Greene, Schoharie, Saratoga, Montgomery and Washington counties, the Foundation's assets now total more than $32 million. For more information about the Community Foundation, call (518) 446-9638 or visit cfgcr.org.

United Way of Northeastern New York has been in the business of supporting community organizations and human service agencies that help our community address its most critical issues since 1925. United Way serves four local counties building collaborative relationships among businesses, individuals, public and private sectors and with the not for profit community; United Way collaborations locally are designed to achieve social change and improve the quality of life. United Way develops and finances systematic methods for social development with economic impact. In 2005 alone, more than $7,065,000 was raised and distributed by United Way of Northeastern New York. For more information about United Way of Northeastern New York, call (518) 456-2200 or visit unitedwayofneny.org.

United Way of Schenectady County works to improve the lives of people in need through the investment of community resources. United Way mobilizes community-wide resources – financial, technical and human – to act as a dynamic, unifying force for lasting, measurable community change. In 2005, more than $2,914,000 was raised by United Way of Schenectady County. For more information, call (518) 372-4761 or visit unitedwaygcr.org.