The goal of the East Tennessee Women’s Fund is to transform women’s lives...
When local organizer Carol Transou learned early in December the East Tennessee Women’s Fund had raised an endowment of $1 million, she had to sit down.
“How did we do that?” she asked herself, but the answer is clear.
Women asked women to help.
In just three years, a core group of go-getters from East Tennessee has built the endowment from zero to $1 million, beginning with a $10,000 planning grant from The Sunshine Lady Foundation.
The East Tennessee Women’s Fund is a field of interest fund of the East Tennessee Foundation, which is headquartered in Knoxville. The foundation, which was started in 1986, serves 25 counties in East Tennessee, including the counties of Northeast Tennessee. It was created “for the purpose of building charitable resources to make communities stronger and lives better through thoughtful giving.”
Common sense dictates that helping women strengthens the community, and the women behind the East Tennessee Women’s Fund are driven by that idea. Statistics show that women reinvest 90 percent of their income into their communities and family, Transou said.
Despite the long struggle for equality, women still face considerable challenges, earning 33 cents less per dollar than men for the same job. In addition to poverty, which disproportionately affects women and children, there are also the issues of domestic violence and access to education, job training and health care.
The women’s fund currently has 51 founding members, mostly from Johnson City and Knoxville, who contributed $10,000 or more. Most see their donations as a way to give back with gratitude for the ways their lives have been blessed. They recognize not every woman has had the same advantages or gifts.
What separates the fund from other philanthropic groups is the opportunity for donors to be advocates. Founding members will be given a vote in how the grants are awarded and other aspects of development.
“It’s not something where you give money and just go away,” founder Cynthia Burnley said. “You can be as involved as you want.”
Research is under way to identify the region’s most pressing problems, the most promising solutions and the organizations, individuals and projects best equipped to make the greatest impact on low-income women’s lives.
“We want the fund to be transformational rather than supplemental,” Transou said. “We don’t want to be just a line item in an organization’s annual budget.”
The first grants are expected to be awarded in 2013.
Despite early success, fundraising continues. Burnley said organizers were not as successful in Bristol and Kingsport because they lacked the contacts they needed.
“We want to broaden our base,” she said. “We would love to have women from Bristol and Kingsport involved.”
She also emphasized the women do not have to be wealthy to participate; every donation is appreciated and builds on the strong base already established.
In March a luncheon will be held at Cherokee Country Club in Knoxville with special guest Lisa Ling. Ling, perhaps best known for her stint on “The View,” is producer of “Our America with Lisa Ling,” which airs on Oprah Winfrey’s television network.
For more information about the East Tennessee Women’s Fund, visit www.easttennessee foundation.org/donors/wom ensfund.html .
|Space Capone at Capone's|
|Space Capone made a landing and performed at Capone's in Johnson City, TN.|