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San Diego Women’s Foundation Puts your Money Where Your Mouth Is

The San Diego Women’s Foundation (SDWF) is a local non-profit with a mission to inspire women to engage in collective philanthropy by educating them about issues and programs in need of volunteer assistance.

SDWF was founded in 2000 with the vision that if women unite to combat community problems, change will happen. This is why their mission starts with strengthening and improving women’s capacities to engage in philanthropy. Since then, they have granted over $3.2M to 85 non-profit programs. Today, they are 220 members strong, and led by executive director Katie Sawyer.

Sawyer began her work with non-profit organizations during the 2008 financial crisis. She knew that although funding was going to be an issue, helping the community was important. Prior to working with SDWF, she worked with other organizations in San Diego, New Orleans, and Cincinnati.

“I was drawn to this role at SDWF because I believe strongly that a group of determined women can accomplish nearly any goal, and I see incredible opportunity for our network of philanthropists to improve lives across the region,” said Sawyer.

SDWF members are required to commit $2,250 per year in donations, and those under the age of 40 must commit $1,125. All members dedicate at least five years to SDWF, and every year their donations are pooled together to grant around $200,000 to nonprofits that serve communities in San Diego County.

“Members drive every step of our grants process, from determining our annual focus area, to reviewing proposals and going on site visits, to voting on our final funding decisions,” said Sawyer. “Recently, we granted just over $200,000 to combat youth homelessness. We have also funded programs to develop community leaders, offer career training, improve our local environment, provide literacy and other educational services, and much more.”

Each year, an extensive research project is completed and the Grants Committee selects one funding priority based on this research. In the past, SDWF has funded the National Foundation for Autism Research, South Bay Community Services’ Promotora program, and the San Diego Medical Society Foundation. Their funding provides resources to combat issues that need it the most.

“I was drawn to the work [with SDWF] because working with women and girls is the best way to create lasting change. With direct service work, this approach matters because women and girls are disproportionately affected by issues like poverty, access to health care, education, etc.,” said Sawyer. “Research shows that supporting women and girls, both domestically and globally, is the single most effective way to lift entire communities out of poverty.”

Members of SDWF are not required to attend any obligatory meetings or fundraisers. Members can do as little as contribute the annual donation and vote on final grant recipients, or have a larger role by serving on one or more of the SDWF committees that run the foundation.

The foundation does more than just write checks. They encourage their members to get involved and use every tactic necessary to support the causes they care about. To become a member, fill out the online membership form here or click here to find out more about what you can do to help.

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