We documented what we learned from our initiative to create women’s funds in a case study, Creating a Women’s Fund Within a Community Foundation, which we hope will influence the growth of women’s funds in underserved and less populated regions of the country.
2006 was a remarkable year for the women’s funds of Wyoming and Montana as they each exceeded their $1 million endowment goals and are now well established. Merle served on the advisory boards of the funds since they were launched by Chambers Family Fund in 2000, directly participating in the growth and progress of the funds. Thrilled with their success and confident that the board members in each state will grow and guide the funds, Merle no longer serves as an active member on these boards. She continues to serve on the advisory board of the Women’s Foundation of Oklahoma.
In response to new opportunities to strengthen the infrastructure of women’s funds and provide the resources and support they need to be effective grantmakers, we are transitioning from direct work with the women’s funds to encouraging the formation of women’s funds across the country. In a partnership with the Women’s Funding Network, we are supporting women’s philanthropy within community foundations, to fill the gaps in funding the needs of women and girls in their communities.
In January, Chambers Family Fund invited representatives of the Wyoming, Montana and Oklahoma women’s funds and the Women’s Foundation of Colorado to meet in Denver to identify successes and challenges and to share solutions and information. The funds exchanged fundraising strategies and marketing plans and shared grantmaking successes.
Strategic alliances were components of the funding and work of Chambers Family Fund in 2006. As always, the Fund moved forward, seeking collaborative opportunities to leverage influence and funding, understanding that the most effective work is often done in partnership with other organizations and funders.
Chambers Family Fund joined other foundations with common interests in economic self-sufficiency in forming a funders learning group. The group meets three or four times a year to share information and look at trends and opportunities in this funding priority area. Many of the foundations in this group supported Colorado Center on Law and Policy’s creation of an online Self-Sufficiency Benefits Calculator. The calculator will be online in 2007.
Using the Self-Sufficiency Standard, Colorado Center on Law and Policy conducted a demographic study to determine the challenges that working families face and how they are impacted by wage trends that result in the “cliff effect”, where a small increase in income causes a significant reduction or total loss of assistance and work support benefits designed to help low-wage workers. The study researched where these families live, whether race, gender, education or occupation plays a role and the impact that different patterns of work have on self-sufficiency. Chambers Family Fund supported the research and publishing of this report.
We completed our funding commitment to The Women’s Foundation of Colorado to build the Merle Catherine Chambers Center for the Advancement of Women. In both design and purpose, The Chambers Center is a place that houses and fosters collaboration among women’s organizations dedicated to the advancement of women and girls. The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, The Women’s College of the University of Denver, The White House Project and Higher Education Resource Services (HERS) are each housed in The Chambers Center. Through education and programs that support economic self-sufficiency and policy change, women’s political leadership and the advancement of women in higher education administration, these organizations are able to interact with one another to reinforce their missions. Together, they produce the synergy where the ideas, talents and skills of women are valued, developed and utilized.
With strong institutional partners, committed and talented individuals, and funding to support these efforts, we are optimistic that opportunities for those who are most marginalized in society will multiply.
We continued our longstanding partnership with The Bell Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank committed to expanding opportunities, promoting economic self-sufficiency and supporting families. The Bell’s important research exposed systemic problems in the state’s fiscal process and the resulting impacts that undermine Colorado’s ability to meet the basic and critical needs of its citizens. In 2006, the Bell’s multi-year focus on the fiscal health of the state and exposing the flaws in TABOR (Tax Payers Bill of Rights) helped create the understanding and consensus that led to statewide policy change. Developing a reputable set of data about future fiscal conditions to define the challenges and educate the public will help create common ground for action and long term solutions that improve the lives of Colorado citizens.
There were unique one-time opportunities to support arts projects in 2006. These projects moved Colorado into the forefront of communities with enhanced opportunities for its citizens to enjoy the arts. We are proud to have been associated with this change.
In September, the much anticipated new Denver Art Museum’s Frederic C. Hamilton Building opened its doors in a whirlwind of activity, including preview events, the Grand Opening Gala and 36 hours of free public access. With additional gallery and event space, the Denver Art Museum will continue to inspire and captivate the next generation of artists and patrons. The Merle Chambers and Hugh Grant Gallery was named in recognition of a gift to support the museum’s expansion. The gallery is a lovely, intimate and welcoming space located on the third floor in the Modern and Contemporary Gallery adjacent to the outdoor Sculpture Deck.
Our support of performing arts was a beacon of hope at a critical time for Colorado Ballet. Chambers Family Fund joined two other donors to make a $450,000 challenge grant. The challenge succeeded in raising more than $1 million to encourage renewed community support, sustain the organization and allow Colorado Ballet to continue to provide quality performances for the enjoyment of Colorado audiences.
We supported several key advocacy and policy organizations that are preparing the field for more extensive systems change and wider opportunities for children. This funding was in partnership with other foundations and together we formed working relationships with four organizations working on ECE systems change – Qualistar, Colorado Children’s Campaign, Smart Start Colorado and the Colorado Early Childhood School Readiness Commission.
Many believe there is a window of opportunity to improve the early care and education of children in Colorado and guarantee long lasting impacts at the state and local levels. The state needs an early childhood system that is seamless, easily accessible and funded in a cohesive way. Chambers Family Fund partnered with Rose Community Foundation to fund a coordinated planning effort in the Lt. Governor’s office to identify early care and education systems change opportunities, convene key stakeholders and develop comprehensive recommendations and policies for children birth to age five.
On September 12, 2006, at a ceremony on the Clayton campus, foundation board members, community leaders, Denver’s mayor and Clayton children and teachers celebrated the groundbreaking of a new state-of-the-art early learning center for children from birth to five years of age. Chambers Family Fund contributed the $2 million lead gift to build this new Clayton Educare Center that will open in October of 2007. With funding from other foundations, the Educare Center will be built and two historic buildings on the Clayton campus will be renovated to house teacher training and professional development programs.
Our support of the new Educare Center at Clayton led to further opportunities to improve early learning and promote policies that will build on the network of Educare Centers across the country. Along with philanthropists, advocates and providers from Illinois, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas and Washington, Chambers Family Fund is a participant in the Bounce Learning Network and the Birth to Five Policy Alliance. These organizations serve as resources for stakeholders to strategically leverage policy and influence how every child should learn and to help strengthen partnerships and encourage collaboration. Network members are encouraged to share best practices, have open discussions of national and state opportunities, identify policy strategies for early childcare systems change and address the comprehensive needs of children from birth to age five.
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