Ojai Women's Fund Awards $60K in Community Grants At Inaugural Year

From left to right: Celine Chapman, Jessica Sanchez,  Carol Palladini and Jan Campbell at the presentation of funds for Ojai Women's Fund.

From left to right: Celine Chapman, Jessica Sanchez, 
Carol Palladini and Jan Campbell at the presentation of funds for Ojai Women's Fund.

The Ojai Women’s Fund (OWF) celebrated the culmination of a year of collective philanthropy with the distribution of $60,000 in grants to six nonprofit organizations in the Ojai Valley.

Over 100 members of the fund, together with friends and supporters, attended the program at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ojai in early December. The OWF awarded a $10,000 grant to organizations in each of five categories: Arts, Education, Environment, Healthcare and Social Services. A surprise tie in OWF member balloting produced a sixth winner in the Social Services category. Awardees included: Arts: Ojai Youth Opera; Education: Girls Empowerment Workshop; Environment: Once upon a Watershed; Healthcare: Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurses Association; and Social Services: Nan Tolbert Nurturing Center, and Reins of H.O.P.E.

The Ojai Women’s Fund was established in January 2016 under the leadership of co-founders Karen Evenden and Peggy Russell. The group’s philosophy is to Empower Change Through Giving -- to encourage Ojai women to stand together, pool resources and support the needs of the Ojai Valley. Responding to the challenge, the group grew the membership to over 300 participants in just one year – clearly demonstrating that Ojai women have compassion and concern for their own community and are ready to take action.

Members love that their donations are invested right back into the community. “What’s truly amazing is the local emphasis and impact,” said Sandi White, OWF’s Membership Committee Chair. “Women love the collaborative nature (of OWF) and its transformational results.”

When asked how she felt following the momentous, first-year grants presentation, Karen Evenden, co-founder of OWF, said, “The event, like this entire year, exceeded my expectations – we’ve set the bar for next year and I’m confident that working together we will continue our success. Together, we’re truly making a difference in our Ojai Valley community!”

Russell added that “We’ve only just begun. The fact that we had 33 grant applications our first year shows us there’s so much more work to be done. We’re looking forward to doing even more in 2017.”

Among the many guests at the 2016 Ojai Women’s Fund Grant Awards Celebration were Carol Palladini, founder of the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara and Jan Campbell, Chief Philanthropic Officer of the Santa Barbara Foundation, both whose guidance this year was integral to OWF becoming a reality and achieving success. Campbell offered her view of OWF’s first year of philanthropy: “The Santa Barbara Foundation is proud to be the fiscal sponsor of the OWF and I am impressed by the rapid success of this group. Building philanthropy in the Ojai Valley just got a huge boost by these dedicated volunteers!”

Within the grant acceptance remarks made by awardees, the following are representative of the touching comments:

Rebecca Comerford, Ojai Youth Opera: “Opera can educate us, bring us closer, and preserve our souls. Without you, our opera dream would be just that – a dream.”

Shannon Skillern, Girls Empowerment Workshop: “We all want to see women succeed… we’re working to prepare young women for the real world in a strong and confident way.”

Dr. David White, Once Upon A Watershed: “We’re connecting (students) to their eco address. The support you provide enables us to build our program.”

Ellen Johnson, Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurses Association: “With your funding we can safeguard (Ojai) residents and ensure they get the care they need. Your gift shows this is a kinder, more caring community that we live in.”

Carol Castanon, Nan Tolbert Nurturing Center: “Families are where our hearts are first touched. It’s our first experience of more than one -- a microcosm of community, which is a microcosm of the world.”

Lynn Leis, Reins of H.O.P.E.: “We have a lot to learn from horses. They model strong relationships (and) help us to connect. It’s hard to go out and grab life without a connection.”

The Ojai Women’s Fund is currently accepting new members for 2017, 2016 member renewals, and end-of-year contributions. Donations made to the Ojai Women’s Fund are tax-deductible. For more information on joining, please call (805) 746-3096 or email info@ojaiwomensfund.org.

Not To Be Missed...2016 Grantee Celebration Reception!

The 2016 Ojai Women’s Fund
Grantee Celebration Reception

Thursday, Dec 1, 5:00 p.m.
St. Thomas Aquinas Church Center
183 St. Thomas Dr, Ojai

Why is our Grantee Celebration an event simply not to be missed?
Because it’s the culmination of every step we’ve taken this year!

It’s our time to:

  • Acknowledge, honor and celebrate all the significant accomplishments we’ve achieved in our inaugural year
  • Meet and hear from those who work with the folks whose lives we hope to improve through our donations and grantee selections
  • Join with our larger OWF member community and Ojai neighbors to share this wonderful, unique accomplishment we’ve done together

There is simply so much to celebrate!  And that’s exactly what we’ll do.
You’re an integral part of OWF’s success.  We couldn’t have done it without you.

Mark your calendar now and click here to RSVP to order your tickets!

2016 Election Success

Heartfelt congratulations to all our wonderful Ojai Women’s Fund members for a most success 2016 Grant Election! Thank you for taking the time to carefully review each balloted applicant and thoughtfully (and, for member groups, cooperatively) cast your informed votes. We released the election results on October 28th, which delighted us all with the surprise news of a sixth! grant recipient thanks to a ballot tie.  Nice job, ladies!

Our year of establishing OWF, spreading the word, hosting informational sessions, gathering almost 300 members, raising funds, and holding our membership election of first-year grant recipients has brought us now to this very exciting point. We did it!!  Now, we look forward to celebrating our own efforts, and the remarkable Ojai organizations we’ve chosen to share a total of $60,000 in OWF grants this year: (Arts) Ojai Youth Opera Company; (Education) Girls Empowerment Workshop; (Environment) Once Upon A Watershed; (Healthcare) Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurse Association; (Social Services) Nan Tolbert Nurturing Center, AND Reins of H.O.P.E.  Yes, we’ll have plenty to celebrate on December 1st at the 2016 OWF Grantee Celebration Reception

In the midst of our delight over this year’s phenomenal accomplishments, let’s give thought to 2017, which is, after all, just around the corner. Once we honor and celebrate this year’s grantees it will be time to look toward next year’s. So we encourage you to renew your OWF membership now before the holiday season frenzy sets in.  And, please extend enthusiastic news of the OWF to more friends and acquaintances who may wish to join us in 2017. In fact, invite them to our Dec. 1st event to experience the end-of-grant-cycle joy – that’s what it’s all about.    

Thank you! Congratulations! And see you at the celebration!

Member Spotlight: Anna Wagner

We’re especially thrilled to welcome Anna Wagner as a working member of the Ojai Women’s Fund. Just when we needed her the most, Anna graciously stepped up to help with OWF’s critical areas of volunteerism, and digital and social media.  Yeah, Anna!

Perhaps it’s her youth and enthusiasm that makes her such a whiz at multitasking. That, and plenty of high powered experience, too. Anna has served as Director of Development for the Ojai Music Festival since 2005; and was Campaign Director of the Libbey Bowl restoration project that raised $4 Million in contributions to restore the bowl, home of the annual Ojai Music Festival. 

Her lifelong passion for music originally drew her to the Ojai Music Festival. “I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work for an organization that encourages the creation of new music and performances by immerging artists,” Anna said. But it’s her savvy, professionalism, nonstop smile and amazing ability to get things done that have made her a beloved fixture there. 

Now, the Ojai Woman’s Fund is equally blessed to have Anna serving on the Communications & Marketing Committee handling digital communications. She’s also OWF’s Volunteer Coordinator – and loves to hear from members who want to get further involved.

Anna says she was particularly drawn to the Ojai Women’s Fund because of its goal to develop future philanthropists through relationships with friends and the community: “I’m so pleased to be part of an organization that provides women of all backgrounds an opportunity to become major philanthropists in their community. It’s wonderful to be able to contribute with friends and be part of a wider network of amazing women.“

When she’s not working or volunteering, Anna enjoys spending time with family, finding good bargains, and listening to podcasts while walking her dog, Charley.

Originally from Orange County, CA., Anna has been an Ojai resident now for 10 years. She lives with her husband Bill Wagner, Music Director of Nordhoff High School, and her smart, adorable 5-year-old daughter Charlotte. 

Welcome, and thank you, Anna!

Election Update: Voting Underway for 2016 Grant Recipients

The Ojai Women’s Fund (OWF) is currently holding elections for grant recipients of its inaugural year funding program. Winners of the 2016 grant awards will be announced November 1st. OWF was the dream of Ojai residents Karen Evenden and Peggy Russell. In less than nine months, Evenden and Russell gathered a team, created a grants-making organization to fund Ojai nonprofits with membership donations, and signed on almost 300 Ojai women to participate in its first year of shared giving. OWF surpassed its initial goal of $35,000 by raising a total of $56,000 to distribute among five local grant recipients currently being chosen by member votes.

The Ojai Women’s Fund shared giving concept is based on the very successful Santa Barbara Women’s Fund. Member dollars are pooled and member votes determine the programs to receive financial grants. This approach to philanthropy makes it possible for women of all economic levels to participate and be proactive in their own community. Each vote represents a $1,000 donation: members may choose to contribute the entire amount to earn an individual vote, or donate $100 or more and join a shared giving group to participate in a collective vote. Either way, each woman has a voice and a vote on where her money is directed.

OWF is about caring relationships with each other and the community. Rewards are threefold: members benefit through a shared approach to research, decision-making and giving; local nonprofits benefit through financial grants to help fund critical programs (organizations not selected to receive grants still will benefit from raised profile and greater awareness of good works); and Ojai benefits immeasurably from a concerned, involved population of women and their valuable contributions to the many local programs that assist and sustain our community.

Ballots for the 2016 OWF Grant Cycle are now in the hands of individual members and group captains. OWF groups have been gathering to discuss the candidates researched and nominated by the OWF Grants Committee and will submit their ballots by October 25. Out of this year’s 33 nonprofit applicants, 11 are on the ballot and five will be selected. The goal of the Ojai Women’s Fund is to designate one financial grant to each of five categories: Arts, Education, Environment, Healthcare and Social Services.

On December 1st, the Ojai Women’s Fund will host a celebratory 2016 Grant Awards Presentation at 5:00pm at St. Thomas Aquinas Center, 183 St. Thomas Dr., Ojai. Everyone is invited and encouraged to "save the date". Tickets may be purchased after November 1 online at the OWF website or over the phone by calling (805) 746-3096.  A $20 per person donation is requested.

Visit www.ojaiwomensfund.org for more information on Ojai Women’s Fund membership, grants, tax-deductible donations, community involvement, volunteer opportunities and more.


Santa Barbara Foundation Hosts Regional Convening of Women’s Funds

Sharing was in the air on July 14, when the Santa Barbara Foundation hosted the women’s funds and giving circles in the region including Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, Women’s Fund of Northern Santa Barbara County, Ojai Women’s Fund, Women’s & Girls’ Fund of the Kern Community Foundation, and the Women’s Legacy Fund of The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County. Forty-five women came together in support of “connecting missions and fostering conversations” at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo.

Ojai Women's Fund leaders Kyle Crowner, Karen Evenden, and Peggy Russell

Ojai Women's Fund leaders Kyle Crowner, Karen Evenden, and Peggy Russell

“This was a dream of mine – to bring together women who are passionate about philanthropy and who’ve made a significant impact on women, children, and families in our communities – to share and learn from each other,” said Jan Campbell, Chief Philanthropic Officer at the Santa Barbara Foundation.

Tracy Gary, a philanthropic advisor and leader in the women’s funding movement, kicked off the afternoon with a keynote presentation. She noted that there are 180 women’s funds throughout the nation and 300 women’s giving circles. All of them are identifying problems in their communities and driving the solutions. Gary emphasized that, “It has been proven again and again that women-driven philanthropy accelerates change, yields exponential returns, and brings powerful partners to the table.”

The afternoon was filled with deep dialogue and discussion around advancement and innovation in fundraising, as well as managing leadership, goals, and transition. Successful practices and lessons learned were shared by many of the attendees. Donor education emerged as a constant theme throughout the day and Gary noted it as an area that should be prioritized. She encouraged the women to be students and to study the women’s funding movement. “For us to have a breakthrough, we really need to own the issue of women and girls,” Gary said.

The engagement in women’s philanthropy continues to grow in numbers and influence in this region of California and throughout the nation. “Community foundations are ideally suited to support these efforts as partners in grant making, fiscal sponsorship, and administration,” said Heidi McPherson, Chief Executive Officer of The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County. “We are looking forward to collaborating with the Santa Barbara Foundation in hosting future conversations and continuing to learn from each other.”

For more information about the Santa Barbara Foundation’s collective giving programs, please contact Jan Campbell, Chief Philanthropic Officer at JCampbell@sbfoundation.org.

Our First Grants Cycle!

OWF Grants Committee

OWF Grants Committee

The Ojai Women’s Fund (OWF) is proud to have our first grants cycle underway.  Our goal this year is to raise $50,000 for distribution in 2016.  We’re delighted to report that we now have over 200 members and approaching $40,000 in donor donations!  With about six weeks left until the 2016 Grant Cycle-OWF Membership closes on Sept 1st, we urge you to help us meet our goals by inviting more women to join and donate during OWF’s inaugural year.  Donations received after Sept. 1st will be applied to 2017 grants.

While final decisions about grant recipients will be made by OWF member-donors, the Grants Committee is now conducting careful preliminary selections. OWF’s Grants Committee, composed of twenty-one diverse women from our Ojai Valley communities, has been working hard for months to develop the needed elements of a grants cycle.  The committee designed the online grant application, spread the word about the open application period, and reviewed protocols for confidentiality and fairness in the evaluation process, all in preparation for receiving the first batch of applications. 

The OWF Steering Committee established five funding priority areas: arts, education, environment, health and social services.  In collaboration with the Grants Committee, the selection criteria were established.  “It’s a lot of work to get all of this up and running in the first year,” said Margo Haas, a member of the Grants Committee.  “We wanted to make the process as inclusive and fair as possible while maintaining high standards of performance for ourselves and for prospective grantees.”

Thirty-one grant applications came in this year!  The Grants Committee is currently reviewing them.  “The proposals are impressive,” said Grants Committee member Mary Ann O’Connor.  “They demonstrate real needs here in the Ojai Valley and contain imaginative approaches to meeting those needs.” This year, there was a fairly even distribution of proposals across the five funding priority areas. Proposal requests are in the $5,000-$10,000 range.

The Grants Committee typically meets as a whole, but is also divided into research working groups.  Currently, review of the grant applications is being conducted by the smaller research working groups. These groups delve much more deeply into one area – say Social Services in the Ojai Valley – and then closely examine the applications submitted in that category.  They research the organizations and conduct site visits to those organizations being advanced for further consideration.  Each research working group then reports its findings and decisions at a full Grants Committee meeting.  After the full Grants Committee has identified all of the proposals to go forward on the donor ballot, they will present their recommendations to the Steering Committee for ratification.

“It is a careful review process,” O’Connor noted. “There are two rounds of deliberations in the research working groups.  After each round, a presentation is made to the full Grants Committee.  There are opportunities for questions and insights.  It’s excellent training for the committee members in analyzing non-profit organizations and programs; in presenting to a group; and in being educated philanthropists.  It’s hard work, but everybody seems to be enjoying it.  The energy at our meetings is terrific!”

The ultimate decision on grant recipients belongs to our donors, of course.  Once final nominees are identified, the Grants Committee will prepare a ballot and send to donors to make a choice in each of the five funding areas.  The ballot will include descriptions of each organization and proposed program.  “It will be a difficult choice,” said Haas, “they will all be worthy organizations and well-designed programs.  Our hope is that donors will be inspired to be even more generous in the coming years when they see what great work is being done here in the Ojai Valley.”

 “Donors should know that grant recipients will be held accountable,” O’Connor added.  “There will be final reports including measurable outcomes required at the end of each grant year.  In every way – from the grant applications to the research to the final reports we are trying to make sure that every dollar donated is well spent.  And we’re doing it all without paid staff – amazing!”

OWF Member Profile: Meet Sandi White

As we place special emphasis on membership this summer, it makes perfect sense to cast a warm spotlight on Sandi White, our Chair of the Ojai Women’s Fund (OWF) Membership Committee.  You’ve probably already met, spoken with, or at least heard Sandi speak at one of our functions or meet-and-greet events.  Yes, she’s the gal who seems to have it all – brains, beauty and poise.  But don’t mistake her sense of ease for a life of ease.  Sandi is one hard working gal!  Her focus on philanthropy is both a professional and personal one. Her career as a professional fundraiser has included leadership roles at such non-profit organizations as Court Appointed Special Advocates, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Westmont College and, currently, UCSB.

“I've been working in non-profit fundraising as a professional for more than 20 years, and have experienced how beneficial additional funds can be to a small non-profit as well as to a larger organization," she says. "Most times, non-profits are continually in need of more funding and many times administrators of the services provided are wearing multiple hats; they may also be the person who writes for grants and tries to secure funding through various avenues.  I've been in that position and know that every dollar raised makes a difference.”

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pa., Sandi’s upbringing helped to mold her lifelong values of commitment, compassion and community. The collective giving concept on which the Ojai Women’s Fund is built provides Sandi an opportunity to embrace personal philanthropy based on her core values. 

“Giving back is something that was instilled in me as a child," Sandi says. "My parents, while not wealthy, always made it a point to be charitable to their passions and to their community. To this day, if I receive a gift of money from my parents, they remind me that 10 percent should be given to charity!  As a professional fundraiser working for non-profits, I've seen and know the joy that our donors receive when they generously offer support to others. They see first hand how their gifts truly change the lives of children, families and students. I believe we all feel satisfaction when we help others, and through the Ojai Women's Fund we/you will become a part of a group of women who will touch the lives of many and you can take joy from knowing that!”

Sandi was recruited in the concept phase of Ojai Women’s Fund (OWF) by friend Karen Evenden, co-founder of the Ojai Women’s Fund, and gracefully accepted the challenge to chair the OWF Membership Committee.  In her spare time (i.e. evenings, weekends and daily roundtrip commutes from Ojai to Santa Barbara!) Sandi contributes ideas, insights, experience, writing, speaking, technical- and event-planning savvy to help establish, expand, position and promote OWF.  Prior to joining the Ojai Women’s Fund Sandi was a two-year member of the Santa Barbara Women’s Fund, the organization on which OWF patterned our own philanthropic group. Her passion and commitment to proactive community efforts are genuine and, quite frankly, contagious!

 “I believe the Ojai Women's Fund is a wonderful way to provide much needed funding to area non-profits," she says. "As women living in the Ojai community, I think it’s our responsibility to do what we can to support the efforts of local non-profit organizations that provide services and goods to benefit those in need.  When we gather resources collectively we’re able to make valuable and positive differences in our community. And, as I've said before, how fun to be able to work together as a group of caring women!” 

When she’s not actively engaged in an OWF project, or commuting to or from, or working at UCSB, Sandi enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, or on the tennis court. She shares her life in Ojai with husband Scott, a marketing director for a laser company, and daughter Lexi, an architect, who lives and works in Los Angeles. Sandi loves to share the good news about the Ojai Women’s Fund and explain its brilliantly simple construct.  To learn more about OWF membership, contact Sandi at (805) 746-3096 or ojaiwf@gmail.com.

Also, Sandi wants to remind us of two more upcoming opportunities to gather our gal pals and attend cozy informational evenings on “Creating Your Giving Group.”  If you’re a member without a group; are considering membership; or reaching out to friends and acquaintances to join OWF, please spread the word and plan to attend one or both gatherings to meet other women looking to join individually; to join a group; to join as a group; or to create a new group. 

Sunday, July 17, 5:00-7:00 p.m.

Call or email for address
RSVP at (805) 746-3096 or info@ojaiwomensfund.org

Thursday, August 18, 5:00-7:00 p.m.
Call or email for address
RSVP at (805) 746-3096 or info@ojaiwomensfund.org

*  *  *