Our Stories: The Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona

At the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona we collaborate to achieve social, political and economic change that empowers women.

A lot of people know us for our grantmaking! But we do much more than that. For example, we recently carried out a big research project on what’s known as the Self-Sufficiency Wage. That’s the wage that a single parent of two kids under the age of 8, working full-time, needs to earn to be self-sufficient. We partnered with the University of Washington, and we found that in Pima County, Arizona, that wage is $21.14 hour: much higher than the minimum wage, of course. This kind of nonpartisan research helps us educate people and change the conversation about issues such as who needs government assistance, and why. It really helps us make an impact for women in our community.

When we first started working with Bolder Advocacy, it was perfect timing because we had just completed an intensive strategic planning process. Our Board really wanted us to move more into public policy work. We knew we needed to train our Board and staff and educate our donors about the kind of advocacy we would need to do to be effective. Sara Matlin of Bolder Advocacy conducted a training for our Board and staff, and it was so well-received that we did a survey with our grantees to find out if they’d be interested, too. Every year we give grants to about 20 organizations, and Sara came back to do a series of trainings for 120 people representing our nonprofit grantees from all over the region!

We’ve really tried to leverage Bolder Advocacy resources as much as possible, because there’s something for everyone. Our grantees that took the training ranged from groups that needed the basics to experienced advocates who came away saying, “Gosh, we learned about a rule we’d never heard of!”

Our grantees really span the full spectrum: we serve some of the poorest, rural communities but we also serve the large urban area of Tucson. We have a grassroots organization that runs a Spanish-speaking medical clinic in south Tucson that is operated by volunteer providers. We also have the larger social services organizations that work on issues like domestic violence and affordable housing. One group helps low-income single moms become first-time homeowners. And we have groups that are involved in micro-lending to women-owned businesses, and workforce development.

We really feel that these days, nonprofit organizations can’t afford not to be doing advocacy. Of course, lack of knowledge about the legal rules is the biggest barrier to getting involved in more advocacy work, so it’s really important for an organization’s Board, staff and volunteers to feel confident that they understand the rules. We’re proud to recommend AFJ and Bolder Advocacy to organizations that want to get involved in advocacy because now more than ever, it’s important for us all to be working upstream on behalf of our communities. And hey, at the Women’s Foundation, advocacy was always part of our mission – it only took us 26 years to get there! You can get there too.

Dawne Bell, MPA, CFRE
CEO, Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona