All-volunteer group marks 10 years of strengthening community

It’s been 10 years of helping the community grow stronger and 10 years of funding worthwhile organizations. Since 2005, Nevada Women’s Philanthropy, an all-volunteer organization, has provided more than $3.64 million in large-impact grants, with smaller, unrestricted grants to 20 area nonprofits that address the needs of the greater Las Vegas community.

“Nevada Women’s Philanthropy has grown exponentially since the original six women banded together to make a greater impact in their community than they could do alone,” said Heather duBoef, co-founding member of Nevada Women’s Philanthropy. “Ten years, hundreds of members and more than $3.64 million later, it’s truly incredible to look back at what we’ve accomplished in just a decade.”

The group, headquartered in Summerlin, was founded in November 2005 by Dena duBoef, Heather duBoef, Marcelle Frey, Dana Lee, Trina Pascal and Tawny Sanders.

Now, each grant cycle sees an average of 85 members who provide approximately $350,000 in a large-impact grant every year to a local nonprofit.

Thanks to financial help from the group:

The Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, 4981 Shirley St., doubled the size of its William Fry Drop-In Center, making it one of the premier drop-in centers in the nation.

The Clark County School District and The Public Education Foundation were able to fund three Empowerment Schools.

The Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, 725 E. Charleston Blvd., is now able to give a voice to 83 percent of children in the foster care system.

Dana Lee, founding member and past president, credited Heather duBoef with coming up with the idea.

“We were doing all these fundraisers,” Lee said, “like galas and doing all this work, calling in favors, getting donations for silent and live auctions, and she said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could give money in a more directed and impactful manner?’ And a bunch of us said, ‘What a great idea.’ “

Heather duBoef’s sister was a member of an organization called Every Child, which gave $1 million grants every year. She put them in touch with the people who could help them organize their Las Vegas effort.

“They gave us what I call the ‘playbook,’ ” Lee said. “… So we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

Susie Lee was one of the first members of the group during its inaugural year.

“I liked the concept of pooling our money to have a large impact,” she said. “But I think the part that was most appealing to me was getting more people involved and aware of what’s going on in the community.”

Each woman is asked to donate $5,000 a year, and each donor gets to vote on who will be awarded the grant. There were about 40 women who signed on the first year. Susie Lee estimated that more than 50 percent of donors opt to continue funding the effort each year. There have been roughly 175 women who have been part of the effort over the past 10 years. The recession caused a drop off in membership, but she said things are picking up again.

“I think people feel compelled to contribute to this model where you’re the decision maker in where the money goes,” she said.

Along with the grant comes a monitoring program to ensure the money is being used as it was intended.

Grant recipients noted how the monetary support helped them. In 2009, the group provided the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada with an Impact Grant.

“The legacy of that donation will benefit children in the foster care system for many years to come,” said Barbara Buckley, executive director of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. “The grant allowed us to make the important shift to ensuring that more children than ever before have legal representation, giving them a voice from the earliest stages of the proceedings, when they are first taken from their parents.”

The Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth also benefited from an Impact Grant.

“The Impact Grant we received from Nevada Women’s Philanthropy was instrumental in helping Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth become one of the most comprehensive drop-in centers for homeless youth in the country,” said Arash Ghafoori, executive director of the nonprofit. “With that money, we’re able to … offer higher-quality services to Southern Nevada’s growing population of homeless youth, all while saving thousands of dollars in overhead costs each year.”

Susie Lee said the recession impacted the grants for a while, but that the group has regained its footing and continued helping organizations that help others.

“Hopefully, in the next 10 years,” said Dana Lee, “we’re doing the same thing and still going strong.”

Visit nvwomensphilanthropy.org or call 702-892-2326.

— To reach Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan, email jhogan@viewnews.com or call 702-387-2949.

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