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Grants give local women and girls a leg up in a bad economy

The Women's Fund of Western Massachusetts will continue to award $250,000 in grants in the coming year. Last year the fund increased its giving by 160 percent when it distributed $260,000 in "social change" grants to 23 area organizations. Although the economy is still in recovery, the Women's Fund will not decrease its funding.
"We knew that this economic crisis was going to be devastating to non-profits and the women and girls with whom they work," said Carla Oleska, executive director of the fund. "We are responding by standing by women and girls through our grant making. We are not backing down."
Grants are for organizations or programs serving women and girls in the four counties of Western Massachusetts, and will range from $1,000 to $15,000. Applications are due Feb. 1, 2010.
"We look for projects that truly address the root causes, that influence long-term social change for women and girls, particularly in the areas of education, economic security and safety," said Julie Kumble, director of grants and programs. "Our grant categories make it easier for organizations to decide where they might best fit in." The foundation's grants fund operating support, program support, policy impact projects, and organizational capacity building.
Before applying for a grant, Kumble strongly recommends that applicants attend a pre-proposal information session on Dec. 9 when guidelines will be explained in depth. Meeting time and location, and the application itself, are available at www.womensfund.net.
In its 12th year, the Women's Fund of Western Massachusetts has awarded over $1.3 million in grants that have helped improve the lives of more than 20,000 women and girls.
"When you change the life of just one woman, you can better not only her life, but also the lives of her children and the community in which they live," Oleska said. "It's a testament to people who care about women and girls and who make $15 or $1,500 contributions that allow us to support these organizations. Our work starts and ends at the community level."