AFFW banner 2021

Board Chair Updates

Sue Gaard, chair of the AFFW Advisory Council

In a Year Like No Other, Women's Support of Each Other Has an Impact

In a year like no other, women clung to hope, even when hope itself seemed groundless.

Existing inequities among underserved women — life expectancy gaps, employment disparities, and insecure access to education and wealth — only widened under the stress and strain of the pandemic.

We learned that “safe at home” wasn’t safer for women facing domestic violence.

We learned that traditional assistance programs were not accessible to those who most needed them.

We learned that what might seem just for some, was unjust for others.

Women working in low-wage sectors with weak employment benefits and undependable hours faced threats of job and housing loss. Programs traditionally designed to help were either modified or unavailable because of pandemic conditions. The challenges of securing a better job and breaking the cycle of poverty were even greater than before.

Because of your continued support of A Fund for Women (AFFW), we were able to provide emergency relief funds to Dane County agencies responding to urgent community needs. In 2020, $103,000 was provided to agencies addressing evolving needs of women in Dane County as a result of the pandemic.

You made this possible.

In 2021, we anticipate the continued work that is before us; work that is necessary to break the cycle of poverty for women in our community and reduce the barriers to their success.

Let us proceed, bringing hope and light to generations of women in Dane County.

I wish to extend my appreciation to Angela R. Davis, our tireless Staff Liaison at Madison Community Foundation (MCF) and AFFW Legacy Society member, as well as the Advisory Council, whose passion and dedication are unsurpassed. In 2021, we said goodbye to Advisory Council member Nicole Jenkins, longstanding supporter and AFFW Legacy Society member. During Nicole’s five years on the council, she served as Vice-Chair and Chair, providing steadfast leadership and energy.


More Committed Than Ever to Transforming Our Community

Jennifer Seeker Conroy headshot

A Fund for Women begins 2019 more committed than ever to transforming our community so that women and girls thrive. We know that empowering women lifts up families and changes communities. The work is not easy or quick, but it is worth it.

In 1993, 100 women gave $1,000 each to start a $100,000 permanent endowment fund committed entirely to women and girls. Now 25 years later, that investment allows us to grant at least $100,000 every year to agencies working on the ground in Dane County to help women (particularly women of color) achieve economic security.

I am honored and humbled to take on the Advisory Committee Chair role in 2019. A big thank you to Nicole Jenkins who has completed her term as Chair but will remain on the committee. We have big goals this year. We want to grow our endowment and increase the number of people naming A Fund for Women in their will or estate plan. For the first 25 people who make a planned gift, AFFW founder Jane Coleman has agreed to make a matching contribution of $1,000 in the name of each new commitment. These donors may remain anonymous or be recognized as part of Madison Community Foundation’s Legacy Society. This will enable us to continue to invest in women far into the future.

Our relationship with Madison Community Foundation as a component fund enables us to operate efficiently and effectively by sharing resources and pooling our investments for maximum return. In 2018, we reaffirmed that relationship to enable us to continue to have maximum impact on behalf of our donors.

In 2019, we are also committed to growing our Advisory Committee to reflect the richness and diversity of the communities we serve for many years to come.

At times I can find myself impatient about the pace of change in our community. Then I remember the vision of those women 25 years ago who started AFFW. I hope you will recommit with me for the next 25 years, as we work together toward the vision of economic empowerment for all women in Dane County, particularly from underrepresented populations. We must build the community we all deserve.

A Night to Remember! A Fund for Women's 25th Anniversary Celebration

Serving as Chair of A Fund for Women as we celebrated our 25th Anniversary on October 9 was a fantastic way to honor our past and a few special individuals who have made this organization what it is today. We also celebrated our present and announced over $100,000 in new grant awards to help local women and girls! Finally, we heard extraordinary stories from women who shared their journey and how this fund, because of your support, is making a real impact for women and girls in our community.

What a thrill it was to recognize our Charter Donors, those original 100 donors, Jane Coleman called upon in 1993 to give $1,000 each to start the A Fund for Women endowment. We also acknowledged our current advisory committee, past committee and board members, those that have funds that benefit A Fund for Women, current legacy donors who have named A Fund for Women in their will or estate plans and all donors to the fund. It was quite an incredible site!

 AFFW Incoming board 2018
L to R: Incoming Board Chair Jennifer Seeker Conroy, Julietta Johnson, Rachel Kvasnica, Natalie Johnson, Jen Shaub, Jen Kloepping

Over the past two years, I’ve been privileged to work with the advisory committee to implement our current grantmaking focus: women’s economic security. The advisory committee is a committed group of volunteers who bring their diverse backgrounds and experiences together to help A Fund for Women target our grants – your investments – to the best opportunities to help women and girls in our community. I look forward to working with our advisory committee and our new chair, Jennifer Seeker Conroy as we plan for the next 25 years!

I would like to give a special thank you to our sponsors: Madison Gas & Electric, American Printing, Capitol Lakes, UW Credit Union, Madison365, our media partner, and designCraft Advertising for managing our event promotions.

What a Night! A Fund for Women's Annual Dinner and Fundraiser

Our annual dinner and fundraiser, held on Thursday October 12, was an amazing experience. Keynote speaker Sagashus Levingston, author of the forthcoming book Infamous Mothers, gave us a truly intimate evening to share with our friends, colleagues, mothers, sisters, brothers, husbands and partners. The energy and emotion in the room was powerful enough to light up the city! No one left our event that night the same person they were when they arrived.

The one-woman play adaptation performances brought the room together, and set the stage – literally – for a night of real stories, tough stories, life stories. The message Sagashus shared, about taking care of (not just the mother) but first investing in the life of the woman, aligns with our mission at A Fund For Women. When you invest in a woman’s education and job training, you are investing in her ability to achieve economic security. When a woman is able to earn a family supporting wage, she is able to invest her time and resources back into her family and community.  When you invest in women’s economic empowerment, you are making positive and lasting change in our community and together we are making a better Madison! 

This year we received a record number of grant applications, which tells us the need is great for resources to support women and girls in Dane County. We are grateful and so moved by the generosity of our sponsors and supporters. It is because of you that we are able to continue funding the essential work of our nonprofit partners and awarded, at their full request level—almost $75,000 in grants this year. Our 2017 grant recipients are:

Latino Academy of Workforce Development, Latinas in the Workforce

The Doyenne Group, Doyenne Group Evergreen Fund (Year 2)

UW Odyssey Project, Onward Odyssey – Empowering Women

YWCA Madison, YWeb Career Academy

Thank you to everyone who played a part in the success of our event this year, and please consider making a donation toward next year’s grants, or getting your sponsorship in early for our 25th Anniversary. 

Donor Appreciation and Strategy Map

Spring 2017 was a busy time for the advisory committee of A Fund for Women. We held a retreat at Holy Wisdom Monastery in April, where we focused on beginning stage development of a Balanced Scorecard and Strategy Map. This tool will allow A Fund for Women to measure the impact we are making in the community based on measures in four specific areas: Stakeholders, Financial, Processes, and Talent & Technology. Additionally, the Balanced Scorecard and Strategy Map provides accountability to our donors, an inside look, of the work we are doing at A Fund for Women. We continue to develop this tool and look forward to sharing more information later this year.

The Donor Appreciation event was held at HotelRED this year on May 2. All 2016 Grantee organizations were in the room. Three powerful stories of impact and gratitude were shared that illustrated through both humor and tears the difference grants provided by A Fund For Women are making in our community. Many who attended expressed to us they left that evening with a renewed feeling of excitement and passion for the work being done to ensure economic empowerment for all women and transform Dane County so that all women and girls thrive.

The last piece of business executed this spring was to update and streamline our grants application process. Utilizing the capabilities of our new website, nonprofit agencies could access the application materials online for the first time. This change simplified the application process for both our non-profit partners and A Fund for Women. Grant applications were due on May 31 and as spring comes to an end, a busy summer of grant applications review and selection is upon us.

Grantee selection is the perfect segue to mention the A Fund for Women Annual Dinner to be held this year on October 12, 2017, at Monona Terrace. Please mark your calendars and watch for your invitation coming later this summer. In order to continue making an impact in the lives of women and transforming our community, we need our supporters in the room and at the table on October 12. If you are interested in sponsorship, please reach out to us for more information.

Thanks to all of our donors for your continued support and passion for the work we do at A Fund for Women. It could not be achieved without your dedication and belief in the mission. Together, we will live in a community where all women have the ability to reach their greatest potential.

Will You Join Us?

Please consider a gift to A Fund for Women today.


Leave a Legacy

Give to A Fund for Women in your will or estate plan.