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Willmar Women's Fund

Fund Established: 2008
Community Foundation(s): Willmar Area
Award: 2017 WACF Innovative Impact Award

Working together to develop new ideas and initiatives to improve the lives of women and girls summarizes the innovative mission of the Willmar Area Women’s Fund.

The Women’s Fund is a signature initiative of the Willmar Area Community Foundation and began in 2008 as a response to the changing dynamics of philanthropy. At that time, new studies emerged that showed women were outliving men and the majority of philanthropic decisions thus were shifted to women. The creation of the Willmar Area Women’s Fund was in direct response to this changing dynamic and provided an effective way to connect women directly with the needs of local communities.

The steering committee’s vision to expand on existing efforts providing access to lives of economic and social strength for women and girls in the community led to the distribution of more than $80,000 of grant money over the past nine years. In 2015, the committee became aware of the increasing numbers of homeless youth in our area and the alarming connection between homelessness and sex trafficking. As a result, the Fund began to focus their annual Caring for Women Circle Campaign on raising awareness of these issues to prevent them from happening locally.

The Women’s Fund exceeded their campaign goals for the previous two years in a row, raising more than $135,000 to combat trafficking and youth homelessness. The Fund’s members have partnered with other local non-profits to create new partnerships, provide educational curriculum for local children and bring greater awareness to these issues within the community.

In addition to the work currently underway the Willmar Area Women’s Fund plans to help create and fund a Regional Navigator position to assist with the growing problems of homelessness and trafficking. This position is a new concept and will function as a pilot program with the potential to act as a model for similar positions throughout the nation.