Women in Philanthropy: WISE at the University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education

Author: Colleen Reese

The Fall 2017 Apra Colorado conference featured two amazing speakers who really got us thinking with information about their research and projects on the topic of Women in Philanthropy. If you missed the conference, you can learn a little more from the blog of our keynote speaker, Preeti Gill: Diversity Driven Data. We also got to learn about Colorado State University’s initiative for women in philanthropy. Turns out Apra Colorado and CSU aren’t the only Coloradans with an eye on women’s philanthropy.

In 2009, the University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education created a giving circle focused on their female donors, which they called Women Investing in the School of Education (WISE). Members of WISE commit at least $1000 per year for three consecutive years and then meet each year to determine which projects they would like to support using their pooled funds. Thirty WISE members (with total giving now over $250,000) hear proposals from the School’s faculty, often working with graduate students, and then vote on where to allocate their group donations. One great benefit of the WISE program is engaging donors directly with the innermost workings of the School’s faculty and students. Lorrie Shepard, Dean Emerita of CU Boulder’s School of Education says, “WISE members value the opportunity to connect with the faculty and others who care about the same issues.” Among many noteworthy impacts, WISE donations have helped benefit educational research for under-privileged students, prepare future teachers to be better educators, and support statewide outreach in art education.

The WISE program came from a burgeoning fundraising program – the School of Education got its first full-time fundraiser in 2005 ? and the Dean’s desire to seek more engagement from the School’s nearly 80% female alumni base. Inspired by a similar program that was successfully launched at Fontbonne University in Missouri, the School of Education at CU Boulder created their own focus on women in philanthropy. Eight years after its inspired beginnings, Assistant Dean for Development Ann Scott feels the group has become true insiders and devotees of the School of Education. WISE members have grown in their philanthropy, many giving beyond $1000 a year and a number have given major gifts and created scholarships; however, the group has stayed true to its foundations of collaborative giving.

This successful women-focused program truly engages its supporters in learning about and supporting the issues and mission of the School of Education and give us all a fantastic example of how women are impacting philanthropy in Colorado.

Information in this article was obtained through a 2012 WISE brochure and personal interviews with Ann Scott, Assistant Dean for Advancement at CU Boulder’s School of Education, and Margot Neufeld, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Parent Giving and Boulder Advancement Programs.

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