Spotlight: The Wood River Women’s Foundation in Idaho

 photo: sevenMaps7/shutterstock

photo: sevenMaps7/shutterstock

With a statewide population comparable to the city of Phoenix, grantmaking in Idaho often flies under the radar. But one thing that’s on the rise here is women’s philanthropy. For example, there’s a women’s giving circle in the centrally located small town of Ketchum called the Wood River Women’s Foundation (WRWF), which has been ramping up its giving and grown to more than 300 members today. The group started with just 27 founding members about 13 years ago.

WRWF recently committed nearly $300,000 to 16 nonprofits in Blane County, Idaho. The funder awarded several grants over $10,000 this year, including grants to the Blaine County Recreation District, Blaine County Seniors Council, and Idaho Trails. This women’s group works closely with top grantees, even enlisting "impact teams" to make winter site visits to assess progress and troubleshoot challenges. Meanwhile, WRWF awards a few smaller grants, as well, which include less follow-up, to such groups as Hailey Ice and the Lee Pesky Learning Center. A total of 70 member-volunteers reviewed around 34 grant applications to arrive at the most recent batch of 16 grantees for 2018.

Unlike lots of larger giving entities and even other women's giving groups, this one is quite open-minded about the types of causes it supports and the types of funding it provides. Grantmaking areas of interest are arts, education, environment, health, recreation, and social services. And WRWF supports everything from individual programs to community partnerships, outreach, and expansion projects on a regular basis. This is also a good funder to approach with your practical equipment and facility maintenance needs.

Like many women’s giving groups, this one started out with a ladies’ tea session, and now hosts celebratory luncheons to award grants with champagne and festive décor. But what WRWF really seems to be celebrating is how many local women have been stepping up to become community leaders and give back to the place they call home. Women need to pledge $1,000 per year to get involved with WRWF, and this pool of money has been growing steadily each year, lately. This is impressive: WRWF has become one of the largest giving collectives in the nation despite its very small community size.

We expect the next WRWF grant cycle to open up in October and require applications by November. This funder typically holds an informational meeting for prospective grantseekers in the fall before that deadline.