GI_9th Graders Field Trip to Chicago 0612 (12)

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2015 Grants Program 

A Fund for Women had $65,000 available for grants during its 2014-2015 cycle. The Advisory Board allocated $60,000 for its annual competitive grants program and $5,000 for one proactive grant opportunity.

As it has since 2011, A Fund for Women AFFW sought proposals for reducing barriers to independence faced by teenage girls and/or young women (aged 16 to 24 years) as they transition to becoming self-sufficient and independent.

2015 Competitive Grant Awards

$15,000 – YWCA: Third Street Program

YWCA’s Third Street provides support services, affordable apartments, and a safe neighborhood for families. Third Street serves single moms with children, birth to 4 years old, or women in their last trimester of pregnancy who have been homeless, have no other housing options, have escaped violence and/or have never rented.

Third Street helps families overcome the challenges of poverty, homelessness, and abuse while supporting them in pursuing goals towards becoming self-reliant. The program supports parents in nurturing their children by providing stability, support, and a starting place. While in the program, women are able to pursue their goals and build a positive housing history. Read more »

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By: Melinda Heinritz, Strategic Partnerships Director

In January 2011, A Fund For Women embarked on a campaign to increase its endowment from $1.4M to $2.1M. By reaching the $2.1M endowment level, A Fund for Women would have, on average, $100,000 to distribute annually in support of our community’s women and girls. As of June 30, 2014, we did it!

In fact, with cash and pledges (through 2016), A Fund for Women now has $2,241,687 in endowment commitments. The A Fund for Women Advisory Board is deeply grateful to the more than 700 individuals and corporations who made this success possible.

We especially want to honor three different contributors who offered challenge grants to inspire others to give generously to A Fund for Women:

- Diane Ballweg, who offered $200,000 to match gifts of $10,000 and up.
- Holly Berkenstadt, who offered $50,000 to match gifts below $10,000.
- The Madison Community Foundation, which offered $50,000 on October 16, 2013, to help us complete this multi-year campaign.

Read more »

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judy olderBy Jennifer Seeker Conroy, AFFW Volunteer

In 1993, 100 women in the Madison area raised $100,000 to create A Fund For Women as a component fund within the Madison Community Foundation. Just over 20 years later, a $100,000 donation from a remarkable Madison woman has helped AFFW reach its endowment goal of $2.1 million. This ensures AFFW can offer grants totaling an average of $100,000 a year to help women and girls in our community.

During her life, Judy Schwaemle was a passionate proponent of social justice, women’s rights, and philanthropy. After her death, her legacy will live on in the projects AFFW helps fund through her donation. “It’s the tangible expression of the intangible love she had for Madison, and for women, and payback for how women helped her,” explained Jacob Stockinger, Schwaemle’s partner of 42 years and husband of 25 years. judy smiling

Schwaemle was devoted to her career as a public servant. She spent almost 30 years in the Dane County District Attorney’s office, eventually retiring as a Deputy District Attorney in 2010. She earned praise from her peers and even from those she prosecuted and earned awards from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) and the Legal Association for Women. An award was also created in her name within the district attorney’s office after she retired. Read more »

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Check 2By Jennifer Seeker Conroy, AFFW Volunteer

When 23-year-old Arianna came to Operation Fresh Start (OFS), she was a high school dropout in her early 20s, with three young children and no stable housing. She lacked direction but did have a desire to build a better life for herself and her family. Self-sufficiency seemed a distant goal, but OFS was equipped to empower Arianna.

OFS was founded in Madison in 1970 to help young men learn work skills and develop into contributing members of society. “If we don’t reach them at this point of transition they’re going to cost society a lot of money,” said OFS Executive Director Greg Markle. In fact, a young person without an education or job skills will cost an average of $250,000 over his lifetime in social programs, according to Markle. OFS aims to intervene during young adulthood to equip young people with the skills they need to be self-sufficient. Read more »

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As we begin 2015, AFFW has a clear mission and vision. Last year, the A Fund for Women Advisory Board voted unanimously to adopt a new mission statement and to approve a first ever vision statement in our twenty-one year history. We are thrilled to share with you the words that will define our planning and decision-making in 2015 and beyond:

Vision Statement: When we empower women and girls, we improve the world. 

Mission Statement: We transform our community so women and girls thrive. 

To arrive at these statements, we engaged the services of Brandgarten, a local marketing firm that specializes in branding organizations like A Fund for Women. Through a multi-month process, we involved more than 100 stakeholders through in-person meetings, phone interviews and online surveys. We challenged ourselves to understand how we’ve represented A Fund for Women’s brand over the years and welcomed your input about the direction you embraced for our future efforts.

Thanks to your participation, A Fund for Women can now present its work and related messaging with a clear, consistent and compelling voice. These words, of course, represent only the beginning of a variety of strategic discussions that will unfold over the next year. A Fund for Women will explore a new logo, a new color palette and even a new name as a result of the Brandgarten project. More importantly, we will create an impact initiative that will describe our priorities and the outcomes we wish to deliver in the greater Madison community.

In short, we’re rolling up our sleeves and preparing to turn our mission and vision statements into action! Stay tuned through our 2015 print and e-newsletters for updates. If you would like to learn more, please contact Melinda Heinritz, Strategic Partnerships Director, Madison Community Foundation, at or (608) 232-1763. We welcome your time, talent and enthusiasm!


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Dear A Fund for Women Family Members:

Thank you for a warm welcome and a terrific first year working with all of you! In a moment I’ll share some of the impressive results we’ve accomplished together. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t extend a personal note of gratitude to my predecessor, Jan Gietzel, for her constancy and friendship, and to Jane Coleman, who started it all in 1993, for her energy and her “let’s get it done” attitude. Please take a moment to celebrate the following:

  • Our endowment has surpassed $2M for the first time in our history. In fact, with pledges, we’re over the $2.2M mark. Evidence of what more than 2,000 supporters can do collectively!
  • We completed the $50,000 endowment challenge issued by the Madison Community Foundation and the $200,000 endowment gift offered by Diane Ballweg. Wow!
  • Speaking of the Madison Community Foundation, we’ve forged a powerful partnership within the organization that we call home. A shout out to Bob, Ann, Tom, Amy, Harmony, Robin, Tina, Darcy, Allie, Pat, and Connie for your patience and expertise!
  • The ten incredible women of the Advisory Board – Tiffany, Martha, Shana, Nicole, Mary, Barb, Mary, Melissa, Tricia, and Lisa – have engaged in sometimes fierce debates about our future. They OWN A Fund for Women’s ambitious commitments to our women and girls. I love them for their passion and wisdom.
  • We oversaw a successful 2014-2015 grants cycle. You’ll learn more about our nine grantees in this newsletter but A Fund for Woman has now distributed more than $1.1M in grants to 60 plus nonprofit agencies. We are grateful for the trust you show in us to do this important work, and we send best wishes to our grantee partners who are in the trenches 24-7-365.
  • As you read in the lead story, we launched a strategy / branding project that will continue to guide us in the new year. Thank you, Holly Berkenstadt, for giving us the ability to invest in ourselves. We have been good but, with you, we can reach for great.
  • Events! We had an amazing array of activities available for you in 2014. Learn more in the pages to come… Great to see so many of you – please bring friends in 2015!

Read more »

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GCC_Credit McIntire Photography 122512 (138)-GIRLSBy: Jennifer Seeker Conroy, AFFW Volunteer

The challenges of navigating young womanhood were daunting for many of us; from juggling school and part-time jobs to adjusting to our changing bodies and relationships. Now imagine handling those competing priorities while living out of a car, battling substance abuse, or without positive adult role models.

Goodman Community Center sees dozens of young women every year with those and other challenges, often related to poverty. These girls possess infinite potential, but their daily obstacles block their view of a brighter future. With the help of an AFFW grant of more than $14,000, Goodman has launched Cycles of Success to provide individualized attention to the young women most in need in their programs. “The ultimate goal is to get them to graduate and be independent,” said Becky Steinhoff, Goodman Executive Director.

Goodman has a variety of programs for populations from preschoolers to seniors. The Cycles of Success program centers around certain teens and young women within the Girls Inc. and Teen Works program. Young women who are considered particularly at risk are identified for group discussions, mentoring, and case management. The participants meet in girls-only sessions to minimize the distractions of the opposite sex. “It’s a safe place to discuss their expectations and experiences,” said Kshinté Brathwaite, Goodman Director of Programs. “They can trust what they say will be mirrored back and shared with others in the room.” Read more »