Throughout 2014, Women in Philanthropy (“WIP”) formed a planning committee and convened roundtable discussions with nonprofit organizations, educators, financial professionals, and health professionals to determine the most critical issues women and girls in Lackawanna County were facing. The goal of Women in Philanthropy is to engage and empower women through projects aimed at funding and supporting transformative initiatives that improve the lives of women and girls. Through this year-long research and education process, four priority areas were determined:
Health and Wellness Initiatives
Members of the WIP planning committee learned that many women in Lackawanna County do not have access to affordable healthcare for themselves and their families and, often, lacked access to healthy, fresh food choices. Additionally, many students in Lackawanna County receive free or reduced cost lunches and, when school was not in session, many children were not receiving adequate nutrition at home. As a critical area of focus for Women in Philanthropy, health and wellness will enable WIP to form partnerships with local healthcare providers to address the lack of access to affordable healthcare for women and their families, and to provide information to women to empower them to make informed decisions about maintaining healthy lifestyles. WIP will also be able to assist local nonprofit organizations that address hunger to develop sustainable healthy eating initiatives to bring healthy, affordable food options to women and their families, in communities lacking transportation.
Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) Education
Creating and funding effective learning opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math fields for the students of Lackawanna County will bolster our children’s ability to compete in college and, ultimately, the work force. Careers in STEAM fields are growing and the need for skilled employees is increasing continually.
Research shows that girls, in particular, are often at a critical age in the middle school years when deciding whether pursuing STEAM education is right for them. The majority of school districts in Lackawanna County, however, lack the resources to give students effective STEAM instruction. Due to this shortcoming, many students have no way to learn about the various, well-paying career choices they could pursue, and what opportunities exist for them.
Women in Philanthropy will attempt to bridge this educational gap by providing funding for STEAM education.
Small Business Development
For many women, the biggest hurdle they encounter when trying to start a new business is obtaining start-up capital. For economically disadvantaged women, or women with a limited credit history, access to a micro-loan, usually a small loan between $2,000 and $10,000, means the difference between creating a new business to help support themselves and their families, or to face limited economic opportunity.
Many women in Lackawanna County want to start businesses, and have a viable business plan, yet lack the start-up capital. Often, the funding needed to start a business is a relatively modest amount, but many working women do not have capital on hand to invest in a business without sacrificing their ability to provide necessities for their families while getting the business off the ground. Furthermore, traditional lending sources are not likely to provide micro-loans. To address this, WIP has established partnerships with the University of Scranton Small Business Development Center, MetroAction, and the Scranton Chamber of Commerce to help women move seamlessly through the process of developing a business plan to running a successful business. This initiative will not only provide women with the start-up capital to get their businesses up and running but it will also provide training and education in business management and financial literacy. As participants repay the small business loans, more capital will become available to assist future women business owners. Members of Women in Philanthropy can serve as venture capitalists to support the growth of women-owned businesses aimed at lifting women and their families out of poverty.
Financial Well-Being and Economic Education
Often, women of limited financial means, frequently face financial ruin when they encounter an emergency expense, such as a car repair, family illness, or an unexpected home expense. Many women do not have any personal savings and live paycheck to paycheck with little left after bills are paid. Many women and girls also lack access to financial education, which can empower women to make informed financial decisions about their future.
To address this critical need so many families in Lackawanna County are facing, WIP plans to launch a Matched Savings and Financial Literacy Program to assist women and families of limited financial means. Participants in this Program will learn to save and WIP will match a portion of their savings. WIP will partner with social service agencies to reach a wide population of women and empower them to provide for their families.
Women participating in each group will have access to mainstream financial institutions that were not available to them previously; this will give participants a safe place to save money. They will also be provided with financial literacy training to ultimately be able to participate in the financial mainstream independently.