“Women’s Philanthropy at Indiana University: Leading Change”
(You may follow along with the full presentation here.)
To all of you, welcome to Indianapolis and to Indiana University. I am truly delighted to be here.
Women’s philanthropy is not just a trend; it is the essence of philanthropy itself. Philanthropy is inherently about change, about making the world a better place for future generations, about righting injustices, about creating access, and about being a citizen. And in the ways through which communities band together to improve our society, and in the ways individuals are called to take action and support change, women have been, are today, and will continue to be the leaders and influencers.
I want to spend my time here today talking about women’s philanthropy in action through the work that we’re doing at the Indiana University Foundation and our women’s philanthropy program.
But before I get to those specifics, I want to set our work in a larger context, to embed what we’re doing both in the history of women’s philanthropy, because we are truly standing on the shoulders of our foremothers; and in the ground-breaking research being done at the Women’s Philanthropy Institute.
Without these two antecedents, our program at Indiana University would be far less rich and I believe less sustainable into the future. And in different ways, learning about the research on women’s philanthropy and the history of women’s giving at IU and in the U.S. going back to Colonial times formed a “light-bulb” moment, the point at which I and my colleagues could see the power and the potential in the alumnae community of Indiana University.
THE HISTORY OF PHILANTHROPY IS WOMEN’S HISTORY
I’ll start with the history, my first real academic interest. Like some of you, I came of age during the second wave of feminism in the 1970s, which meant that as an undergraduate I was exposed to a lot of foundational scholarship in women’s studies, including women’s history. It gave me a way to consider the questions that were forming in my mind about why and how women’s roles had evolved over the centuries, and why we found ourselves, in the last several decades of the 20th century, still working to create a fair and equitable society.
I inflicted a 120-page undergraduate thesis on my advisors and planned to go onto graduate school in history, until the future reached out and grabbed my attention in the form of the personal computer and the dawn of the Internet age.
This was the late 1970s and early 1980s, a time when academic job openings in history were virtually non-existent, so I decided to go to work for a while until things improved. I took a job working for the state networking organization in Michigan, and in an illustration of the saying “timing is everything,” this was at a point when computers and information technology were just breaking into general public awareness, and the idea of an “Internet”, or a network of networks, was just being developed along with early versions of online discussion forums and tools for information sharing.
I was quickly swept up by this burst of creativity and innovation, and some 25 years later, I had pretty much given up on the idea of a PhD in history, until life events brought me to Indiana University and the study of philanthropy.
It’s really no surprise that it was on a university campus, and specifically an American one, that I began to fully understand the impact of philanthropy on organizations. We’re all well aware of the role philanthropy has played and plays today in American life; what I had not fully appreciated until I married this exotic Australian named Michael McRobbie and had the incomparable opportunity to travel with him all over the world, that I understood how uniquely American philanthropy is, and especially how uniquely American it is for the U.S. system of higher education.
The deep and abiding connections that alumni have for their alma maters, which often translate to philanthropic support, do not happen nearly to the same degree anywhere else in the world. As my husband often says, philanthropy is the “special ingredient” for excellence for American universities, the means by which new areas of research are supported, important scholarship is nourished, more talented young people get an education, and universities come to feel like they belong to us.
Far from being the study of how you part people from their money, I quickly understood that to study philanthropy is to understand how people take action to make change, and to make things better. And turning my attention philanthropy as a discipline reawakened my interest in women’s history, because this history is so inseparably intertwined with the history of nonprofits in the U.S., with the evolution of volunteerism and political and societal reform movements, with the development of educational institutions, and with the growth of myriad organizations devoted to healthcare and relieving pain and suffering.
From the time of the Mayflower’s landing until they gained the vote and full access to the workforce and the professions, women participated in the public sector through charitable work. Prevented from applying their intellectual and organizational capacities in the worlds of business and politics, women used voluntary associations to exercise public influence and to shape American concepts of community responsibility.
As the historian Kathleen McCarthy said, “Female philanthropy has served … as the means through which American women … have made a lasting imprint on social and institutional reforms, professionalization, legislation, and even the Constitution itself.”
It’s not a stretch to say that women created the nonprofit sector in this country, and thus, those of us in this room today are reaping the legacy of generations of women who have engaged in movements for progress, as leaders, advocates, supporters and workers, heroic in their persistence and in their unwillingness to give up until the change they knew was important had occurred.
Since we’re here through the efforts of Indiana University alongside CASE, I want to give you two IU-specific examples of women’s philanthropy in action. They both, appropriately enough, involve first ladies – of a kind.
ELINOR OSTROM (Slides 2-3)
IU Professor of Political Science Elinor Ostrom, who came to Indiana University in 1965 as the trailing spouse of her husband Vincent, and who was reluctantly hired by IU to teach a few introductory courses (the ones that met on Saturday morning), got her best revenge by winning the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, the first woman to do so. Lin taught at IU and was completely devoted to her students for five decades until her sad passing last year.
Tomorrow, the first Indiana Governor’s Conference for Women, which takes place here in Indianapolis, will be dedicated to Lin’s memory.
Lin was one of Indiana University’s greatest treasures, and she was known throughout the world as a leading social scientist, gifted scholar, and creative mind. She and her husband, Vincent, founded the renowned Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, now named for them. Lin was also the author of the landmark book, “Governing the Commons,” which turned on its head the conventional wisdom on commonly held resources and how they are best managed.
Lin’s work was groundbreaking, and in many ways fits very well with the academic study of philanthropy, because nearly all of her work revolved around efforts outside of government and the private sector. It was not inappropriate to think of her achievement as a kind of “Nobel Prize in Philanthropy.”
She herself was also an extraordinary philanthropist. Time and again, when she and Vincent received a major award, they donated the financial component of the award to the university. Their gifts to IU, which include Lin's Nobel Prize funds, total nearly $4 million.
Neither Lin nor Vincent, who died one month after Lin, sought accolades or attention for their gifts. They gave them to help future generations of talented students pursue a quality education at Indiana University that would set them toward realizing their grandest dreams and aspirations. And they gave them to ensure that future generations of scholars can build on the academic foundation they laid for the study of the commons.
FRANCES MORGAN SWAIN (Slides 4-5)
My second example is one of my predecessors as Indiana University First Lady, and is a particularly wonderful example of philanthropic support for public higher education. It’s worth my telling you her story.
Frances Morgan Swain, the wife of IU’s 9th president, Joseph Swain, served as university first lady from 1893 to 1902, and from that role she led the first capital campaign in university history, an unusual act for a woman of her time and an even more unusual act for a presidential spouse.
Women were first admitted to IU in 1867, making it one of the first public universities to open its doors to women. When Joseph Swain became president of Indiana University in 1893, women comprised over a third of the IU student body. However, both President and Mrs. Swain were concerned about the inhospitable conditions of late 19th century Bloomington that could dissuade parents from sending their daughters there to study.
IU had no residence halls at that time --students took rooms in local boarding houses. But there weren’t always enough, and to make matters worse, some house managers apparently preferred to rent to men, because young women had a tendency to take over the entire house. (As the mother of four daughters, I do understand this!)
Inspired by a visit to the University of Michigan, where the Michigan League building had been constructed to provide a women’s facility as a counterpart to the male-only Michigan Union, Frances Swain proposed to the IU Trustees in April of 1902 that a Woman’s Building be built to “contain the woman’s gymnasium, with all modern equipments, an auditorium, parlors, committee rooms, and greatly needed resting rooms.” As she stood before the Trustees, Mrs. Swain had already raised $6,000 (nearly $200,000 in today’s dollars), with the first gift coming from the Local Council of Women.
The building was not completed until 1906, after Joseph Swain left IU to become president of Swarthmore, but before they left, Frances Swain raised considerably more money, and secured a matching commitment from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. It was Rockefeller who, in making his gift of $50,000, stipulated an expansion of the building plans to include a wing for men, which in turn necessitated a name change to the Student Building.
Today, the Student Building stands just inside the Sample Gates on the Bloomington campus, with a dedicatory plaque to Frances Swain in the entryway. It is easily one of the most iconic images of Indiana University, and it is Frances Morgan Swain’s building.
EVOLVING ROLE OF IU FIRST LADY
There are numerous other outstanding and inspiring examples of women’s philanthropy at Indiana University, and it’s clear I think it’s crucial that we call these out. Legacy matters to institutions of higher education. With the possible exception of the Catholic Church, universities are the oldest institutional form in human history. That tells us quite a lot about human curiosity, the quest for knowledge, and the transforming effects of education.
It also tells us a lot about why people are drawn to supporting universities, not the least of whom are women, for whom education is one of the most frequent targets for their philanthropy.
But legacy matters to most nonprofits, and there’s much inspiration and guidance to be gained by uncovering traditions as a way of charting a course forward. My role as First Lady inspired me to research my predecessors, which led me to Frances Morgan Swain’s story.
It’s also been a way of understanding Indiana University, as each of its presidential spouses (all women) have been valued and instrumental contributors to the spirit of IU. And it’s also helped me understand and define my own role as a 21st century first lady, because the role has changed greatly even from just 40-50 years ago.
The days of being defined principally as a confidant and helpmeet to the president, functioning largely behind the scenes, have faded, and today presidential spouses – an increasing number of whom are men – have their own careers and don’t always leave them when their spouse becomes a university president. Many first ladies and first gentlemen have academic careers, and we should all be very glad that the days of it being illegal, for reasons of perceived nepotism, for a presidential spouse to be employed by the university are behind us, at least here in Indiana.
Charlotte Lowe Bryan (Slide 6), the longest serving first lady from 1902 until her death in 1937, was a philosopher and Greek scholar who collaborated with her husband on three books about Plato. But she was barred from pursuing her vocation at IU because of her marriage, despite the fact that William Lowe Bryan was a very forward-thinking man. As a symbol of their close partnership, he took Charlotte’s maiden name, Lowe, as his middle name as well.
Within the 62 leading research institutions in North America that make up the Association of American Universities (AAU) today, most presidential spouses devote significant hours to alumni relations, and several are actually employed by their institutions as development officers. Operating from a decidedly unique perspective, university presidential spouses represent a crucial, if often indirect, source of external fundraising. Indiana University’s first ladies, particularly since Frances Swain’s time, have actively engaged in alumni relations and community building, and my own work in women’s philanthropy at IU builds on this tradition.
WOMEN’S GIVING AT IU (Slide 7)
The history of women’s giving at IU, similar to other institutions of higher education both public and private, is one of numerous small, consistent contributions over a long period rather than headline making multi-million dollars gifts. It is difficult, however, to gather a detailed statistical picture of women’s philanthropy over time; for much of the early decades of the IU Foundation’s existence, gifts from couples, even when the wife was the alumna, were recorded as his gift, a common practice in higher education and elsewhere.
In the early 1980s, however, this practice began to change, and data on contributions began to reflect the impact of women’s giving to IU. Women’s philanthropy was starting to increase more generally, consistent with the entry of women into the workforce and the professions in historic numbers.
By the 1990s, scores of million-dollar gifts to Indiana University from both single women -- alumnae and non-alumnae -- and alumnae married to non-IU alumni were being recorded. In 2005, the largest gift ever received from an alumna and the third largest gift in IU history, $40.6 million to name the School of Music, was made by Barbara Jacobs in honor of her son, David. Her gift joined several other multi-million dollar donations in the 2000s, including one from Gene and Marilyn Glick, who openly stated that it was her passion and her gift, regardless of it being in both their names. These are encouraging trends, but the numbers should be much higher for a university with an alumni community of over 580,000 living members, of which well over half are women.
THE RESEARCH ON WOMEN’S PHILANTHROPY AND THE WPI (Slides 8-9)
This brings me to the catalyzing impact of the research into women’s philanthropy. The research into women’s philanthropy has been underway for some time, but for me, and I imagine for many of us here, it’s been the work done by the WPI that has inspired us to turn that research into practice.
At the IU Foundation, we feel an enormous debt to the WPI’s original founders at the University of Wisconsin, Madison – Martha Taylor and Sondra Shaw Hardy – and to the current WPI director, Debra Mesch, and her colleagues, for giving us the facts to back up our intuition that we should be thinking very differently about how we engage and steward alumnae and women donors generally.
We also owe a debt to Gene Tempel, head of the original IU Center on Philanthropy and now the founding dean of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, who recognized the potential and brought the then-independent WPI to Indiana University in 2004, giving it a sustainable home and keeping the research going.
The IU Foundation had already broken away from decades of mostly male-focused development efforts in 1995, with the establishment of the Bloomington Colloquium for Women. It was several activist female members of the IU Foundation Board supported by another of my predecessors, Peg Brand, who made it happen.
The Colloquium, which started as an annual program and now is biannual, brings over 100 women to the Bloomington campus in the fall for a weekend of learning and networking. The program introduces them to distinguished faculty, alumnae, students, and speakers of national and international renown. Many Colloquium attendees come every time, and ten years into the program, they were ready for more.
With a few nascent ideas for a women’s philanthropy program in our minds, a group of us attended the WPI Symposium in 2008 here in Indianapolis, and the light bulb went off. We invited Debra Mesch to present her research to the IU Foundation Board in June of 2009, and more light bulbs went off.
By that fall, we had developed our first strategic plan, which had as its principal action the establishment of a high-level Council to guide overall Foundation strategy for engaging alumnae and women donors to Indiana University.
We spent the first six months of 2010 reaching out to every female member of the Foundation Board (then 12 people out of a total board of 68), and to many prominent alumnae and women donors as well, and invited them to join our efforts. And in June of 2010, the Women’s Philanthropy Council of Indiana University was officially convened.
Women’s Philanthropy at IU is Born (Slides 10-12)
The Women’s Philanthropy Council exists to educate, through outreach and example, alumnae and women friends of IU about their own capacity to make a difference in the future of Indiana University, and by extension the state of Indiana and beyond. We’re guided by four core principles:
- To provide opportunities for women to learn about different programs at Indiana University so they can make gifts to areas where they are passionate and experience the impact of their giving.
- To connect donors with Indiana University, its leaders and others who share their passion for giving.
- To educate women about their untapped economic and philanthropic power- the power to make a difference for students, faculty, and research initiatives, while advancing the mission of Indiana University, and
- To inspire each other by telling stories about the women who support Indiana University and celebrating their giving.
The Women’s Philanthropy program at IU, with the Council leading the way, has two fundamental goals:
- To increase the philanthropic support of Indiana University by alumnae and women friends;
- To increase the number of women making voluntary gifts to Indiana University.
STRUCTURE OF THE PROGRAM (Slide 13)
Let me quickly outline the basic structure of the Council and the organization behind it. It functions as an engagement group of the IU Foundation Board, and is semi-autonomous; that is, the Board has no role in choosing its chair or its members. It also functions as a giving group with its own Fund from which it makes annual grants to various units of the university.
The Council has 36 members, each serving a renewable, 3-year term. Every member makes a $15,000 gift to IU at the start of her or his term to any area of Indiana University, and they are encouraged to put half of that gift, $7,500, into the WPC Fund, which is under the direct control of the Council.
The Council is divided into three working groups:
- Membership, which oversees the annual process of selecting new members and generally ensures the health of our membership processes and activities;
- Programs, Outreach and Education, which oversees the planning and execution of a range of wonderful programs at IU and around the state and the country where we have large concentrations of alumni; and
- The WPC Fund, which oversees the review of grant applications and the selection of recipients for funding.
We have four membership categories: Active; Supporting, which allows members who can’t attend meetings or engage directly in the Council’s work to still be part of the Council and make the $15,000 contribution; Honorary, which is reserved for members of the founding Council (more about this in a minute) as they rotate off; and Distinguished, which is for a select few individuals who have made an extraordinary impact on Indiana University or the Council itself. Currently, we have two Distinguished Members, Gene Tempel and Irene Lilly McCutcheon, as a wonderful representative of the Lilly Family and all it has done for IU and the state of Indiana.
LEADERSHIP AND SUPPORT (Slide 14)
The Council has two co-chairs, myself and a chair elected by the membership for a three-year term. During the chair’s third year, a chair-elect is identified as the incoming co-chair. The chairs (and chair-elect) meet with the working group chairs and staff as an Executive Committee to plan meetings and generally track the Council’s progress.
Staff support for the program consists of a director, assistant director, and administrative assistant, and operates with an annual budget of $225,000. This covers salaries and miscellaneous operating expenses; events and conferences are self-supporting through fees or host sponsorships.
ACTIVE PROGRAMS AND PROJECTS (Slide 15)
The Council oversees numerous events and programs, including the biennial Bloomington Colloquium for Women and the annual Fort Wayne Colloquium for Women; the biennial Indianapolis Women’s Philanthropy Conference; a series of hosted events in cities with large concentrations of alumnae called “She Spot events” where a panel of alumnae talk about their philanthropic journeys at an early evening social gathering (these have been extremely well attended); an annual luncheon at one of IU’s six regional campuses to honor three female student volunteer leaders; and various other hosted events around the country to celebrate women in philanthropy.
The Council has also begun an award program, to honor women associated with Indiana University for their extraordinary achievements in philanthropic work that improves people’s lives and inspires others to act in service of positive change. Called the “Women Leading the Way” Award, it is given when opportunities arise to highlight the accomplishments of a woman with ties to IU (although not necessarily an alumna) who has made significant and lasting contributions of time, talent and/or treasure in ways that align with the WPC’s vision and values, and who is locally, nationally and/or internationally recognized for their philanthropic leadership. The first recipient of the “Women Leading the Way” award will be Patty Stonesifer. She will receive the award at the 2013 Indianapolis Women’s Philanthropy Conference in November, following her keynote.
The Council has also engaged in several other activities, including starting a program for lower-level contributions to the WPC Fund. Any non-Council member who makes a contribution of any size becomes a “Partner”, and will get invitations to events, the annual magazine, and other updates on programs and activities. Since its inception in June of 2013, nearly 100 women have joined as Partners, and of these, 15 made their first gift to IU in contributing to the Fund. Of those 15, 5 have gone on to make another gift to other IU units. The Partners program is clearly an effective vehicle for motivating first time donors and continuing their giving.
Indiana University, like most charitable organizations over the years, had a legacy practice of tracking donations from couples as his donation, and addressing thank-yous and other correspondence accordingly. With the increase in women’s giving, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of complaints from alumnae who resent this practice, as they see their gift, made under their name, be credited to their husbands. This practice of focusing on the man’s name also spills over into other forms of correspondence. To correct this practice and ensure that women are properly credited and thanked for their gifts, the WPC undertook a project called “Best Practices in Correspondence” to develop new approaches to addressing women. New default addressing protocols were developed to respect the alumni status of donors; where she is the alum and her spouse is not, her name goes first in stacked fashion. Longer term, new development systems implemented across the university will be able to accommodate easier ways for donors to register their preferred address formats. Finally, a letter is going out from myself and the President of the IU Foundation, Dan Smith, to every unit of the university outlining the new addressing protocols and encouraging units to adopt practices that respect the importance of women donors. A survey was undertaken in 2012 to gauge the current state of addressing practices, and it’s clear that there is widespread support for adopting new practices and that most of the problems are occurring due to inattention.
Finally, the Council is embarking on perhaps its most ambitious project to date, which is a multi-million dollar campaign to run in concert with the university’s overall bicentennial campaign. Indiana University will celebrate its bicentennial in 2020, and is in the process of developing strategic plans with a $2.5 billion target to reach by the 2019-20 academic year. We believe the time is right for the WPC to sponsor its own campaign, much like other schools and colleges. Because of how gifts to the university are tracked, it is possible for contributions to be tagged as having been motivated by the Women’s Philanthropy program, but still counted towards any particular unit’s monetary goal. That is, there’s no double counting and more importantly, no competition for donors between Women’s Philanthropy and unit-level fundraising. The Council spent the majority of its October 2013 meeting brainstorming ideas for the WPC campaign. Over the next six months, we will develop monetary goals as well as a goal for increasing the number of women donors to IU.
PROGRESS (Slides 16-17)
At the October meeting, we were able to report some impressive numbers to date. Since the program’s inception, over $1.8 million has been raised, including nearly $408,000 for the WPC Fund (the rest has gone to individual units through Council member gifts and additional contributions), and $17,500 to replant a large section of street trees lost during a tornado in May of 2011. As noted earlier, the Fund has received contributions from over 100 non-Council members. Through two grant cycles, $228,000 has been granted out to 20 projects across the university from the WPC Fund. In all, Women’s Philanthropy at IU has reached 1,500 women who have previously not been engaged with the university.
The Council’s work has also been recognized twice by CASE, a Circle of Excellence Award for the Council in 2011, and a Bronze Award for Individual Special Events for the 2012 Bloomington Colloquium, in 2013.
CHALLENGES (Slide 18)
In any enterprise there are both challenges and successes, and we’ve been exceptionally fortunate in having more of the latter than the former. But part of continuing to be successful is anticipating problems, and we are keeping our eye on several potential challenges.
One is maintaining a high level of engagement. It’s energizing to feel that you’re inventing something new. We are still reaping the benefits of having finally released years of pent-up energy, and the individuals who gather around the table three times a year have been looking for leadership opportunities in this area for some time. Inevitably, that sense of newness will start to wane, so we’ll need to keep infusing new ideas along with new members.
Another challenge is ensuring a common sense of focus on a select set of goals. The Council is composed of 36 strong-minded, passionate INDIVIDUALS, each of whom brings her (or his) own causes and issues to the table. So far we have found a wide path through these interests in a way that allows all of our members to feel part of a collective while still doing their own thing, but this doesn’t happen automatically. Our work to plan and execute the WPC campaign will be a test of our ability to continuing finding that wide path.
Our third challenge is particularly crucial: developing measurable goals by which our financial success will be judged. We are more than covering the cost of the program, and the work we’re starting to plan for the WPC campaign suggests we can achieve far more than we have. As noted earlier, we have a way to tag contributions that came from a donor we attracted to IU or whose gift can rightly be attributed to the work of the women’s philanthropy staff, without interfering with goals of unit-level development officers.
But how should we measure changes in the numbers of female donors to Indiana University and the aggregate amount of their gifts, and from what baseline? How should we measure the effectiveness of our outreach and partnership efforts in motivating new gifts and new donors?
It is difficult to develop tight criteria that fully and accurately capture the role women play in giving without gathering such information from each and every one. And it is perilously easy to make assumptions—she’s the alumna, therefore their giving must be motivated by her—but we have cases where the non-alumna wife was at least as connected to the university as her alumnus husband. This could work the other way around.
Finally, we will also need to continue addressing the implication that women are receiving special treatment, and that we are competing with other development officers around the university. In reality the initiative is simply good development and cultivation work, acting on strategies that work best for connecting potential donors to the university. We will continue to involve men; without setting a quota we are committed to having more than token male members on the Council. We also strive to avoid the implied downgrading of male philanthropic styles.
In the end, the bottom line is our best answer: the Council is focused on increasing support for the many excellent programs at Indiana University, and women are a relatively untapped resource.
A SUCCESSFUL AND SUSTAINABLE PROGRAM (Slide 19)
In closing, I want to try and tease out just why it is that we got off to such a great start, and why we’ve been able to keep our momentum and build on it.
The first reason for our success is that we grounded ourselves in the research. It is extensive and solid, and the data are extremely useful for arguing that there is opportunity in the institution’s alumnae community, and that it only stands to reason that the institution should capitalize on this opportunity.
The second reason is that we designated the first two years as a founding period, which meant that the inaugural cohort of members were in charge of working out the Council’s structure and organization. Because of this, they not only created something that they knew would work well, but more importantly, they create an entity that they were invested in. It felt like THEIR Council from the start.
Third, we focused – and still do – on finding leadership opportunities for the members; in fact, we see the Council as part of a larger “leadership ladder.” Indiana University and the Foundation, despite having more women than men in its alumni community, has some gaps to close on the Board of Trustees and the IU Foundation Board. Among IU Trustees at the moment, two of the nine members are women, and one of these is our student Trustee who serves a shorter term than the others.
On the IU Foundation Board, women comprise roughly a quarter of the membership. The Council has no official role in selecting members for either board, but we saw our role as creating opportunities for our members to be seen as leaders—of the working groups, of the steering committees for the many programs we put on, and of the Council itself. These opportunities are also ends in themselves, of course -- whether our members join the Foundation Board or become university Trustees, the Council is a place where women’s leadership flourishes.
The fourth reason for our success is that we chose to focus on women’s giving, not women’s causes. This was crucial to ensuring we stayed open to women of every background, perspective, and age. The Council’s mission is focused on boosting the number of women engaged with Indiana University, and increasing their giving to IU, not to just to improving the climate for women at IU (although we certainly do that too). This focus on women’s engagement and women’s giving also meant that we could include men, and in fact, two of our members are men.
Fifth, the fact that we are literally putting our money where our mouths are with the WPC Fund and the grants process that supports its disbursement. Working through the process of selecting recipients for funding is possibly the single most powerful unifying activity of the Council, the one that gives each of us a very deep sense of purpose. For this reason, we make sure that every Council member has an opportunity to serve on the WPC Fund working group at least once during their term.
Sixth, we created opportunities for our members to make common cause with each other. The research shows that women are drawn to efforts that allow them to get inspiration and energy from working together. Bringing women together also creates a community that can embrace new members; particularly where they are the spouses of alumni who would otherwise not have a connection to the institution, welcoming them as legitimate members can not only secure their support but the increased support of their alumni spouses.
And finally, we are reclaiming our history. It is easy for us to feel as though we have done something new and transformative, but in fact we are, continuing a tradition as old as American higher education, albeit in a bold new way. Every American college and university has benefitted from the contributions of women, whether or not the contributions of most have made it into the history books.
Although they may have been beyond the eyes of the record-keepers, women have been constant, stalwart sustainers of educational enterprises, whether through their time, talent, or treasure. And so it is appropriate that we reach back in time to recognize those unsung heroines of the past and in so doing, reclaim our own history.
In the 21st century, we bring our founding mothers along with us as we move ahead in seeking transformative change for the future of our institutions and the world in which we live.