If you’ve been to an event at Charles Koch Arena, looked for an adoptable pet at the Kansas Humane Society facility on north Hillside or played at the Sunrise Boundless Playscape in Sedgwick County Park, you’ve benefitted from the work of the Women of Wichita Charitable Foundation Inc.
Those are just a few of the community projects WOW has helped support with more than $1 million in donations since it was formed in 2000 by Helen Galloway, the owner of The First Place fine jewelry and gifts store. The City of Wichita had approached Helen a few years earlier to support the construction of the new CityArts building. She asked about 60 other women and all agreed to contribute $1,000 to the cause.
“I thought ‘Goodness, that was fun and easy. Isn’t it wonderful what women can do?’” Helen said. So she asked Sue Dower, who works at The First Place, to help her create and run Women of Wichita Charitable Foundation Inc. as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
“I think it’s my mother’s greatest legacy,” said Buff Dodson, Helen’s daughter and one of about 80 current WOW members. “It leverages the power of numbers and the strength of a group to make a difference in people’s lives.”
VIP Wichita sat down with Helen and Sue to learn how other women and organizations can plug into the power of WOW.
VIP: How is the Women of Wichita Charitable Foundation funded?
HG: We have 75-80 members who each contribute $1,000 each year.
SD: It’s a very simple formula: the number of members we have determines how much money we have to give away. Helen has picked up every dime of our expenses, so all the money that the individuals give goes to the charities.
VIP: Who can join WOW?
SD: There’s a misconception out there that this is exclusive and you have to be asked to join. Anyone who wants to make a difference in the community can join us.
HG: We’d love to get to 100 or more members.
VIP: What are the criteria for organizations requesting money?
SD: The group must serve people in Wichita, it must be a 501(c)(3) organization and our money must be used for special projects, not operating budgets. Once an organization gets money from us, they have to wait three years before they can ask again.
HG: We love when new groups apply because it’s a new avenue for us to help.
SD: Even if they aren’t chosen to receive money, it gets their information out in front of 80 women who give money independently of our organization. I had one member tell me she always looks at the list we vote on every year for her year-end giving because she knows it’s a good list.
VIP: How many organizations do you help annually?
SD: On average we are giving to three to five organizations a year. We started out thinking we would give to one or two but when the requests for funds started coming in, that wasn’t what we were seeing. What we were getting were requests in the $20,000 to $25,000 range and then we had some that were as small as $2,500. Those amounts were important to the requesting organizations so we changed our thought process.
HG: We get between 17 to 20 applications per year.
SD: The number of organizations we can help each year depends on the amount of money requested. If someone requests a large sum and that is one that our members vote to support, then that limits how many others we can give to.
VIP: How does WOW determine which organizations to support?
SD: Every year we start receiving applications now. The deadline to be talked about at our annual meeting is the first of October, the absolute deadline to get on the ballot is Nov. 15. We create a ballot with a short synopsis about each organization’s need, it’s mailed out to our members, they all vote by Dec. 15, the votes are tallied and then the money is given out Dec. 31.
VIP: Why has WOW been successful?
HG: Wichita is one of the most generous, giving cities in the country. The causes are many and the groups that work to lead these causes do a great job. Every year, I’m thrilled about who we help. We’re just a small part of a great network.
SD: Women have disposable income now, which with my generation wasn’t always the case, and they want to do more than make the centerpieces at charity events.