JAWS meets the challenge

By Dawn Garcia

We did it! In fact, we blew way past the finish line with more than we ever dreamed. The Journalism & Women Symposium greatly exceeded its goal of matching a $20,000 grant from the Challenge Fund for Journalism by May 31.

Drum roll, please: Members and supporters of JAWS donated $34,126!

We received 122 donations. Almost all of those came from members, plus a few supportive spouses, partners, parents and friends. The donations ranged from $25 to $1,000 and more, with some members getting their companies to match their donations. Every member of the 13-member JAWS board donated to the cause, with a number of JAWS board members donating $1,000 or more each.

Two other sources of donations helped put JAWS over the top:

* Shanahan Fund.
This fund supports camp speakers and honors founding board member Eileen Shanahan. Donations of $2,135 counted toward our match. A big thank you to Glenda Holste, Kay Mills, Kate Sylvester and all those who sent out a special Shanahan appeal letter.

* Round it up!
Becky Day’s idea to offer JAWS members the opportunity to “Round it Up” while renewing their membership resulted in $1,450 in donations.

The Challenge Fund, a collaboration of three foundations – the Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Ethics & Excellence in Journalism – was created to help journalism groups thrive and broaden their bases of support in difficult economic times in the news business. JAWS was one of 17 organizations awarded challenge grants for the 2006-07 grant year.

Under the grant’s terms , JAWS needs to spend its $20,000 from CFJ on activities that help grow its leadership, support its mission and put it on a path toward self-sustainability. JAWS will use the money to plan a strong future for our organization and to improve and expand our services to you. We will spend the money to provide quality programs at our annual Camp, hold more regional events to reach out to women journalists where they live and improve the JAWS Web site so it’s more helpful for you. We are looking to expand our mentoring and scholarship programs, as well as to help women in all stages of their careers and lives prepare for this rapidly changing journalism landscape.

Work toward these changes has already begun. We will be seeking your thoughts on our proposals in Door County Sept. 28-30. A new strategic plan covers everything from what services JAWS should provide its members and how to increase our regional efforts to what external face JAWS presents to the world of journalism. For those of you who cannot attend Camp, we will provide other options to gather your feedback.

We also are using the free fundraising coaching that comes with the grant money to look toward the future of JAWS and determine how we can have enough money to make this organization thrive.

JAWS is a labor of love. Devoted volunteers and one overworked, part-time business manager do their best with an extremely lean budget – too lean to do all the good work that needs to be done for women in journalism. By raising more than our goal, we not only have $34,126 to spend on quality programs, we also position JAWS for receiving future grants because our members showed such initiative and support in this endeavor.

Dawn Garcia is the JAWS president-elect.