Be the leader to bring a 26-year mission into the future in Chester CountyJanuary 20, 2022 Category: Feature, Featured, Long, People
With five little words, Maeve Kelly’s professional hopes were realized. “I can’t wait to vote,” one girl said to another during a trip to the Pennsylvania Conference for Women sponsored by The Fund for Women and Girls.
“It was so powerful,” said Kelly, the director of programs and communications for The Fund. “They were just so excited about using their voice in that way. And even though they were too young to vote, they were really looking forward to being able to have a say in democracy.”
Based in Chester County, The Fund has offered resources to women and girls through grantmaking, educational programs and advocacy since 1996. Now The Fund is seeking to hire a new executive director, following the departure of Michelle Legaspi Sanchez in September 2021. Interested candidates can apply here.
Judi Bell, past chair of the board of directors from 2019-2021, said “Michelle has been our spark in The Fund’s igniting change in our community. Her vision and dedication have broadened and strengthened The Fund for the future, and we are thrilled for Michelle’s new opportunity.”
Denise Wine, the chair of The Fund’s board, said the organization does not need an executive director to duplicate past work; “we seek an innovative and strategic thinker to grow the organization to the next level, who will help the organization expand its reach,” she said.
Wine added, “To get there, we need a leader with a vision and the ability to lead us 5, 10 years down the road.”
How The Fund uplifts women and girls in Chester County
To provide women and girls in Chester County opportunities, The Fund employs a three-pronged approach: grantmaking, educational programs and advocacy.
For its Core Grant program, The Fund annually allocates approximately $250,000 from its $5 million endowment to distribute funds on a two-year grant cycle. Since inception, The Fund has awarded over $3.8m to 82 Chester County nonprofits supporting women and girls. The Board of Directors wants to see the endowment doubled so The Fund can fulfill and distribute more grants to the community.
From our Partners
Another important part of The Fund’s work is programming. Kelly leads The Fund’s GAB and GirlGov Chester County programs.
GAB, or Girls Advisory Board, is a girls’ leadership and grantmaking program that annually selects high school girls from Chester County. They learn about social issues facing women and girls in Chester County and collectively allocate approximately $20,000 annually in grant funding to local nonprofits tackling those issues which include poverty, homelessness, mental health, access to education and reproductive rights, to name a few.
GirlGov Chester County is a civic engagement and advocacy program for high school girls. Selected members learn about the mechanics of legislation, advocacy, how state and local governments operate, and meet with elected local and state officials. The girls annually travel to Harrisburg, as well.
Another favorite memory of Kelly’s is the time a GirlGov participant traveled to Harrisburg to discuss reproductive rights with a state legislator who disagreed with the girls’ stance. It was powerful to watch the girls hold their ground despite the discomfort, Kelly said.
“They were so brave, and they spoke up and they used their voices just like they learned in the GirlGov program,” she added. “That was a really awesome moment for me and for them because they saw that they didn’t have to agree with somebody just because they’re an authority, and they could push back and defend their own perspectives.”
The third part of The Fund’s work: advocacy. Through research and its recurring Blueprint Report, The Fund publicizes important issues that affect women and girls.
To enhance the advocacy arm of The Fund’s work, the new executive director must be ready to do boots-on-the-ground work, said Tiffany Scott, the vice chair of the board.
“We need an innovator who is willing to roll up their sleeves,” Scott said. “This is not a sit in the office and sit on the phone all day type of position. It is a hands-on position where you need to be out in the community. We need someone who can make connections with others and convey how The Fund transforms the lives of women and girls in Chester County.
How does the ED’s role function at The Fund?
The executive director is one of a “small, passionate team” at The Fund, Kelly said. It’s a staff of four full-time team members who run the day-to-day operations.
“We’re all really community-focused, mission-driven individuals who work here,” Kelly said. “We care about how The Fund impacts the community, just knowing that we can impact young women as they go out into the world to use their voices for change.”
The executive director also collaborates with the board regularly, Wine said. While the board and executive director meet six times per year, the executive director works regularly with committee chairs and Board Executive committee.
“We have a very strong, dedicated, all-women board, who are invested in the mission of The Fund. We need a strong leader who can collaborate and partner with the board.”
Who will be the next executive director at The Fund?
Being the executive director of an organization is a multi-faceted job. What does it take to be the executive director of The Fund?
Recognizing the community needs today and the changing dynamics of Chester County, expanding the financial resources The Fund can offer to the community is a pivotal priority for the next leader.
“Someone who is focused on diversity, equity and inclusion,” Kelly said. “Sanchez really brought The Fund into the 21st century with the way we talk about how women of color are more significantly impacted by a lot of issues than other women. We need somebody who’s focused on that type of equity and bringing that awareness to the community.”
“Someone who gets the changing dynamics of Chester County and understands its diversity pockets,” Scott said. “someone who’s really willing to be a collaborator.”
Of all the qualifications The Fund is looking for in their next executive director, one remains a top priority: a commitment to The Fund’s mission to enrich the lives of girls and women in Chester County.
“If someone is interested in being completely engaged, having an incredible experience of helping women and girls in our community, then join us. We are a special organization that will have a significant impact for our next 25 years,” Wine said.