Monday, February 11, 2019

Month 26: WENA (Women Empowering Northern Arizona)

In 2014, Katie Woodard, a local Flagstaff photographer, was scrolling through her Facebook feed. A post from a friend living in her home state of North Carolina caught her eye. The friend posted about an organization she was involved with that was a "Giving Circle."  The basic idea was that 100 people come together and each donate $100 to a local nonprofit agency.  Within two hours, a small group of people can make an enormous impact with a $10,000 donation. 

From this seed of an idea spotted on social media, WENA (Women Empowering Northern Arizona) was born.  With her friend, Susan Beaupre, Katie developed a model for Flagstaff that has raised $154,000 (yes, you read that correctly) since their first meeting in May 2014.  Some of our past 48months agencies have been recipients, including Flagstaff Shelter Services, Northland Family Help Center, and the Literacy Center.  A full list of WENA beneficiaries can be found here.

The next WENA meeting is Tuesday, February 12, 2019 from 5:30-7:30pm at the east side Toasted Owl (5200 E. Cortland Blvd, 86004).  The owner of Toasted Owl generously donates food and the bar is open so the WENA members can relax with a glass of wine or a beer.  

How does WENA work?  Here are the nuts and bolts:

  • Members nominate charities.  In order to be deemed eligible, charities must have held 501(c)(3) nonprofit status for at least two years.  
  • Nominations are submitted online and must be approved before the meeting (note... this is a recent change if you are an older WENA member and haven't been to a meeting in awhile).
  • Organizations must serve northern Arizona.
  • WENA seeks to avoid potentially polarizing organizations such as churches and schools (let's face it, not everyone agrees on church, and we all have our favorite schools. It's prudent to avoid a scenario where moms come to blows over school choice).
  • During the meeting, a WENA member will draw three of the nominated charities from the bowl. Nominators will then have five minutes to present their charities using the guidelines found on the website. 
  • After the presentations, the 100+ WENA members will vote, and the winning organization will receive hopefully at least $10,000.
  • Your charity that you nominated might not win.  Your favorite of the three charities might not win.  That's the deal.  You write your check for $100 regardless of who wins. 
  • All of the specific rules for nominating, membership, etc. can be found on the website!

WENA is not its own charity, and they keep no money.  They basically serve as a vetting organization and mechanism for very quick distribution.  The winning charity provides members with a receipt for their taxes.

A common question... "what if I don't have $100 to spare?" Well, do you have $50?  You and a friend can attend and split your vote.  If you aren't in a place to make financial contributions, we encourage you to visit the WENA website and educate yourselves about the worthy organizations that they support.  Find ways that you can volunteer your time or goods for these agencies that have already received the stamp of approval of at least 100 women in your community!  Also make sure you follow them on Facebook and Instagram.  

Future goals for WENA:
  • Advertise and coordinate more volunteer opportunities.
  • Develop a "kid" WENA,  (Katie and I had an awesome conversation over Mother Road beers about getting this started, and I see so much potential for this idea.  Anyone want to help us get it off the ground?)
Sadly, Jacki and I can't attend the February 12 WENA meeting (we are going to Phoenix to hear Michelle Obama speak!!!), but we are planning to attend the May meeting.  Go check it out, and let us know what you think!

Thank you Katie, Susan, and all of the amazing Women Empowering Northern Arizona.  As the Proverb tells us, "Many hands make light work."  Won't you consider lending your hand?  

For more information about WENA, please visit their website or email

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