The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio: Grant Reader 2015 #PotentialStartsWithMe

Picture it.

You pull up to a random office building.

Not sure where to park—so you just wing it.

Not sure exactly what door you’re supposed to walk in – so you just wing it.

Not entirely sure what room you’re supposed to be in – so you kinda just wing it.

All you know is this is very important and you are RIGHT on time (aka, in Momma’s terms, you’re late!)

That was me, last night.

When I applied to be a Grant Reader for the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, I literally had no idea what I was doing. I knew the Women’s Fund had made an incredible impact on the way I was living my life and how I viewed concepts like social change and gender norms.  I knew I wanted to do whatever I could to be a part of the work they were doing. I knew a LOT of people wanted to be a part of this Grant Reading Process. I knew it was important.
So I found the application, I filled out some stuff… and I just kind of winged it.

Once I got some more information about it, I realized that I would have a hand in selecting which of a pool of local nonprofits would receive a very large grant from The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio. I, in essence, would be a member of the jury that convict or acquit the selected organizations. (Maybe that was a little dramatic… but it kind of felt that way.) My participation could impact the future of some of these programs. The grant received from The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio could affectively make or break some of these missions—and I kind of had to make a decision on who was worthy and who wasn’t.

With this in mind—I stumbled into the building where the first Grant Reading workshop was being held and was greeted with a very familiar buzz. It was the same energy that met me at the Ohio Theater for the Keyholder event, earlier in the year. An influx of passion and drive and an overwhelming sense of readiness were suffocating this extremely large space.

Naturally, I did what I always do in intensely energetic situations, and I decided to just wing it.

Head first. Open mind. Let’s go.

I met my friend Tonnisha at a table where two other women were sitting. One a college professor at Capital University, the other a SAT/ACT tutor. Our conversations quickly evolved from job titles and pleasantries to multifaceted ideas like self-esteem and how women are represented in the media. I felt electromagnetically connected to these women without knowing more than what they chose to share with me within the first 4 minutes of conversation. I wanted to feel that way with every woman I met. I made a mental note to find that electricity in every room I entered.

Soon enough the workshop began, and as all of us at the table were First Time Grant Readers, we all had no idea what to expect. We thoughtfully listened to the opening statements. The history of the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio was given, a few hashtags to tweet along with the event, and an overview of what to expect – which I will highlight, now.

So when I was originally stumbling into the aforementioned buzzing, foreign building, I was handed a manila envelope and a stack of neon colored papers. Inside of the manila envelope were actual grants (approximately 4 pages of detail outlining why each organization deserved to be considered for the grant money being offered by the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio) for four local organizations. We were told not to open that envelope until we went home that night. The neon papers were instructions – including a grading rubric, a sample grant for us to go through and grade together during the workshop, definitions of terms and ideas used in the rubric, and a conflict agreement.

The first half of the evening was spent delving into what the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio’s mission is and what kind of organizations they were looking to support. This includes programs that promote social change, challenge gender norms, and benefit women/girls specifically.

The second half of the evening was spent reading through the sample grant given to each of us, and kind of “fake” grading it. This was particularly interesting because the opinions on scoring varied so widely sometimes. I realized how critical of an eye I would need to use in order to ensure I made the right decision. This left me feeling pretty conflicted as my compassionate spirit wanted to do nothing but search for the good in the intentionally-bad sample-grant.

I left the workshop feeling pretty stressed out to be honest. How was I going to reconcile my kindness and this grading rubric? How was I going to grade a program whose only mission is to affect some sort of positive change in our beautiful community? The discrepancy in my spirit was palpable as I walked out of the building and into the darkness of a cool, autumn night in Columbus, OH.

That is when I was surprised to hear a shriek and feel an embrace from an unknown face. But once I pulled away, I realized that I was being held by Sandra— one of the most active and vocal agents for social change in our community. I was a little surprised she even knew who I was, but then I remembered that I practically LIVE on her facebook. (Hi Sandra!) She, probably reading my unsettled expression, asked how I felt about the whole Grant Reading Process. I voiced my concerns and another bystander walked into our conversation, echoing my sentiments. Sandra began to speak and instantly calmed my spirit.

She told me to consider the responsibility that will come with this incredibly large grant money. She asked me to carefully ponder where the money would specifically be going. And if I felt that the program would be effecting the most change, in the most responsible way possible, than I would have no fear and no regrets in giving them my support over another.

I realized that it was my duty, as a voice for the over 800K women and girls in Central Ohio, to make sure that this grant was as effective as possible. That it did the most good. That’s not something you just wing.

The stress I was feeling melted into drive. Into power. Into responsibility. The potential to better the lives of women and girls in my community was truly beginning with me.

And I was ready.



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