March is Women’s History Month, a time to reflect on the achievements of women in U.S. history. First decreed as a national time of observance in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter, the month takes on even more significance for many still underserved, women-centric nonprofits.

The Women and Girl’s Development Fund (WGDF) was created to address some of the inequities that face organizations that serve women. Started as a community outreach fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation, WGDF promotes philanthropy by supporting nonprofit organizations primarily offering programs and services for women and girls in Bexar County.

“As one of the San Antonio Area Foundation’s community funds, we get to utilize its infrastructure and the strength it has as an investor,” said Celina Montoya, who chairs WGDF’s Steering Committee. “That strength allows us to leverage the funds that we raise in order to give back more to the community.”

Bridging the gap separating nonprofits serving women and girls from funding opportunities is at the heart of WGDF’s mission. Increasing opportunities for girls makes the entire community better in the long run.

“I think it’s important to continue funding organizations that affect women and girls directly, because these are the future leaders of our communities,” Montoya noted. “These are people who are, as young girls, learning to become leaders. I don’t think it’s any surprise that, every time you invest in a woman, you see that investment is realized multiple times over in the community she lives in.”

To affect this change, WGDF holds an annual “open call” for requests for grant funding. Organizations serving women and girls six to 18 years old in Bexar County are eligible. The vetting process is stringent, as WGDF and its volunteer stakeholders want to ensure that grant recipients would be well suited to put to use their grants responsibly and effectively.

In February, WGDF announced the selection of its two 2023 grantees:  Lemonade Circle and For Her. Lemonade Circle empowers young women through mentoring, while For Her provides aid for women through a holistic network of supporters.

“The mission of the Lemonade Circle is to empower young women of color to make lemonade out of life’s lemons,” explained Brandi Coleman, the organization’s founder and CEO. “We create programs and activities around what we call our empowerment circles.”

These circles include leadership development, civic engagement, community outreach, identity and wellness, and college and career readiness. These are areas that Coleman and her organization have found that many women of color are dealt a majority life’s metaphorical lemons. These are areas where young women need most help and support.

“We really take the time to cultivate safe spaces for girls and for women who attend our events,” Coleman said. “We want them to feel empowered and feel that they are really a part of our organization.”

For Her takes a similar approach, but they focus on adult women, looking to help them build support networks and get them access to resources that are not always readily available. For founder and CEO Kayla Carter, it’s a pursuit that not only serves a valuable purpose in the community but is also one that is deeply personal.

“We kind of have three legs to our stool, so to speak, that we focus on to empower women,” she explained. “[Mental health, peer support and economic empowerment. We believe that if women have access to those three things, then they are unstoppable.”

Carter created the organization as she faced barriers in her life that were beyond her control. She believed that if this was her life’s circumstances, then it clearly could be happening to other women. For her that was unacceptable and something she needed to do something about.

“I experienced gaps in services and resources first-hand,” Carter said. “So, I really wanted to develop a nonprofit that could serve women and fill that gap. Women are built for community. We are made to be in community with each other. I think we take for granted how much we rely on others in our lives.”

Both organizations fill a vital need for women in the community, and both are great examples of what can be accomplished through WGDF. For Montoya and her team of dedicated volunteers, these are the rewards that they are truly striving for.

“The ability of WGDF to provide support for the women in the community is only as strong as those who support us,” Montoya said. “We encourage people to take a dollar a day and consider investing that in the women of Bexar County. These funds are critical not only in increasing the investment strength of the fund, but they are also critical in helping us identify those organizations that receive the funding every year.”

Interested in contributing to WGDF? Just click here for easy online donation options.

Eric Moreno is a contributor to the San Antonio Area Foundation’s Storytelling Ambassador Network.