After attending a “Women in Philanthropy” conference in Minneapolis, a small group of women began discussing ways to create a similar philanthropic group in Northfield. Their desire was to fill a need in the community which wasn’t being met with traditional philanthropic organizations, focusing on women and youth. More women were invited to share in the conversations and they sought advice from other foundations and philanthropic groups.
In 2000, about 60 women founded Women in Northfield Giving Support (WINGS.) Women were asked to pledge to a three year annual commitment of $1000, either by giving individually or as part of a giving circle. According to founding member and first WINGS president, Catherine McBride, “The enthusiasm we generated in the first year really sparked the success of WINGS. Having both an annual fund and an endowment fund made a huge impact because we gave grants the first year and we became a major player in town quickly.” The goal was to collaborate, not compete, with existing nonprofits, and members were encouraged to expand, not divert, their giving. WINGS funds are invested with the St. Paul and Minnesota Foundations, which shares expertise and operational efficiency and supports community affiliates in Minnesota.
After the first three years, WINGS received a $25,000 matching grant from College City Beverage to encourage members to pledge giving for another three years. In 2012, when record keeping and tracking of giving circles became too labor intensive, WINGS moved to a tiered level of giving by individuals. Today, members may donate at any level of giving for any length of time.
In addition to WINGS Annual Fund (money which is available for yearly distribution) and Endowment Fund (money invested to accrue interest and ensure long term stability), WINGS Entrepreneurial Fund was established in 2010. This began as a three-year pilot project with SMIF (Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation) to provide micro-loans and education to women and youth businesses. Today, the WINGS Entrepreneurial Fund continues to support programs that deliver education and training to women and youth business owners/potential owners in areas such as financial planning, marketing and operations.
Though WINGS at one time had an office and a part-time administrative assistant, WINGS moved its office to the “cloud” and returned to operating as a 100% volunteer organization in 2010. Strong, active sub-committees and a committed board carry out the work of WINGS today.
WINGS continues to be an organization of women donating together to improve the lives of women and youth in Northfield and believes that women have the power to transform our community.