10th Anniversary Spotlight: Betsy Torrence, WLI Founder
"Most women wouldn't think they could ever be a philanthropist - they assume you need huge sums of money. But there is so much potential when women believe in a cause and donate in their own name," says Betsy Torrence, first president of WLI.
"Men and women give differently," she recalls learning at a conference she and her husband, Sam Torrence, attended when they co-chaired the United Way campaign. "Women like to see how the money is used. We like to be a part of the gift in some way."
Betsy discussed the idea of a women's initiative with then-executive director Peter Carpino in 2001. He suggested Betsy along with Carol Carpenter, a United Way staffer at the time, attend another conference to learn how other United Way organizations were going about embracing and promoting women's initiatives. They returned fired up, especially after hearing Frances Hesselbein, whom Carol contacted once back home.
The idea for the Women's Leadership Initiative then slowly emerged through a number of focus groups and planning meetings. Founding members numbered 27.
"It's not about anyone giving millions. It's about the three T's of philanthropy - time, talent and treasure. From the beginning, our thought was giving a little by a lot adds up," says Betsy.
"That's what's special about WLI: its energy, the power of women working together to accomplish something beyond themselves, yet vital and crucial to our lives," adds Betsy.
Betsy credits Eleanor Boylston for her organizational skills. "She legitimized us by helping us develop bylaws and other organizational underpinnings."
Polly Beste lent her marketing skills to develop the first "Purse Strings" newsletter and the original logo - a stylized female figure wearing pearls and holding a purse with a sun burst behind her head.
Officially launched in November 2002, WLI raised $47,000 in its first year, far surpassing their goal of $25,000.
See more history of WLI in future newsletters. Be sure to save-the-date for our 10th Anniversary Celebration on October 3, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the event center at blue.
Learn more about Women's Leadership Initiative.