Meg Smith recalls her excitement when she was offered the job of Director of the Vermont Women’s Fund in the fall of 2013. A women’s studies major at Hampshire College, she had worked in communications and served on the boards of several nonprofits, and was thrilled to find a job that checked all of her boxes. “I was the one who wasn’t afraid to fundraise,” she said. “This job is an amazing fit for my interests and abilities.”
Founded in 1994 as a component of the Vermont Community Fund, the Vermont Women’s Fund is a philanthropic resource for Vermont women and girls which has given away more than two million dollars since its inception. The fund has donors from across the state, including several who provide substantial amounts, but all donors are important to Smith. “We are very proud of our five, 10 and 25-dollar donors who are the backbone of our mission,” she said.
The Vermont Women’s Fund has an annual two-part grant process overseen by a council of women volunteers. One part focuses on career counseling for women and assisting teenage girls in learning about career options. A newer project called Change the Story is a collaboration between the Vermont Women’s Fund, Vermont Works for Women and the Vermont Commission on Women aimed at aligning policy, programs and philanthropy to improve the economic status of Vermont women.
This year, Smith got involved in a new venture, the Persist 5K race, which arose out of conversations with fellow Charlotte boot camp attendee, Jean Andersson Swayze. “It started over push-ups and lunges and it was amazing how many people came to the fore,” Smith said. “Everyone felt passionate about promoting women and having a landscape for women to succeed in these highly charged political times.” The race raised $13,000 for the Vermont Women’s Fund and is being planned as an annual event with the next run scheduled for May 13.
Smith moved to Charlotte almost three decades ago when she got married. “I didn’t know anyone in town,” she recalls.
Work at Gardener’s Supply in Burlington introduced her to the business community, and she joined the board of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility. She soon became involved in more local endeavors, joining a Charlotte Library committee and several other groups, including the Charlotte Congregational Church. “I find people endlessly fascinating and I found Charlotte to be full of so many interesting, thoughtful people,” she recalled.
One volunteer endeavor of which she is particularly proud was helping David Watts run a nonprofit program called Volunteer Vermont! which took students from Champlain Valley Union High School and other area high schools to South Carolina over spring break for volunteer building projects. Smith was involved for close to 15 years and accompanied her young charges for 10 of those.
For Smith, her job at the Vermont Women’s Fund is rewarding on many levels. “The fund is more important now than ever,” she said. “And it helps advance women’s economic security through many different approaches. I’m working for an organization that already has traction towards promoting women’s self-sufficiency and economic equality. Once we solve that, we’ll be in better shape.”