This may sound strange, but I can remember learning about “giving pitfalls” as a child. Even at an early age, we learn rules about giving. Initially, you are taught to share everything, but gradually, giving and sharing what you have gets tricky. How can that be? How could a gift made with pure intentions ever be more complicated than a simple act of generosity?

I remember being told not to give stray animals food. “They’ll just keep coming back for more.”

I remember being told not to give money to homeless people. “They’ll buy liquor.” I doubt I even knew what liquor was when I first came across that prejudice.

As I got older, the reasons to not give became more complicated. Remember when it seemed like the only way a nonprofit made the news was when a staff member collected a salary that was “excessive?”

Or when a nonprofit misused donor funds?

Or when a nonprofit appeared to be struggling? What a conundrum that is, to not support an organization because it might go under – because it doesn’t have enough money!

As an adult, I know that my parents wanted to keep me from being taken advantage of, and to keep a small herd of feral cats out of our garage. I also realize that when we make donations to nonprofits, we want to be assured that the funds are being used responsibly and effectively by the recipients.

Lessons I’ve learned about giving well have taught me to appreciate sophisticated philanthropists, wise giving practices, and the nonprofits who not only ethically receive and administer donations, but also steward donors bringing them into the world of mission-driven service.

If you don’t have time to take a deep dive into the wide world of philanthropic giving, but would like to give in a way that makes a big impact on your community, you might want to join the Women’s Fund of Smith County. We like to say we take the guesswork out of giving. As one of over 350 members, I contributed to our 2023 Grant Awards, which totaled $369,320 this year.

Not only did I participate in a giving total that far exceeds anything I could ever dream to do on my own, I also knew that my pledge dollars would be awarded to thoroughly vetted nonprofits, proven through an effective application and review process conducted by women who devote an extraordinary amount of time to the process.

I can give big – with confidence – as a member of the Women’s Fund. Just take a minute to review our grant awards for 2023.

First, we awarded $60,000 to Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County (CAC). Funding will be used for training tables and chairs to outfit a variety of additional meeting spaces in the organization’s new facility and expand the CAC’s ability to provide training opportunities.

The mission of the Children’s Advocacy Center – to protect and restore the lives of abused children through team investigations, healing services, community outreach and strategic partnerships – will be strengthened by our gift.

Next, a grant award of $60,000 was awarded to the East Texas Food Bank (ETFB). This funding will support the Food Bank’s Tyler Resource Center, a new multi-service food pantry that will be located at the organization’s distribution center in Tyler, where ETFB will serve an estimated 500 Smith County households each week.

The third grant of $35,000 was awarded to the East Texas Symphony Orchestra and will enable the organization to empower more than 3,500 Smith County students, including every 4th & 5th grader in Tyler Independent School District, by providing (National and Texas) standards-based instrumental music education.

Camp V will use our grant of $54,320 to begin construction on a new patio. This project is aimed at providing social, educational, and support gatherings to help Camp V better identify and assess the needs of and serve the rapidly growing number of women veterans and families in East Texas.

 Next, the Women’s Fund Awarded $50,000 to the Fostering Collective. The funds will mobilize The Fostering Collective to expand tangible and therapeutic support services for foster/adoptive families by developing a Sensory Room, Resource Room, and an upgraded Collective Closet with the essentials families need to care for foster children.

 PATH’s award of $60,000 will support its Community Playground project. PATH owns 52 properties that form its Transitional Housing Program. These properties surround an open space that was developed into a playground for the neighborhood approximately 15 years ago. PATH will use this grant to purchase new equipment and refresh the existing property to provide a warm, inviting, safe place for all families in the surrounding neighborhood to use and enjoy.

 Our grant award of $50,000 was granted to Starbrite Therapeutic Equestrian Center, which will allow Starbrite to hire an additional full-time Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor (CTRI) to serve the organization’s wait list of eligible participants. Starbrite is a service organization that utilizes equine assisted activities to spread the Love of Christ by empowering youth, adults, and veterans with a variety of needs and abilities.

Now, in my 15 years of work in the nonprofit sector here, I’ve only seen one organization actually mishandle donor funds, and that organization only lasted about 9 months in Smith County.

Overwhelmingly, the evidence is clear that nonprofit organizations in our community provide intelligent, low-cost solutions to effectively address underserved populations who desperately need help. But if you want to give big with confidence – without all the guesswork, the Women’s Fund is open to any woman with a giving heart. Learn more at

Zoe Lawhorn serves as president of the Women’s Fund of Smith County, a collective giving circle of more than 350 women with a mission of transforming our community by funding programs that enrich the lives of women and children.