By Betsy Brush Hahn

Women’s Fund of Smith County

Growing up in Tyler has given me some good memories and lifelong friends. Living in the Andy Woods neighborhood one hot summer day, we thought it would be great to have a swimming pool. My parents said that sounded like a great idea, but it was too expensive. We had grown up watching our parents be proactive participating in politics, fundraising, volunteering and more, so we knew just what to do.

We had learned not to let a perceived lack of resources impede progress or accomplishing a great idea. About nine of us got to work. Everyone brought shovels and started digging. We had time, it was summer, they told us to go out and play. After two or three days we had dug a hole four feet deep and 12 feet in diameter in my backyard – for free! Our pool would be a reality! That was one of the first signs I would turn out to be someone who is passionate about big ideas and doing important things together with others.

This June is an opportunity we all have to do something important together. The Women’s Fund Grant Cycle for 2021 funding begins and we will be doing things differently this year. In rapid response to urgent community needs exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic, we have changed our grant opportunities for the year. The Grant Committee began meeting and planning this Grant Cycle during the first weeks the pandemic was closing our community down. It seemed like everything was different and unknown and above all else, unpredictable. Our grant-making process has always started in June and culminated with our members voting in the fall on who will be awarded grants. How could local nonprofits possibly know what their needs would be 6-7 months into the pandemic? What, in fact, where their immediate needs – right then – at the start of the pandemic? Reports of a rise in domestic violence were abundant, many citizens lost jobs and we could see a growing need for food, mental health services and of course healthcare.

The Women’s Fund believes that together is better. Through collective giving our mission is to transform our community by funding programs that enrich the lives of women and children. We partner with local nonprofits by giving grants that start new, innovative programs or expand existing programs that successfully serve our neighbors in need. We pool our philanthropic gifts to give impact grants of $30,000-$100,000. We aim to provide funds for important and worthy programs that might otherwise fall through the cracks.

This year our approach to that mission will be different.

We want to respond – not react – to the effects COVID 19 has had on our local nonprofit partners. For the first time, The Women’s Fund will consider broad funding requests to help organizations through the pandemic.

Members of the Grant Committee read every grant request submitted – hundreds of pages that tell stories of need and opportunity. There is a deep sense of gratitude, compassion and responsibility shared among Grant Committee members. In my view, it’s one of the best and most positive examples of humanity. We take time and effort to understand one another and listen for what our community truly needs and the best ideas for meeting them.

You are invited to join us – as a member, sponsor or past grantee. Visit our website or call to learn more about our response and how together, really is better.

Betsy Brush Hahn is Associate Director of Major Gifts at The University of Texas Health Science Center in Tyler. She serves on the Women’s Fund Board of Directors as Assistant Vice Chair for Grants. Applications for 2021 Grants will be available beginning Monday, June 8. Submission deadline is Monday, July 13. For more information about funding guidelines and to apply for a grant, please visit or call 903-509-1771.