Women’s collective brings in nearly $1.3 million by pooling funds

A $100,000 grant The Learning Source has received from a Denver women’s collective will help expand its enrollment and adult-education programs by as much as 400% over the next two years, CEO Josh Evans said.

The organization, started in 1964, is the top recipient of the Impact 100 Metro Denver’s 2022 awards. Evans said the money will help transform its new headquarters in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood into a “technology and education excellence hub.”

In a video presentation to Impact 100, Evans said adult education is poorly funded in Colorado, which is 48th in the country in the amount spent. “Less than 2% of students in need of adult education programming in the state of Colorado are able to enroll in classes currently.”

Since its start in 2015, the Denver chapter of Impact 100 has given a total of $1.26 million in grants to community organizations, said board president Serena Bruzgo.

Besides The Learning Source, other recently announced recipients of this year’s grants were Mi Casa Resource Center and Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado with $58,554 each.

Bruzgo said 40 nonprofits applied for grants. About 35 Impact 100 members visited several organizations and talked to the staffs and board members. Members narrowed six semi-finalists to three.

Money for the annual grants comes from the members, who contribute at least $1,100 each year. Of that, $100 goes to membership dues. Some people pitch in more.

“It really kind of democratizes philanthropy. Sometimes people think, ‘Well, I don’t have that much money to give. I can’t really make a difference,’” Bruzgo said. “Because we’re able to contribute and come together, determine what areas of the community we want to support, we’re able to make a much bigger impact.”

Bruzgo said the national organization’s founder, Wendy Steele, came up with a philanthropic model for women based on what she saw as their focus on collaboration and interest in their communities.

“She had this idea, ‘If I can get a hundred women to give $1,000 each, we could collaborate and give a $100,000 grant to an organization that we all want to support.’ That’s the model that we’ve adopted,” Bruzgo said.

The Denver chapter, which has 211 members, raised about $217,000 for the 2022 awards. Bruzgo said the pooling of money allows members to make a big difference for organizations that typically don’t receive large grants.

The Learning Source serves about 2,000 people a year. The programs include English classes, ones aimed at getting parents more involved in their children’s education, classes for high school equivalency degrees and pathways to vocational training and secondary education.

Evans said the nonprofit has about 40 locations statewide, roughly 100 full- and part-time employees and more than 100 volunteers. Getting a GED can increase a student’s yearly income by $9,620, he said, and by more than $28,000 if they pursue more training and education.

A lot of adult students have difficulty making time for classes because they might work more than one job, have families and have challenges with transportation, Evans said. The Impact 100 grant will help The Learning Source to reach more people, he said.

“It’s going to increase our ability to create our online curriculum and will support and increase programming for both distance and hybrid (learning),” Evans said. “It will give people more opportunities to take classes than are currently able to.”

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