In 1990, a small group of visionary women leaders in Omaha recognized that women’s issues and programs were not receiving sufficient funding. They established the Women’s Fund within the Omaha Community Foundation through a grant from the Ford/MacArthur Foundation. The mission of these women was to create opportunities for the economic, physical, emotional, social, artistic and personal growth of women and girls. Their goal was to enable women to achieve full partnership in the Omaha community.

Twenty-six years later, the Women’s Fund remains committed to our vision of a community where every woman and girl has the opportunity to reach her full potential.

Check out our Historical Highlights to see what the Women’s Fund has accomplished during this time.


A record crowd of 1,500 people attended the “Lead the Change” 25th Anniversary Celebration on October 15 at the CenturyLink Center. The event raised $390,000 for the Women’s Fund of Omaha. The event featured Barbara Corcoran, from ABC’s hit series Shark Tank, as the keynote speaker. The event included presentation of a record $250,000 in grants to local nonprofits for programs benefiting local women and girls. Honorary co-chairs for the luncheon were Kate Dodge and Dana Washington.

We tackled Douglas County’s alarmingly high rate of STDs through our Adolescent Health Project. We conducted research and published a report on Human Trafficking in Nebraska. We launched Legacy League to teach young girls, ages 8 to 18, about leadership and philanthropy. Today’s Omaha Woman magazine celebrated its 18th year of covering issues relevant to local women.


The 14th annual Be the Change fall luncheon, held on October 23 at the CenturyLink Center, set records with 1,100 business and community leaders in attendance. Former Wall Street executive Sallie Krawcheck advocated for diversity in leadership in her keynote address. The event included a presentation of $200,000 in grants to 17 local nonprofits for programs benefiting local women and girls.

The Adolescent Health Project (AHP) was launched. This project seeks to create sustainable community-wide changes through a research-based, results focused, comprehensive approach that will: (1) increase the sexual knowledge and health of youth and, thereby, (2) decrease the number of youth engaging in risky sexual behavior and the rates of STDs and teen pregnancy. We also completed research on the Cliff Effect and Women’s Voices and the U-VISA.

Forty women participated in our Ready to Run sessions. Women’s Fund Circles group offered opportunities to 62 young professional women to network and learn about philanthropy. Today’s Omaha Woman magazine celebrated its 17th year of covering issues relevant to local women.


The 13th Annual Fall Luncheon moved to the CenturyLink Center, where it set records for attendance (nearly 1,100 people) and revenue raised (more than $165,000). Leadership expert Betsy Myers was guest speaker. The report How Are Women Doing in Omaha? examined the economic status of women in the local area. Sex trafficking was the topic of a panel discussion and film screening as the Women’s Fund partnered with Film Streams to show “Sex + Money.” Ready to Run Trivia Night tested participants’ knowledge of local politics, and a second class joined inaugural members of Women’s Fund Circles, bringing the total membership to 50. A new website debuted for Today’s Omaha Woman magazine, which continued to focus on issues important to local women.


More than 500 people attended two screenings of the documentary “Miss Representation,” including a showing at Film Streams and one at UNO a week before the film’s producer, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, was guest speaker at the 12th Annual Fall Luncheon. Grants totaling $149,500 were awarded at the luncheon in front of an audience of nearly 800 people. A sold-out crowd of 200 took part in a Ready to Run Rally promoting the importance of electing women to office, and Today’s Omaha Woman magazine celebrated its 15th anniversary. Twenty-five young women were part of the inaugural class of Women’s Fund Circles. The Leadership Conversations report, based on candid interviews with 47 female executives, was published. Ellie Archer retired after 11 years as executive director, and Michelle Zych was named the new executive director.


A record crowd of nearly 900 attended the Annual Fall Luncheon to hear Wall Street veteran Carla Harris’ “pearls” of advice on how to thrive in the workplace. Grants totaling $133,000 and a Recycled Rides mini-van also were presented. The Women and Leadership in Omaha update expanded to include women on corporate boards and in senior management positions at Omaha’s largest employers. The Women’s Fund Circles group was launched to introduce young women leaders to the Women’s Fund’s work, as well as provide opportunities to network, interact with established professional women and learn about philanthropy.


The cumulative amount invested in local initiatives exceeded $2.5 million as the Women’s Fund celebrated its 20th anniversary. Grants totaling $125,000 were awarded, and the first Recycled Rides mini-van was presented to a College of Saint Mary nursing student. More than 800 people attended the 10th annual fall luncheon featuring Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the National American Red Cross. Omaha Fashion Week selected the Women’s Fund as its beneficiary, and special events were held in conjunction with the runway shows. Nearly 60 individuals and businesses supported the Women’s Fund with Platinum Circle contributions in honor of the 20th anniversary, and the Changemaker fundraising campaign was launched. The Intimate Partner Violence in Omaha research study looked at survivors’ needs and available services in the community.


With $125,000 in community grants, the total awarded by the Women’s Fund since its inception exceeded $1 million. Nearly 200 participants attended the inaugural Ready To Serve board training developed to foster women’s leadership. A survey of nonprofit service providers led to the launch of Talk of the Town gatherings to promote networking between agencies. More than 700 people attended the luncheon, which featured communications expert Audrey Nelson and netted $68,000. Twelve graduates of the Ready to Run candidate school won office in this year’s elections. The campaign educating Omaha’s youth about STDs continued. Sixty Omaha-area leaders attended a CEO breakfast on leadership that featured two of the most powerful women in U.S. healthcare. The inaugural Empower Hour was held.


The Women & Leadership in Omaha findings continued to have an impact as local organizations implemented report recommendations. The Ready2ServeOmaha website matching volunteers with nonprofit leadership opportunities was launched in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals. A grant from an anonymous donor raised the total investment in the Women’s Fund STD awareness campaign to $406,000. $138,000 was awarded in community grants. Networking expert Susan RoAne spoke to 740 people at the luncheon. Barbara Weitz was the seventh recipient of the WomanSpirit award. Ready to Run featured fundraising. A new website with features including online donations was introduced. The Women’s Fund relocated to larger offices at 7602 Pacific St.


The Women & Leadership in Omaha report was released, comparing data with research from a decade earlier. A second “Ladies Sing the Blues” event netted $40,000. The Ready to Run workshop informed 40 women on the fundamentals of running for political office. $25,000 was granted to G.I.R.L. for a summer workshop on media literacy for teens. The Women’s Fund received a $47,500 continuation grant from Alegent for the STD campaign. Sally Helgesen, author and expert on women in leadership, spoke at the luncheon and at special events for human resource professionals and chief executive officers. $122,500 was awarded in grants. Today’s Omaha Woman magazine celebrated its tenth anniversary.


The second G.I.R.L. Summit featured the G.I.R.L. Report, the product of two years of research about girls in Omaha. Another successful Ready to Run was held. The Women’s Fund was awarded an Alegent Community Benefit Trust grant in the amount of $127,250 to expand the STD education campaign, and a $10, 000 match from the Women’s Fund supported two public health educators. “Ladies Sing the Blues” featuring Dawn Tyler Watson was held to promote women’s health and raised $35,000. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founder and president of the Center for Work-Life Policy, spoke at the annual luncheon which raised more than $65,000. $137, 000 was awarded in grants.


50 hopefuls attended the first Ready to Run Candidate school held in partnership with the Lincoln Lancaster Women’s Commission. The WomanSpirit award honored Mary Heng-Braun. Another edition of Celebration of Women was published. Marie C. Wilson of the White House Project spoke at the fifth annual luncheon which raised more than $75,000. $110,000 was awarded in grants.


The Women’s Fund raised money for and produced an $85,000 multi-media campaign to combat the epidemic of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the community by encouraging testing of young people. The first annual G.I.R.L Summit was held. Judy Mayotte was the keynote speaker at the luncheon.


The fifth WomanSpirit award was presented to Mimi Waldbaum. A five-year, $20,000 pledge to the Latina Resource Center was completed. The first giving circle training was held. The fall luncheon featured T. Marni Vos and raised $45,000.


The Women’s Fund moved to 7642 Pierce Street. A follow-up research report was published entitled “What Women Want at Work.” The second annual fall luncheon featured Judith Hope and attracted an audience of nearly 800 people.


The Women’s Fund became an independent charitable organization with new office facilities at 1004 Farnam. WomanSpirit awards were presented to Dianne Seeman Lozier and Marian Ivers. An important research report, “What Women Want,” was published. The first annual fall luncheon was held featuring Joan Peters.


The third edition of A Celebration of Women was published. The Workforce Leadership Taskforce undertook the updating of the “Women & Leadership” research study.


The premier issue of the Women’s Fund newsletter debuted and the Women’s Fund launched its website. The second WomanSpirit award was presented to Margre Durham, and the second edition of A Celebration of Women was published.


The magazine, Today’s Omaha Woman, published its premier issue. The Domestic Violence Coordinating Council began to operate as a separate organization. The first WomanSpirit Award was presented to Gail Walling Yanney.


The first edition of A Celebration for Women was published. A third research report, “Women & Leadership,” was produced. The Fund reached its initial endowment goal of $1.5 million.


“Can We Stop the Violence?,” the second research report produced by the Women’s Fund, laid the groundwork for the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council. The Leadership Talent Bank was initiated to create a databank of female candidates for area board positions.


Domestic violence and leadership were added to Women’s Fund priorities. The first research report, “How Are Women Doing in Omaha?,” was produced.


The Women’s Fund recognized the need for quality child care as a major issue in our community. In response, the Outstanding Child Care Provider Awards were initiated and continued for five years.


A group of visionary women leaders established a Women’s Fund within the Omaha Community Foundation through a grant from the Ford/MacArthur Foundation.