Women Helping Women: Celebrating 20 Years of Impact for the Baltimore Women’s Giving Circle

The Baltimore Women’s Giving Circle (BWGC) is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2021 with an inspiring legacy of granting $7 million to roughly 180 organizations that promote self-sufficiency for women and their families in Baltimore. Founded by Shelley Goldseker and Pam Corckran, along with 50 other women, the Circle has since expanded to include more than 450 members!

“Women join the Baltimore Women’s Giving Circle because they want to meet dedicated women and learn about Baltimore,” said Martha Cukor, BWGC co-chair. “They are in the Circle because they want to see their money bundled to make a difference.” Adds Susan Perl, BWGC co-chair, “It goes directly to our community and it’s woman-to-woman which strengthens it for me. You can see the direct impact on women.”  

 Just like the other hundreds of current members, Martha and Susan, now in their second year as co-chairs, share in the belief that they can make a greater impact collectively than individually. The Circle is also proud to be a group always seeking more ways to support and get to know their community. In addition to giving funds, the women of the Circle spend time building relationships with the organizations and the people involved. “It’s great because we get to see that personal touch,” shared Susan. “We get a chance to meet the actual people who we are serving.” Many Circle members are so moved by the tremendous work of local organizations that they find themselves writing personal checks, signing up to volunteer, or joining boards. With diverse backgrounds and talents, these compassionate women offer their unique expertise to organizations that may, for example, need support in preparing a budget or finding volunteers for a workforce development program. 

With years of memories to sift through, Martha and Susan both found it difficult to identify just one favorite story of a relationship with a grantee that made a lasting impact on them. Yet Martha remembered feeling especially moved by a visit to a small halfway house in South Baltimore. “We went for a site visit and the executive director had dedicated her entire life to serving women she might never see again,” shared Martha. “I left there so in awe of what our grantees do for others and so humbled.” As a former nurse by profession, Susan loves to support the Caroline Center which has trained women in the city for careers as certified nursing assistants and pharmacy technicians for more than 25 years. Another favorite grantee for both is Black Women Build, which teaches women carpentry, electrical, and plumbing skills as they rehab dilapidated homes in West Baltimore. Following the program, women have the chance to purchase the homes that they helped to restore. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected BWGC’s operations, with committee meetings and grant and post-grant processes now conducted virtually. Despite the physical distance, membership increased in 2020 and the group found exciting opportunities to support resilient organizations meeting new and pressing needs brought on by the crisis. The women of the Circle were especially impressed with efforts to distribute necessary technology, such as computers, WiFi access, and hotspots, to ensure Baltimore women remained on the path to self-sufficiency.   

Both Martha and Susan have great hope for what’s in store for the Baltimore Women’s Giving Circle. “We’re in a very strong position, even though it’s been a heck of a year for everybody,” said Susan. “The mission of the Circle is to serve women and children in the Baltimore area,” shared Martha. “That’s what our mission will continue to be long after us. We’re consistent—and we have been for 20 years.”  ν

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Building Stronger Neighborhoods Regionwide

We have a nearly 30-year history of offering grants to resident-led groups and community projects in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. These grants give residents the resources they need to accomplish a small project, get more people involved, and encourage the next generation of neighborhood leaders. We also fund programs that support the development of leaders of all ages who are working to improve their neighborhoods and schools. Our support is intended to help identify, activate, inform and network leaders. And finally, we believe when schools and neighborhoods team up to improve their school and community, meaningful and lasting change can be made. We are interested in funding proposals in which the students and adults in schools collaborate intentionally with community residents, neighborhood associations, and other individuals, groups, and institutions in the area surrounding a school.

School Leadership

We believe that attracting and retaining effective and diverse school leaders is a key lever for change in Baltimore's educational landscape, and so we fund school leadership development efforts at the district and individual school level. We are interested in funding proposals that focus on principal coaching, mentoring, peer networking, wellness/self-care, as well as pipelines that identify and develop new leaders. We will also continue to support efforts that build a culture of appreciation and encouragement for school leaders.

How Can We Help?

Melissa McC. Warlow
Director, Baker Fund Grants Program
410-332-4172 x150

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Our on-line application system provides applicants with a portal to start a new grant application or to continue updating an application already in process. Please be sure to select the “Save and Finish Later” button when you are finished working on your application in order to save your current session’s work. At any time during the application process you can select the “Contact Us” button in the top right corner of the screen and you will be able to send an email to the Baltimore Community Foundation staff with specific questions. 

To be considered for funding, proposals must be submitted through the online application portal, however, we provide a PDF version of the application along with other useful forms here for your reference:   

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Place-based Grantmaking in Selected School Communities

We have allocated funds for two geographical areas that bookend a crucial corridor on the Westside of Baltimore City: Howard Park /Forest Park area (served by Calvin Rodwell Elementary Middle School and Liberty Elementary), and Reservoir Hill/Penn North area (served by Dorothy I Height Elementary). In these three schools and their surrounding neighborhoods, we will support projects and activities designed to make the communities safe, clean, green and vibrant; and improve the quality of the schools. Some projects may be neighborhood-focused, some school-focused and others collaborative projects between the schools and their respective communities.

Early Learning & Judy Centers

High quality early childhood education has a lifelong effect on students. Through our Early Learning grant program, we are interested in system-wide early childhood education proposals that will help Baltimore City and County's youngest learners, and their families, get the start they need. Nonprofit organizations that offer programs and/or services to Judy Centers are encouraged to contact the centers directly to explore partnership opportunities.

How Can We Help?

John A. Gilpin


Director of Planned Gifts
410-332-4171 ext. 132

How Can We Help?

Kate Sam

Communications Officer
410-332-4171 ext. 181

How Can We Help?

Cathy Brill

Executive Director
Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Charitable Foundation