University Heights woman to head San Diego Women’s Foundation board
By Margie M. Palmer
University Heights resident Suzanne LaTour will take on the role of president of the San Diego Women’s Foundation (SDWF) board of directors for the upcoming year.
The SDWF was founded 15 years ago as a supporting organization of the San Diego Foundation. Its founding members were a small group of volunteers who envisioned an organization that would help promote the leadership of women in philanthropy.
Today, the SDWF has grown to more than 210 members, each of whom has committed to provide a $2,000 annual contribution for a minimum of five years. LaTour said approximately $2.9 million has been granted to 74 nonprofits since the organization’s inception; grants start at $25,000.
Some of their 2015 community partners include the Center on Policy Initiatives, which inspires college students from underserved communities to become high-functioning, effective leaders; and Outdoor Outreach, which utilizes the outdoors to provide teens with life skills, employment opportunities and civic engagement training.
“We want to make a significant impact and I’ve seen the ripple effect of that money,” LaTour said. “It’s amazing what you can do when you pool your contribution with more than 200 other women.”
The SDWF, she notes, was one of the original funders of the Downtown-based Monarch School, which helps educate students who have been impacted by homelessness.
“Seeing the impact that we’ve made really pulls on the heart strings. There are so many programs we’ve funded that are amazing to watch,” she said. “If you watch the news or read the news, you’ll see there are a lot of disappointing and negative things that are going on, but seeing these people, and these organizations who are trying to change the world is awesome.”
However, LaTour is no stranger to the philanthropic rodeo. Her commitment to making San Diego a better place runs deep. She’s a former board member of the Downtown YMCA and has served on the Advisory Committee for the San Diego Foundation’s Philanthropy Department. She has also worked with San Diego’s Adult Literacy Program, Habitat for Humanity, LEAD San Diego and the San Diego Leadership Trust.
LaTour said she first became involved with the SDWF after she was invited to a membership meeting in 2003. She knew right away that joining the foundation would allow her to be more hands on. Each member has one vote to determine where grants will be given each year.
“I absolutely loved it, it’s a group of really great, strong women who are there to educate each other and make an impact in the community,” she said, noting the foundation has done a lot of growing up in the granting process throughout her tenure.
“Things were a lot less structured in the past but we’ve made a lot of significant changes and have created a really well respected granting process for nonprofit organizations in San Diego. Applicants know we have a high-quality process and that everyone gets a fair chance.”
And while her tenure as board president will be brief, she looks forward to helping the SDWF further its mission. She also looks forward to continuing to provide funding to local organizations that are making a difference.
“The upcoming year’s grants will focus on programs that help develop job readiness,” she said. “Living in San Diego gets more expensive each year and the sustainable wage for a family of four is significantly higher than the national average, which is why we’ll be focusing on organizations who are working to help train people in ways that will allow them to get higher than minimum wage jobs.”
Other members say they are equally excited to see LaTour take the lead.
“We’re truly honored that Suzanne has accepted the position of president of The San Diego Women’s Foundation for the upcoming year,” said Leigh Hartman, outgoing president. “She is passionate about the issues that face our community, and inspires our members to use their skills and talents to collectively make a difference.”
—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines in a myriad of news publications for the past 10 years. You can reach her at email@example.com.