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WFSA co-founder Melody S. Robidoux continues her support in a big way

Grant is the largest in the Foundation’s 24-year history

The Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona (WFSA) recently received a landmark, half-a-million-dollar grant from the Melody S. Robidoux Foundation Fund held at the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona to create a new donor advised fund at WFSA. It is the fourth donor advised fund to be established at the Women’s Foundation in the past two years by long-time supporters. Read the Arizona Daily Star’s coverage here.

“After 10 years of Laura Penny’s outstanding leadership of the Women’s Foundation and the work that WFSA has done over those years to increase their grants program, build an endowment, and commission the ‘Self Sufficiency Standard for Arizona 2012’ research report – just to name a few accomplishments – I felt that it was a perfect time to show my strong commitment to the Foundation for its next stage of growth under its new CEO Dawne Bell,” said Robidoux.

“It also is a way to publicly acknowledge and thank the various board members, Advisory Council members, staff, volunteers, and other donors who have worked so hard over the last 24 years to build a remarkable organization in Southern Arizona that creates better lives for women and girls. It says that I believe in the power, vision, and stability of the Women’s Foundation to fulfill its mission,” she added.

“Melody’s commitment is transformational.  She leads the national trend of women donors coming to the forefront to create change by investing in women and girls,” said WFSA CEO Dawne Bell. “We are so humbled by this inspiring generosity that will impact thousands of women and girls throughout our region for decades to come.”

An Interview with Melody S. Robidoux

Deborah Daun: What do you mean by “Philanthropy as Social Justice?”

Melody S. Robidoux: In the area of women’s rights, I see funding organizations like Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona (WFSA) as a way to create a level of social justice that is still missing for women and girls in the U.S. Whether it’s inequality of pay, assaults on women’s reproductive rights, sexual assault on campus, inadequate STEM training for girls and discrimination in STEM jobs, protection from domestic violence, single parent household poverty, etc., there is still much work to be done. Progressive change in any of these areas has ripple effects throughout society because women’s rights can’t be totally separated from other social justice movements. When you fund women’s organizations you are funding change that creates a better life for all members of our society. That is Philanthropy as Social Justice.

DD: Why did you help start what has become WFSA together with Harriet Silverman in 1991?

MSR: Both Harriet and I had always believed in equality for women and girls — and once we met, there was a synergy in our viewpoints around doing something to bring that about. What was initially envisioned as a scholarship fund when Harriet and I first spoke in 1991, grew with community input, effort, and support to become an organization that would work to empower all women and girls in Southern Arizona.

DD: What are your observations about the growth of WFSA over more than two decades? What do you think are some of the important milestones in WFSA’s growth and service to women and girls?

MSR: One of the important milestones in WFSA’s recent history was the release of its “The Self Sufficiency Standard for Arizona 2012” research report on the state of women and girls in Southern Arizona. WFSA had grown enough as an organization to begin looking at how it use data to influence change on behalf of the community that it serves. Their move into research and advocacy is exciting to me, and it is a natural next step in fulfilling WFSA’s mission.

DD: Your landmark, half a million dollar gift to WFSA in 2015 to open a donor advised fund is the biggest single gift in WFSA’s history. Why did you choose to give to WFSA 1) At this time and 2) In this way?

MSR: After 10 years of Laura Penny’s outstanding leadership of WFSA and the work that the Foundation has done over those years to increase their grants program, build an endowment, and commission their first research report – just to name a few accomplishments – I felt that it was a perfect time to show my strong commitment to WFSA for its next stage of growth under its new CEO, Dawne Bell.

Since I give a grant to WFSA every year from my foundation, why not have a donor advised fund at WFSA that can dispense that grant? They take responsibility for managing the assets, it increases their balance sheet, and I get to make grant recommendations from my fund that will support WFSA’s mission. Establishing a DAF makes me feel more a part of the Women’s Foundation.

DD: What is the most satisfying to you about making this gift to WFSA?

MSR: It is a way to publicly acknowledge and thank the various board members, Advisory Council members, staff, volunteers, and other donors who have worked so hard over the last 24 years to build a remarkable organization in Southern Arizona that creates better lives for women and girls. It says that I believe in the power, vision, and stability of WFSA to fulfill its mission.

Melody S. Robidoux graduated from the University of Arizona (UA) with a degree in political science, and then completed a Juris Doctorate at the UA College of Law. A few years later, as co-owner and CEO of the Tucson-based technology company Artisoft Inc., she helped drive and manage the company’s growth. In 1990, Robidoux sold her interest in the company and saw this an opportunity to promote societal change through philanthropy.

In 1990, she founded the Melody S. Robidoux Foundation — a supporting organization of the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona (CFSA) that has become a donor advised fund held at CFSA — and in 1992, Melody co-founded the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona. Over the years, she has sat on various boards and committees, and raised money for capital campaigns and annual funds. Robidoux is a member of American Association of University Women. In 2014, she was chosen Alumna of the Year by the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences in recognition of her philanthropy. Melody is married to Mick Thompson and they have a son, Maxwell.  She is a Flagstaff, Arizona native.

Deborah Daun owns a public relations and marketing consulting firm in Tucson. She creates and implements  plans that include heart-opening and data-driven strategies and stories that engage donors, volunteers and other supporters critical to the success of not-for-profit organizations. She currently serves on the Women’s Foundation Board of Trustees.

Photo credit: Mick Thompson

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