Moms, mentors and budgets

By Laura Haight
President, DWGC

(Remarks delivered at the May 8, 2023 meeting)

Today we celebrate Moms and Mentors. I personally am nobody’s mom, but I have been mentored by great women and I have tried to pay that forward with women I’ve worked with over the years.

I was the first woman in news at the Staten Island Advance in NYC when I walked in in May 1975. Oh, we had women in the newsroom, but they were relegated to the women’s or arts section. 

Nonetheless one of those women – Elaine Boise – took me under her wing and navigated me through crucial situations that had nothing to do with journalism, but everything to do with being a woman in a business dominated by men. 

Women helping women remains crucial 50 years later – and will probably still be crucial 50 years from now. So I am happy to see some of you have brought guests with you today.

A big part of mentoring is giving women something to shoot for. ‘If you can see it, you can be it’ is not a meme, it’s a reality. And there are still plenty of industries and professions where women are underrepresented: technology, airline pilots, the c-suite, chefs, and elected government.

This year, in Columbia 14.7 percent of the legislators are women while the state’s adult population is 51.4 percent female. 

We talked back in March about the importance of women in legislative bodies and how, on the global stage, many countries we may not think of as especially advanced ( Nicaragua, Cuba, Mexico, Rwanda, and the United Arab Emirates) have legislatures with more than 50 percent women. Contrast that with the percentage of women in the US Congress, which is roughly 25 percent.

Changing this dynamic is our mission as Democratic Women. 

Our featured speaker – Tameika Isaac Devine – today knows these dynamics well. She is a mom and a mentor, and a groundbreaking legislator who broke through her city’s glass ceiling. We’ll be hearing from her shortly.

And how will we do that? By educating and engaging women, motivating them to see elections not as a political exercise, but an exercise of their values, and by working hard for the election of our Democratic candidates, including financial support to the degree the organization will support it.

As I warned you all when I first stood at this podium in January, you did not elect someone comfortable with the status quo. I believe in advocacy and activism, in transparency and openness. And I believe that this is YOUR organization and although I am not required by anything in our bylaws to explain our finances to you. I believe it is important that I do so.

So we have been working hard on a budget. A budget geared to us having the funds to make more significant contributions to our candidates and to increase our visibility in the county, build our membership and expand our diversity to include younger members.

To do that, we have to make some changes. 

Our biggest expense is the luncheons. We lose (yes, I said lose) roughly $170 each month. We are being very judicious in our food purchases, which is why we stop taking eating reservations on Wednesday, so we can give an accurate number to the caterer. Not an overinflated guesstimate. 

But food is not the issue. We also pay $300 per month for this room. And before you get all worked up about that, this is a bargain. At the West End Community Center we paid $600 and were charged additionally if extra people showed up. Previous boards have extensively investigated other locations, which is how they found the Kroc Center. Less expensive alternatives like conference rooms at the library are fine, so long as you don’t want to eat or drink.

So we are here and, frankly, we’re lucky to have it. But we cannot continue to lose money.

To address that, the board has voted to approve two changes:

  1. Going back to the pre-pandemic, we have been requesting that those who attend but don’t eat, voluntarily donate $5. Effective next month, that will be a requirement that will be collected via online payment at the time you register. We have roughly 20 non-eaters each month (if anyone can think of a better way to say that, PLEASE let me know), so that change will bring in up to $100 toward the room fee.
  2. Also effective next month, we’ll be raising the price of lunch to $25. With an average of about 45 people eating each month, this will bring in another $225. 

Those two changes will cover the cost of the room and take us from losing $170 a month to making on average $155 a month. 

This directly will go to enabling us to provide more to candidates, more support for the Party, more help to important upstate organizations whose values we share, and other affiliated Democratic organizations like Young Dems and the Black Caucus.

None of that will go toward my salary… Oh, sorry, just kidding. I don’t get a salary… 

We are going to plan more fundraisers starting with our Garden Party with a Mission on Sunday May 21. It’s going to be in the lovely gardens of Linda Derector’s home and will feature music, hor doerves, cocktails, and conversation. We are hoping to build membership at this event also, so please bring someone who might be interested in joining. If they join while they are at the event, their ticket will cover their 2023 dues.

If you have not yet signed up, please do so by noon on Friday. The link has been scrolling on the screen as we’ve been settling in and I will send it out in my follow up email. But it is kind of easy to remember:

The board has also voted on a change for membership for next year that we will put to a vote before the membership soon. Our proposal is to institute tiered membership. You’ll still be able to sign up or renew at the same $25 you’re paying now, but there will be two other levels (as yet undecided) for those who feel comfortable paying more. There is no benefit to you to pay more. It is simply a measure of each individual’s personal decision and commitment. There will also be no public recognition – or shaming. No Gold, silver, or bronze notations on your badges. 

We hope that those of you who can participate at a higher level will feel DWGC is important enough to do so. There’ll be more about this as we develop the program detail.

If you would like to see an overview of the budget, email me and I will send you a copy.

Be the change you want to see: Help the party with a much-needed donation or volunteer to help!