Category Archives: Meet a Donor

Meet a Donor: Romaine Scharlemann

Romaine Scharlemann, Donor Fund Advisor,  the Scharlemann-Baker Fund

Romaine Scharlemann, Donor Fund Advisor,
the Scharlemann-Baker Fund

Romaine Scharlemann, generous donor-partner and Donor Fund Advisor

Q: What prompted you to open a Donor Advised Fund at the Women’s Foundation?

A: Most of us want to be part of the solution to the needs we see in our communities, but struggle to figure out how to truly make a difference. We often start by making small financial contributions and perhaps, volunteering. That is where I was 12 years ago when I joined the staff of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. It was then that I learned about Donor Advised Funds and realized I’d been thinking too small. It didn’t take long to realize that by creating a Donor Advised Fund, I could increase the impact of my contributions, include my family in meaningful ways, and do this on a budget that felt comfortable. Just like my husband and I save for retirement and created college funds for our boys, it made perfect sense to start a charitable fund. (It felt like the best kept secret that should be shouted from the rooftops!) The Women’s Foundation made it so easy — not only because we support their mission, but also because we could build our Fund over time, instead of being required to produce a large lump sum. This brilliantly puts philanthropy in reach of the 99 percenters, like us!

Q: How does the work of the Women’s Foundation connect to your personal values?

A: Once my husband and I established the Scharlemann-Baker Fund, the real fun began. We focused our charitable giving on organizations that stirred our passions, knowing that we could start small while creating the opportunity to make larger, more impactful gifts as the Fund grew. We also love that we are leaving a charitable legacy for our two sons as they step into advisor roles one day, funding causes they care about as millennials. Innovative strategies and committed leadership have put the Foundation at the cutting edge of creating opportunities for women and girls to succeed across Minnesota. While I’ve since retired from the Foundation, I love remaining a part of making lasting change and knowing I’m getting the most impact for my charitable gifts by investing there.

Q: Why have you chosen to give to Dunwoody College of Technology through your Donor Advised Fund?

A: It’s especially gratifying to support specific projects through our Fund. When my Mom passed away a few years ago (at age 102!), I created a scholarship in her name, the Helen Scharlemann Memorial Scholarship, for a female student at Dunwoody College of Technology. This is something my Mom would have greatly valued and appreciated.

Q: What do you want to see changed in our community through your charitable giving?

A: The future I envision is being created today through the Foundation’s investments: confident women and girls from every economic and ethnic background, offering their voices in leadership roles. To quote one youth leader from a recent Foundation Listening Session: “I want to be the change I wish to see in my community.” I see so much hope in the next generation that leads without prejudice, sexism, racism, and homophobia — creating inclusion with ease. All of us will benefit as we build our next generation of leaders comprised of all our voices.

>> Romaine Scharlemann is featured in our Fall 2016 EQUALITY Update.

Barbara Carlson Gage and Marilyn Carlson Nelson honored as 2016 Mary Lee Dayton Catalysts for Change

Barbara Carlson Gage (left), Lee Roper-Batker (center), Women's Foundation president & CEO, and Marilyn Carlson Nelson (right), donor-partners and 2016 Mary Lee Dayton Catalyst for Change Award honorees.

Barbara Carlson Gage (left), Lee Roper-Batker (center), Women’s Foundation president & CEO, and Marilyn Carlson Nelson (right), donor-partners and 2016 Mary Lee Dayton Catalyst for Change Award honorees.

(Oct. 3, Minneapolis) – The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota has named Barbara Carlson Gage and Marilyn Carlson Nelson as the 2016 Mary Lee Dayton Catalyst for Change honorees.

The Foundation presented the award to Barbara and Marilyn at its annual Leadership & Legacy Luncheon for donors on September 28. Established in 2009 in honor of its namesake, the award is presented annually to elevate and recognize philanthropists who use their resources and leadership to advance gender equality in Minnesota.

Barbara and Marilyn are key donor-partners, trusted advisors, and fierce advocates in partnership with the Women’s Foundation to end sex trafficking in Minnesota. Carlson Family Foundation and Carlson have provided $1 million dollars to the Foundation’s MN Girls Are Not For Sale campaign. This investment catalyzed a sea change in our communities’ response to this unconscionable crime.

Barbara and Marilyn’s sister-magic serves as an example of the very best in philanthropic leadership. Together, their deep commitment, fierce advocacy, and generous investments to end sex trafficking are creating a safer world for all children in Minnesota and around the world.

Meet a Donor: Charlson Foundation

Charlson Sisters EQ Update Crop

Karen McElrath, board chair, and Leslie Stiles, president, Charlson Foundation

Charlson Foundation: Generous Donor-Partners of the Women’s Foundation Since 1991

Q: What prompted your involvement with the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota?

A: We were looking for a way to leverage our resources. We are a small family foundation without staff, intentionally limiting our grantmaking to the metro area. The Charlson Foundation has always been passionate about supporting women and girls, so girlsBEST (girls Building Economic Success Together) provided a wonderful opportunity to broaden our reach statewide. When we first got involved with the program, the plan was for the Women’s Foundation to fund it for five years as a public awareness initiative promoting economic security for Minnesota girls. Since then the foundation permanently endowed a fund for girls, and the program is stronger than ever after 15 years. Clearly, the Charlson Foundation invested wisely.

Q: How does the work of the Women’s Foundation connect to your personal values?

A: We feel comfortable supporting the Women’s Foundation because of our shared values and how they operate in the community. We respect how they are collaborative and inclusive; they study an issue, investing money in research, and they back up the initiatives with data. They are not afraid to take risks and to lead when no one else is available or capable. We appreciate how they have the capacity to provide technical assistance and convene grantees for information sharing, which can be invaluable for a small grantee. The Women’s Foundation organizational ethos is positive, optimistic and hopeful, celebrating women. Supporting women and girls extends to how they internally nurture and support their staff professionally.

Q: What outcomes from your girlsBEST funding resonate with you the most?

A: We are a family foundation of four sisters, so we naturally are drawn to programs that support girls and young women. We get it! The messaging in girlsBEST is so positive and empowering at a critical time in a girl’s life. The program provides the structure where their ideas and voices can be heard, to try new things in a safe atmosphere, and learn how to support and work together around their shared goal. Focusing on underserved girls — it provides a rare opportunity for just girls to start talking about the importance of becoming economically independent and envisioning what that means for their future. GirlsBEST grantees work together on something they believe in, and in turn, they learn to believe in themselves through skill building. The messaging is positive, that they can “do it” through education and careers that will give them economic stability and independence.

Q: What do you want to see changed in our community through your philanthropy efforts?

A: The Charlson Foundation philosophy is that real change takes time. Our philanthropy reflects that by making long-term investments in the nonprofits we support, and accepting the reality that outcomes may sometimes be messy. If we could change anything in our community, we would welcome our philanthropic colleagues to adopt this brand of thinking! We prefer to allow leadership to focus on the mission of their organization rather than constantly fundraising or manipulating programming to satisfy short-term funding streams.

>> The Charlson Foundation is featured in our Summer 2016 EQUALITY Update.

MEET A DONOR ADVISOR: Wenda Weekes Moore


Wenda Weekes Moore, a donor and trusted advisor to the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota for more than 30 years, opened a Donor Advised Fund here in March 2014.

Wenda Weekes Moore: Giving Back to Create a Civil and Just World

Wenda Weekes Moore was 10 years old when the meaning of “philanthropy” hit home. She was with her father at Howard University College of Medicine (Washington, D.C.), his alma mater, attending a ceremony in his honor. A son of immigrant parents from Barbados, he worked his way through medical school.

Once he was a successful OB/GYN in Los Angeles, he established a scholarship at Howard to help other students pay for medical school. Before the ceremony, Wenda asked her father, “Why are you giving our money away to someone we don’t know?” He replied, “Somebody helped me, and that’s why I’m here, and why you’re here. It’s important that we help others. Somebody gave to me, so I give back.”

The impact on Wenda was profound and lasting. She and her husband taught their children the personal responsibility to “give back” and the critical role philanthropy plays in making the world a more civil and just place.

Wenda put this belief into practice by serving on many philanthropic boards, including the Women’s Funding Network, Ms. Foundation, University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents, and W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Through work with grantees, she learned that women were most often at the core of transformative and positive community change and held the power to create that civil and just world.

This recognition led Wenda to the Women’s Foundation back in the early 1980s. Over 31 years’ time, she has served as a trusted advisor to Foundation leadership and watched as it has grown from $8 million in assets in the 1990’s to the $23.1 million it is today.

Last year, W.K. Kellogg Foundation honored Wenda’s 26 years of Board service with targeted money she could direct anywhere she chose. Wenda chose to open a Donor Advised Fund at the Women’s Foundation because of its proven effectiveness to affect real economic, political, and social equality for all women and girls in the state.

Equally important, the Foundation’s values mirror her own: justice, social change, inclusion, feminism, and hope.

“I believe in the Women’s Foundation’s mission, commitment to diversity, and what it does consistently: meeting people where they are and feeding the sense of ‘you can do it’ in women and girls across Minnesota,” said Wenda.

“My father believed it was important to help others, and I’m thrilled I have continued his legacy of philanthropy.”

(Oct. 2014)


Margo Maris has been a Legacy Circle member since 2007. Her planned gift to the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota helps to ensure gender equality for future generations.

Margo Maris: A Generous Heart Revealed

It is said that charity begins at home, and this was certainly true for Margo Maris.

As a child, her mother taught her how to properly answer the door whenever a charity, such as the March of Dimes, came calling, and then to give ten dimes from her piggy bank. Generosity and a responsibility to help those less fortunate were family values Margo grew up with.

Sometimes, however, a charitable nature can result in unanticipated, unexpected consequences. As a young woman, Margo learned that not all of her relatives were as charitable as her own family. Margo shared with several aunts and uncles her desire to give most of her estate to charities. None agreed with her sense of giving, and in one case, her portion of an estate was considerably less than others.

Teaching school in Berkeley, Calif., during the late-1960s, Margo became fascinated with the intersectionality between political power and spiritual power. Eventually, this fascination led her to the Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, Calif.). After years of study, she was ordained as an Episcopal priest. Prior to becoming a priest, Margo worked in other nonprofit organizations in Berkeley, helping foundations, like the Rosenberg Foundation, assess nonprofit grants.

From childhood to adulthood, the important lessons about the power of charitable giving had come full circle. In 2007, Margo crafted her legacy plan and the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota was selected to honor her lifetime commitment to women’s equality. Her legacy includes a Charitable Remainder Unitrust, which will provide care for her disabled daughter for her lifetime, with the remainder coming to the Women’s Foundation.

And in 2013, Margo created a charitable gift annuity at the Women’s Foundation, in which she receives annual income and the Foundation will receive the remainder at the end of her lifetime. We honor Margo Maris as a member of the Legacy Circle for Women & Girls and her philanthropic commitment to create a legacy of social change that levels the playing field for all women.

(Sept. 2013)