There's good news and bad news. Let’s start off positive: After years of paperwork, headaches, lots of money in legal fees & finally convincing the US government we’re not a wine shop, Ladies, Wine & Design is officially registered as a non-profit organization!
Now the bad news: LW&D is no longer sustainable to run the way it’s been running. I very much hate asking for help, but we’re out of options. I feel a little beat down/exhausted this past year as I've spent countless hours & resources trying to find a sponsor, with no luck. Many people think we’re a huge organization with funding/backing, but that’s far from the case. I’ve poured tons of my own money & our studio’s resources into keeping LW&D Global running, as we haven’t had one financial sponsor to date. We’ve tried partnerships & merch, but nothing panned out for raising money. It’s not sustainable to keep this organization going in a thoughtful way without sponsorship and/or additional support.
First, some background on LW&D. I started LW&D four years ago after realizing that sometimes women can be competitive with one another, possibly because our chances of rising to the top are so slim. 70% of students in many top design schools are women, yet only .1% of creative agencies are woman-founded. 5% of CEOs are women & 11% of creative directors are women. Why are so few women in leadership roles? I wrote an article about the experience that was my inspiration for starting LW&D here, and another one here about my future vision.
I wanted to create a supportive space for women & non-binary creatives to come together and share inspiration, exchange advice & lift each another up. There are many events for women out there now, but they usually come with high ticket fees (as they are for-profit) that make them inaccessible to the people who need the events most.
This idea started humbly in NYC five years ago, and shortly after, women around the world asked if they could bring LW&D to their city. We never planned to be a global operation, but thanks to the leadership and courage of amazing women around the world, we’ve grown organically to over 285 cities worldwide. We have free monthly talks, meetups, portfolio reviews & mentorship circles. LW&D is not about any one of us — it’s about the tens of thousands of women & non-binary people (and sometimes men as well) around the world who come together each month to work towards diversity and equality in their local creative communities.
The stories that come out of our events are incredible. Every year, LW&D events have thousands of attendees. We’ve heard stories from many of you firsthand about how the chapters are life-changing to your lives & careers. These stories are truly motivating and the reason why we want to push LW&D to be even better, despite the organization being time-consuming, expensive, and at times, quite stressful.
In 2020, we have specific goals in place for LW&D so we can deliver even further on our mission:
We’d like to create a diverse leadership/advisory board to help shape the future of our organization. We'd like to hire one person on full time to run the organization. We’d like to create grants for underrepresented people in creative fields. We want to create an expansive mentorship program for underrepresented creative high-schoolers. We’d like to have a fund to pay our NYC events, speakers & moderators. We want to ensure our outreach goes to diverse audiences and that our events stay free & inclusive. The list of what we could do and the ways we could improve with financial support goes on and on.
Despite big plans, we have two things holding us back: time & money.
1 - Time: I put countless hours into running LW&D global along with our &Walsh team and my mom, but we’re not able to keep up with the demand at the global level anymore. No matter how much time we put in, we’re always behind on maintaining events and new chapter openings vs. working on our big picture goals. LW&D needs diverse leadership on a global level. Ideally, these positions will be paid, but that leads to our second problem…
2 - Money: We’ve never had financial sponsorship, and we’ve managed to always keep LW&D Global’s events free. Free events are important to us, as we want any person to be able to attend our events regardless of financial background. To do this, everything to date has been self-funded. This includes the website, Instagram, art/design assets, newsletter, legal fees, etc. I, of course, will continue to support LW&D, but it's not enough to achieve the goals mentioned above.
Below is a breakdown of some ideas that could help keep LW&D running & ensure a thoughtful growth:
If you’re a company and want to support women & non-binary creatives worldwide, email us at email@example.com. Now that we have our official non-profit tax exemption, this will be a tax write off. Even if you’re not in a leadership position at a big company, you can use your voice on social. Tag big companies on our Instagram post that you’d love to see stepping up to support diversity in the creative fields. If you work at a big company, please email us for our sponsorship deck and pass it along to the right person in your company to see if they can support it. For companies that support us: we can offer lots of social media love, sponsorship placement at our events / on our website & newsletter, exclusive events for underrepresented creatives at your company, among other perks.
Over the years, many of you have messaged me about how much LW&D has helped you or your local city chapters in various ways. While I read almost all of them, I sadly never screenshotted or saved any of them. If you can email these to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the title "LW&D Story” (please don’t DM - my DM’s are overwhelmed) these testimonials would be helpful as we continue to look for sponsorship.
If you attend/attended our events, or have found value in our LW&D community and you're financially able to donate, it will be greatly appreciated. We’ve never taken donations before, but we’re starting now to make attendance an optional donation. We’ll always keep our events free, but support from people who can afford it can go a long way to keep our organization alive, as well as strengthening our future programming and initiatives. We're also working towards a NYC speaker fund to get our speakers or workshop hosts paid. You can donate here on our GoFundMe page.
The future of LW&D and decisions around the organization should be decided by a diverse leadership board. Diversity in opinions & backgrounds is crucial to ensure a strong intersectional approach to our work. We've made sure to include our diverse &Walsh team and global chapter leaders to help with ideas on our future, and we'd now we'd like to formalize this into a "LW&D Global Advisory Board". We're looking for people with experience in their creative field who want to help shape the future of LW&D. We’ll be discussing future ideas on leadership, diversity & inclusion, operations, and future vision plans.
We’re holding larger and larger events in NYC & abroad, and we are looking for people who can donate their event space, wine, food, merch for events, etc. If you can donate to our NYC chapter or to one of our chapters around the world, email us at email@example.com.
We recently brought on two amazing volunteers to help run our NYC events, Nako & Whitney. However, now we are looking for additional volunteers who can help us run LW&D at the global level. This person would help find sponsorships, plan larger events, and manage operations of the organization. If you have a background in event production/planning, operations or sponsorships and can help, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are also looking for anyone interested in helping with Wordpress development please be in touch with your work/rates. We’re going to need many overhauls in the next year.
If anyone out there can help in any of these ways, please email email@example.com with the email title "Your Name — LW&D Support Type” (ie. Amber Stevens — LW&D Event Space). Please specify rates for your work unless you’re applying for a volunteer role and can donate your time. Please give us a little background about yourself & a resume/LinkedIn.
Please note that while many non-profit companies pay their leadership, I will never take any money from LW&D. All sponsorship money or donations will go directly to third party hard costs (ie. grants & mentorship programs, legal/accounting fees, website development fees, paying any outside staff, etc). LW&D was founded on the idea of women coming together to help other women, this will never change.
I’m hoping that with additional support in these areas we can keep LW&D alive & growing in a thoughtful way. The way this community has come together to support our mission and help other underrepresented creatives has been absolutely amazing and humbling. Having to stop this organization would be heartbreaking, but I am hopeful we can work together to find solutions to keep us going.
Thank you all!