Kyle Ruffin Receives Philanos’ Willoughby Award

Congratulations to Kyle Ruffin for receiving Philanos’ first Willoughby Award for Leadership In Women’s Philanthropy. Philanos is the national organization for women’s giving circles around the world. This inaugural award in honor of Colleen S. Willoughby, the founder of both the Washington Women’s Foundation and Philanos, honors visionary women leaders in philanthropy who, like Colleen, have taken the field into exciting, new directions.  

Kyle (pictured with Impact100 South Jersey President Judy Greenberg) is a founding member of Impact100 South Jersey, a member of the Leadership Council and Chair of the Communications Committee, vice chair of the Community Foundation of South Jersey and Board Member for the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey.  

She also, along with other local women, spearheaded  “WHY WE GIVE: South Jersey Women Who Give Back” in October of 2020, an event that brought together diverse groups of women givers. Her tireless efforts both within Impact 100 SJ and out in the community have helped further women’s philanthropic efforts throughout South Jersey. 

For those who missed the presentation, here is Kyle’s inspirational and motivating acceptance speech:

“I’d like to thank Philanos for awarding me the first ever Willoughby award.  It’s an honor to be associated with a legendary changemaker like Colleen Willoughby. She saw a void and turned her vision of change into an impactful and lasting reality.  I’d also like to thank the Willoughby award sponsors for helping make this possible, and the members of Impact100 South Jersey for nominating me for this prestigious honor.  South Jersey is the home of so many amazing women and it’s been a thrill to be part of bringing together a compassionate community focused on addressing local needs. 

Community is such an important aspect of collective giving.  It’s not just about finding women who have the financial resources to participate.  It’s about identifying women whose hearts are aligned, who see making a difference as part of their legacy regardless of the size of their bank account.  At Community Foundation of South Jersey we suspected this when we sought a way to create a local giving circle. I thank former fellow foundation board member and founding member of Impact100 South Jersey, Theresa DiVietro, for inviting women who were well-known philanthropist to a casual chat about what matters to them.  From there, we set out to learn what matters to women whose pockets aren’t as deep.  These women told us that they didn’t see themselves as philanthropists, even though they were giving back in so many different ways.  “Philanthropy is only for the very wealthy,” they said.  They wanted to leave a legacy of generosity, they just couldn’t fathom how. And now we’ve formed a community for these women to be proud of. 

Communities are like the family we choose, rather than the family we’re born into.  Everyone here today has found “their people.” That is the nature of women’s collective giving, right?  We are each part of a community in which we feel valued and that our personal contributions can be seen in the group’s success. 

There’s the obvious message here, but there’s also one that may not be so obvious.  The word “community” is also critical when it comes to navigating diversity, equity and inclusion.  Collective giving in brown and black communities has a long and solid history.  I want to shout out to the countless Black sororities, social, cultural and religious groups that have used collective giving to support their neighbors in need.  I truly admire their hands-on, boots-on-the-ground approach to community service.  Hopefully there are some of you on today’s call. 

I bring this up today because I hope to give you — or re-affirm for some — a helpful tool in your DEI toolbox, and that is partnership with black and brown organizations.  In my experience, recruiting from these communities to increase diversity at non-diverse tables has been the go-to approach.  But I also urge you to think partnership.  Think collaboration.  Think matching grants to incentivize greater giving to these groups. Think allies in your trust-based philanthropy strategy, after all they have lived experiences that can help you truly understand the issues facing struggling communities.  

In closing, I’d like to once again thank Philanos, and Colleen Willoughby, my sisters at Impact100 South Jersey and all the empowered who belong to Philanos member organizations for the difference you make in the world.  May all our hearts remain aligned in ways that lift, inspire and transform.”