Mary’s Pence Unites Changemakers for Three Days of Bonding and Empowerment - Mary's Pence

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Mary’s Pence Unites Changemakers for Three Days of Bonding and Empowerment

Mary's Pence grantees.

Imagine being surrounded by people who know precisely how you feel. Who share the same passion as you do. That space exists, and Mary’s Pence provides it at our annual Grantee Retreat.

In May 2023, after a three-year hiatus, Mary’s Pence brought together 29 representatives from 14 organizations across the United States for its annual Grantee Retreat. Held in Minnesota, the retreat celebrated the dedication of grassroots organizations committed to social change. The retreat’s theme, “The Power of Grassroots Action,” set the stage for an experience that left attendees inspired and empowered.

Creating and nurturing connections is one of Mary’s Pence’s most vital values; our grantees share it. “We invite two representatives from our grantee organizations to spend three days learning, networking, and discovering each other’s work. The participants almost instantly form a community. They’ve said it felt like they were home,” said Katherine Wojtan, Executive Director of Mary’s Pence.

“There’s something about being in a room and being surrounded by others who share similar characteristics and struggles and can uplift and root for each other,” said Heidi Roux, Executive Director at Immigrant Rights Action.

“It’s impactful to be with people like you working towards a better community. They have highs and lows, just like you,” said Chinira Lovick, Board Co-President at Working Group on Girls of Schenectady in New York.

Building Lasting Connections

At Mary’s Pence, we know that change is a collective effort and recognize that grassroots organizations require support beyond money. The free retreat provided participants with workshops on the tools and knowledge needed to run a small nonprofit effectively.

The learning sessions covered a wide range of topics, including management, communications, grant writing, and addressing burnout—essential aspects of the life of a dedicated social justice advocate.

Sessions such as ‘Who is in the Room’ and ‘Pitch a Problem’ fostered an atmosphere of empathy and collective power. Grantees and those present could celebrate, listen, and hold one another in a way only committed change-makers can.

Shoareged Phillpotts, Co-Founder of It Takes a Village Collaborative, spoke about the retreat’s value, highlighting the opportunity for nonprofits of similar caliber to collaborate, share experiences, and grow collectively. This sense of camaraderie reinforced that they were not alone in their daily struggles.

Gabriel Arkles, Co-Founder of ARC for Gender Justice, found the retreat invaluable for connecting with other grantees and learning about gender justice initiatives nationwide. As volunteers with day jobs, the workshops on elevator pitches and grant applications were especially helpful for their organization.

Patriece Gentry, Board Member at Dreams Are Possible, emphasizes, “Even though we have different programs, the foundation is all the same. We need marketing skills, and we need to know how to do the fundraising. I’ve gotten a lot from this retreat. It’s amazing how they can put all that together, and we all walk away with what we need to go home and grow our programs.”

The excitement among the grantees was so profound that they initiated an online community to stay connected, demonstrating the strong bonds formed during the retreat.

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