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Galas to Gold: Unleashing Women's Strategic Edge in Fundraising & Ventures

“Fund-a-Need” -  A Vintage Affair

“Fund Women” - SXSW

These are the calls to action of my past two weekends.

On March 2nd, A Vintage Affair celebrated its 25th anniversary as a fundraising event in DC benefitting Children’s National Hospital. This event, planned and executed by the volunteer Founders Auxiliary Board on which I serve, was months in the making and culminated in an exquisite evening of wining, dining, and donating. Through sponsorships, silent and live auctions, we raised over $1M to expand the horizons of pediatric care. 

One week later SXSW was in full interactive speed. Founders and funders, startups through Fortune’s elite, all converged in Austin to network and collaborate. Deals, investments, and ecosystem expansion echoed through the city. There on behalf of Flexnode, a startup reimagining the future of digital infrastructure, I found myself in awe at the breadth of business and creativity at every turn.

These two events on the surface may seem quite different. Fancy cocktail attire at one, comfy walking shoes at the other. Both, however, offer #StrategyIRL lessons that span our personal and professional roles as it relates to the power of women founders and leaders - a topic especially important during this Women’s History Month. 

Being part of the Founders Auxiliary Board continues to show that when aligned on a mission - in this case, supporting Children’s Hospital - a group of smart, connected, successful, and driven women can shatter fundraising ceilings and deliver an amazing return. Through working to plan and execute A Vintage Affair, I saw firsthand the similarities between raising funds for charity and business. Both require clear alignment on a mission and vision. Both require an ecosystem of participants, suppliers, and consumers. Both require a willingness to ask for investment.  Perhaps it's no surprise that women not only run many of the US philanthropic events, but also account for 64% of charitable donations nationwide. Whether raising or contributing, women seem like a strong bet for successful fundraising.

So if women both can lead fundraising efforts and donations, why is it then that companies founded solely by women garnered just 2% of the total capital invested in venture-backed startups in the US? 

A lot of SXSW’s vibe focuses on the intersection of tech, business, creativity, and social issues. Not surprisingly, the focus on diverse leaders - especially women - was palpable. The Female Quotient’s lounge was active from sunrise to sunset. Chloe Capital, among other VC funds, was looking for more diverse founders in which to invest. Ellevoy launched here to better connect diverse founders with funders and talent. Panels and events all note that the future is female, and for it to be fabulous, women need funded.

A Vintage Affair is just one example of how successful a group of women can be. No detail left unaddressed. No hour of the day unworked. No acceptance of anything less than amazing results. So if we can raise $millions for causes we care about, imagine the power we’d harness if we did it for ourselves. 

When working for your passion, nothing is impossible. Just like you may do for your community, charitable, or personal passions, success is the result of basic #StrategyIRL principles: 

🧭 Align on a vision…

Lead with the mission.

Focus on achieving near-term milestones as you plot your roadmap to longer-term success. 

🙌 Empower a Team…

Identify people's strengths and put them into positions to use them.

Delineate your advisors and your doers.

🙋Don’t be afraid to ask…

Pitch your mission, not yourself.

Communicate impact. 

Take a “no” as an opportunity to request an alternative intro.

🏆 Hustle for success…

Bring help.

Rely on your sisterhood and leave the drama at home.

Women especially: take your moxy used to put important causes front and center - with no shame in asking for funding or contributions - and apply it to yourselves! This is where investment will thrive and succeed - funding female fundraisers.

To learn more about our offerings in strategic growth and explore opportunities to collaborate with Nyla Beth Gawel, we invite you to reach out via our website at

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