RALEIGH, N.C. -- Beth Briggs, a key player in North Carolina's nonprofit sector and a catalyst for women's philanthropy, has been tapped to lead the North Carolina Council for Women, beginning Jan. 9.
She replaces Jill Dinwiddie, who is retiring after three years as head of the council, a state agency within the Department of Administration.
Briggs will serve as executive director of the council, which has a staff of 15 and an annual budget of about $814,000, and she aims to raise awareness of the current status of women in the state and of the importance of helping women become physically safe and financially secure.
"If women are secure and safe, their families are secure and safe and that helps stabilize the whole state," says Briggs, who has served on the board of the council for two years.
Much of the council's work focuses on domestic violence, and in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011, the agency awarded grants totaling over $1.6 million, according to the council's website.
The council's domestic-violence programs served over 61,000 people last year, Briggs says.
The council also funds programs that support "displaced homemakers," or women who need to enter or reenter the workforce but lack the skills or training to do so.
And it has approval authority for programs treating men charged with domestic abuse or sexual assault.
Amid state budget cuts and an economic environment that has further imperiled many North Carolina women children, the council's role in educating the governor and state lawmakers about the status and needs of women is becoming even more important, says Briggs.
To begin that effort, the council's board has charged Briggs with commissioning a comprehensive study on the current status of women in North Carolina.
"We plan to develop new data and research around the key issues facing women in the state and increase collaboration and cooperation among women's groups to help address those issues, so women can reach their greatest potential," says Briggs.
The goal then will be to communicate the findings to the governor, state lawmakers and the public, says Council Chair Jenny Ward, who is the sustainability engagement manager for Duke Energy.
"The goal is to bring awareness of the findings to key policies and funding decisions to make sure we're putting resources where we need in order to support women, families and communities," says Ward.
And the findings may well point to new areas of work for the council, particularly where the agency could play a "preventative" role.
"Let's get ahead of the ball and make sure we're putting our resources where we can really benefit North Carolina for the long term," says Ward.
She says Briggs will lead that process, develop recommendations and advocate for the council and the women it represents with state officials and the public.
For the past 16 years as founder and principal of Creative Philanthropy, which she is closing down, Briggs has worked to help donors and foundations hone their grantmaking goals and strategies, and has conducted leadership searches for some of the state's leading funders.
During that time she also helped start eight women's funds and women's giving circles that have granted millions of dollars to nonprofits serving women and children, and also worked to help educate hundreds of women about the impact their collective giving can have on their communities.
The Women's Giving Network of Wake County, which Briggs helped launch, for example, has awarded grants totaling $564,000 since its inception in 2006.
She also has worked with national leaders in women's philanthropy, including the founders of Women Moving Millions, an effort that has raised almost $200 million from women for women's funds across the country.
Before starting Creative Philanthropy, Briggs served as president of the N.C. Public Television Foundation, co-founded fundraising-consulting firm Capital Consortium, served as director of development for the U.S. Olympic Festival and for the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research, and served as associate director for the Public Welfare Foundation and the Asheville Community Foundation.Comment on this article