Women join Rachel’s Network for all kinds of reasons: for ideas, for support, for access to leading environmental thinkers. Member Elena Marszalek joined the Network in 2015 seeking peers and mentors to help her along her journey as Director of Del Mar Global Trust. We asked Elena about her experience with the Network.

What issues does your foundation fund?

Our family foundation focuses on women’s reproductive health and climate change. I really feel strongly about supporting contraception. It’s so much more than reducing fertility; contraception is vital to empowering women.  In addition to the environmental reasons, contraception provides many economic and social benefits.

What inspired you to join Rachel’s Network?

Although my foundation was established in 2009, I had a lot to learn about grantmaking and administration. And since I’m the foundation’s only employee, I didn’t have staff to discuss ideas with. I thought Rachel’s Network could help with both these issues. Also, while there are other funders groups out there, I love that Rachel’s Network focuses on and empowers women.

What was your most memorable Rachel’s Network event?

I have two! The first was a Speaker’s Series on US Leadership on Women’s Rights and Sustainability in the fall of 2016 with the UN Foundation’s Universal Access Project. It was on climate change and reproductive health – the exact issues that interest me. I also got to catch up with my old boss, population specialist Robert Engelman of Worldwatch Institute, and eat at Restaurant Nora in Washington, DC.

The other event I enjoyed was our excursion to The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia. I loved the animals and hearing from all of their women researchers. It’s something that I never would have done without Rachel’s Network. I’m still talking to people about it.

You’ve been involved with co-funding to fight antibiotic overuse through our agriculture circle. What has that experience been like?

Being part of the agriculture circle has allowed me to invest with considerable confidence in an area that I know little about. Our two group leaders who research, monitor, and update us on the grants provide due-diligence and saved much time and effort. It was my first experience in a funding circle and I believe a group experience involving the knowledge and resources of all the members leads to synergy and greater impact.

What kinds of connections have you made through the Network?

I was introduced to one member with over 30 years’ experience funding in the same areas I do. I’m really grateful for this connection, which continues to be an asset to me. And after the 2016 election, it has been really helpful to have Rachel’s Network as a support system. It makes me hopeful for the future because I know we have the ability to respond.

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