CF of the Lowcountry | WAHHI: Why We Partner with the Community…

In the Community

WAHHI: Why We Partner with the Community Foundation

January 16, 2020
When the Women's Association of Hilton Head's growth and evolution required a deeper sophistication in grantmaking, they turned to the Community Foundation.

Since becoming president and CEO of Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, I’ve enjoyed learning about many great local organizations. I recently attended a Women’s Association of Hilton Head Island (better known as WAHHI) meeting. The organization – over 800 women strong – is one of the largest and oldest women’s organizations in the region and will soon celebrate their 60thyear. Considering Hilton Head Island didn’t have telephone service until 1960 – the year before WAHHI was officially established – that’s a pretty impressive anniversary.

WAHHI has always been community-focused. Tracy Harris, the group’s current president, and Kathy Reynolds, the group’s president in 2016-2017, told me that the club has evolved from having a more social/garden club mission to a stronger focus on community service. But even as a garden club the members rolled up their sleeves and tackled community issues. Tracy and Kathy shared a story from the 1970’s, when a developer wanted to clear-cut an area on Hilton Head Island. “A group of WAHHI women literally stood in the road with signs and wouldn’t let the bulldozers through,” Tracy says. Although ultimately they were unable to stop the developer, they bravely met the problem head on.

In 2016, when Kathy was president, the group sought to improve their grants process, so they contacted Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. “We needed some structure and someone to ‘hold the money,’” she says. “We realized we’d benefit from the Community Foundation’s 501(c)(3) status. We also understood that by partnering with the Community Foundation, we could get a better understanding of the community’s needs and we could raise the level of the professionalism of our efforts.”


With the Community Foundation’s help, WAHHI established the Women’s Association of Hilton Head Island Charitable Fund. Working with us, the group’s been given “a different way to talk about all we do and a vehicle to establish a grants program with a better process,” Kathy says. “The Community Foundation is our partner in all of that.”

In their most recent grants cycle, they received 23 applications. The theme centered around culture and environmental issues, moving away from the women and children focus it’s had in the past. “Women and children are still important to us,” Tracy assures. “But I’m passionate about the environment. Each president has the opportunity to shape the grants theme to reflect the focus of their term.”

In addition to the annual grants cycle, WAHHI is currently in the planning stages for their 60th anniversary. As they focus on this important milestone, they know they can count on the Community Foundation to continue to support them. “We’re thrilled with the resources provided by the Community Foundation,” Tracy says.

Community Foundation of the Lowcountry has the experience and resources to help grantmaking groups develop better processes and raise their level of professionalism. If you’d like to learn more, please give us a call at 843.681.9100.

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