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Julie Weismann, usually working out of her home office during the pandemic, can still be found at Womenspace’s headquarters, leading a team of staff and volunteers at the nonprofit agency.
There’s a bottom-line reality for all businesses, even those in the nonprofit or “charity” world: the ledger sheet. When one looks beyond the safe shelters, food pantries, clothing donations and all manner of healthcare – delivered with a combination of heart and elbow grease by mostly volunteers – the operation is only as effective and efficient as the business behind it.
Fundraising is part of it, but managing the entire enterprise requires the same skills and strategic thinking that comes in any business, any industry.
Enter Julie Weismann.
“Ugh,” she groans, rolling her eyes near the end of an interview when she’s asked about a photo. “I didn’t know this was going to be about me.”
Of course, it’s impossible to capture the current state of Womenspace without her. These days Weismann is operating out of her home office, less visible perhaps but no less effective – and that’s just fine with her. Now in her fourth year as executive director, she jokes that she’s been deemed a “non-essential employee” when it comes to working in the office.
Womenspace, which will celebrate its 45th anniversary next year, is a 501c3 nonprofit whose goal is to help individual victims, and families, of abuse. “Part of our goal is to really help survivors move from ‘surviving’ to ‘thriving,’ and anything that we can do to assist in having barriers removed, to get survivors where they need to be, is really what we’re hoping for.”
A quick summary of her recent career arc begins with her move 15 years ago to Eugene, where she planned to do “some consulting with the nonprofits.” Then the Great Recession happened, so Weismann earned a master’s degree in nonprofit management at UO. That led her to a job as development director with the Raptor Center, and then the move to Womenspace four years ago. A former small business owner and consultant, her entrepreneurial spirit pervades her enthusiasm.
“One of the things that I did was shore up the systems that needed to be in place in order for the organization to grow,” she said. “When you ask for a big grant for growth and new programming, those funders want to know that we have the capacity to manage that money, meet all the compliance needs, report all of that out. I mean, our funders require a lot of work from us to prove to them that we can actually use this money wisely.
“It’s pretty exciting to know that we have that in place. Because now, as we start to grow more, and we’re about ready to now grow again, as we get out of this pandemic, and I talk to those really reputable, wonderful foundations who really want to support organizations like ours, we now have the infrastructure in place.
EMMA ROUTLEY/CHRONICLE PHOTO
“The Pantry” at Womenspace’s headquarters is stocked with everything from clothing to food supplies.
“So those are all really important. I feel like that’s why they hired me. So I could actually go and put those things in place,” she says from a cozy yet efficient setting at home, with bookcases behind her, a mix of art and framed photos on the clean, white shelves.
Jenni Donley, a Creswell First! board member, said the organization is committed to Womenspace.
“All of us on the board have super-soft hearts for Womenspace. We are ‘all in’ when it comes to them and we want to do anything and everything that we can to help them because we believe in them so much.”
Beyond the workflow, process and strategic improvements, Weismann said the stronger connection for her and Womenspace is that they’re both survivors.
“Womenspace was going through its own transitions,” she said, referring to financial struggles she inherited four years ago. I had done some volunteer work with their board at one point.
“Domestic violence and sexual assault agencies have always been part of my support group because I have a sexual assault in my personal history, and my partner has domestic violence in their history. (Womenspace and I) are both survivors in that way. So it’s near and dear to my heart.
“I have a passion for wanting to help organizations be successful and to get what they want. And I’ve been working on that since the day I started.”
Helping organizations still goes beyond Womenspace, too. She explained how the nonprofit community shares donations as necessary.
“What’s really cool with us is a lot of times if we get too much of something we’ll reach out to White Bird Clinic, or Creswell First! and ask them if they’re needing any of the things we have too much of; we’re always making sure that we’re passing it on through the community.
“We’re pretty much serving the same population and families, sharing goods among the nonprofits,” she said.