For 35 years the national, non-partisan organization, The Women’s Campaign Forum has been beating the drum to get more women to run for office. Founded in 1974, The Women’s Campaign Forum (WCF) began as a funding mechanism for pro-choice women candidates and has since expanded to include more initiatives. With a new CEO at the helm, The Women’s Campaign Forum is poised to increase women’s participation in the political process and to ready the next generation of women leaders.
A former candidate for Congress herself, CEO Sam Bennett describes her experience with WCF as different than any other organization. “It was clear to me that party leaders have difficulty recruiting women to run for office. There are three ways WCF is different, 1) Taking risks – if we really want to move the needle, the organization must be willing to take risks. If we limit ourselves to silver platter candidates, we will miss a lot of talent and missed opportunities to nurture women leaders; 2) we invest early and stay with the candidate over the course of their political life; and 3) are often the first endorsement women candidates seek.”
Because of the efforts of so many, Sam Bennett sees progress being made for women candidates. Working together, women will have the support they need to run and win. “If all the women’s organizations work together then we will move forward, if not we will lose ground. It’s about building a collaborative effort. We have had a dramatic increase in candidates who are seeking our endorsements and we want to be involved with other organizations. We can direct resources to each other,” said Bennett.
A signature program of The Women’s Campaign Forum is She Should Run. Studies show women are more likely to run if they are asked. She Should Run is a comprehensive effort to build the pipeline of women running for office. A web-based program, She Should Run allows people to nominate or suggest a woman that would be ideal to run for office. “We get them at the very, very beginning of their decision making process. Reaching out to them individually to nurture and develop, and suggest training programs and resources,” said Sam Bennett.
Anyone can visit the website to nominate a woman for She Should Run. Organizations can support women they want to see run, by identifying them and nominating them for participating in WCF. “Our goal is to become a feeder system for the sister organizations,” added Bennett. “While the women are thinking about running, WCF is providing information all during that time–they are never dropped from the pipeline.” Over 2,000 women have been nominated for She Should Run.
ElectWomen Magazine now has a link on its homepage to the She Should Run nomination site.
WCF endorses candidates from school board to Congress. Support goes to women who have demonstrated leadership and have a firm commitment to supporting reproductive health choices. “The first step of the application process is to complete the online Run Form. Once a candidate submits that form, we forward the full WCF PAC endorsement application. Following the return of a completed application, all are reviewed and applicants are interviewed as part of a monthly process. Endorsement decisions are made with the participation of WCF leadership and WCF Board Executive Committee,” said Political Director, Erin Cutraro.
The WCF Political Action Committee endorsed over 125 candidates representing all levels of office in the last election cycle and raised and distributed a collective $144,000 which included results from a new online bundling effort that was launched in 2008.
“We need a quarter million elected women in this country to gain equal status,” said Sam Bennett. “We need hundreds of thousands of women to run. Our program is filling the pipeline and doing the back work necessary.”
To learn more about or contact The Women’s Campaign Forum, visit: http://www.wcfonline.org/.