Colleen Willoughby

2009 MARY HARRIMAN AWARD winner

Colleen Willoughby

The Junior League of Seattle

Causes/Issue Area(s): Philanthropy, Arts and Culture, Education, Environment, Health and Social Services

Honors/Achievements: Founder of Seattle's Washington Women’s Foundation and CityClub

Colleen Willoughby is a woman committed to making a difference. Not only does she work to create positive change at the community level, but she is also a lifelong volunteer and dedicated Junior League leader. It is her history of leadership with the Junior League of Seattle, as well as her many efforts to bring people together to improve communities, that has earned her The League’s highest honor: the Mary Harriman Community Leadership Award, which she received during the AJLI's 87th Annual Conference in Atlanta. The award was sponsored by Talbots.

In 1960, Willoughby joined the Junior League of Seattle and has been an active member ever since. She began in successful committee roles that transformed and complemented existing programs. She later served as Treasurer and President of the Junior League of Seattle from 1974-1975, and in the 1990’s she served on the Board for the AJLI.

Outside of her League involvement, Willoughby is the founder of the Washington Women’s Foundation in order to create a new fund of money from women donors and to train donors to become effective philanthropists. She was inspired to develop the organization by the increase of women's earning power over the years. Each member of this foundation contributes $2300 per year with a five-year commitment ($1000 is allocated to the general fund for five large impact grants voted upon by all members, $1000 is allocated to the member’s nonprofit choice, and the remainder underwrites the Foundation’s operating expenses and educational programs).

Over the past 13 years, the Foundation has granted nearly nine million dollars to over 860 worthy nonprofits, including community groups that work to support five main focus areas: arts and culture, education, environment, health, and social services. Grants have been given to organizations as varied as Mothers Against Violence in America, Community for Youth, Northwest Medical Teams, Washington Women’s Employment and Education, Team Read, the Pike Place Market Foundation, and the Youth Suicide Prevention Program. In 2008 alone, five grants of $100,000 each were given to Artist Trust, Friends of the Children, PCC Farmland Trust, First Place (mental health services), and Girl Scouts of Western Washington.

In 1980, Willoughby was one of eight women seeking to contribute to the community's civic dialogue who together formed the CityClub in Seattle. At the time, many civic organizations, such as Rotary International, were open to men only, but the new organization would be open to all and would provide a nonpartisan forum for ideas and debate. Since its first presentation in 1981, the organization has sponsored hundreds of speeches, discussions, and debates from local, regional, and national experts and leaders, contributing greatly to civic awareness. A co-sponsor of the annual Jefferson Awards, CityClub is recognized as one of the region's foremost civic and public affairs organizations.