Leadership in the nonprofit arena has always come naturally for third Wood River Women’s Foundation president and founding member Marcia Liebich.
Liebich grew up in Troy, New York—just north of Albany—and studied history and secondary education at Elmira College, at the time a women-only institution.
After graduating Elmira College as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, she went on to serve as the president of Elmira College Alumni Association and as a college trustee for 16 years, working with top school administrators to review academic programs and oversee the college’s strategic plan.
While living in Schenectady, N.Y., she served as campaign chair and president of the Schenectady United Way chapter, board president of the Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital and the Sunnyview Hospital Foundation’s executive director.
Liebech and her husband, Don, traded the east coast for the Rockies shortly after their son Mark was accepted to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. The pair settled in Breckenridge, Colo., before moving to Sun Valley in 2001 to be closer to their two sons.
“When our sons ended up in Boise and started having children of their own, we really wanted to be part of that,” Liebich said.
Once in Idaho, Liebich knew she wanted to join a women’s collective giving network. Her daughters-in-law were both members of the Idaho Women’s Charitable Foundation in Boise—an organization, like WRWF, based on the model of the Washington Women’s Foundation—but at the time no such groups existed in Sun Valley. So, Liebich joined the Idaho Women’s Charitable Foundation, Idaho Community Foundation and Idaho Nonprofit Center in Boise.
“What is unique about Idaho is that it’s got to be the only state with four women’s organizations built around the Washington Women’s Foundation model created by [WWF founder] Colleen Willoughby,” Liebich said.
In 2005, Liebich received an invite to a tea hour from Barbara Thrasher and Jo Murray, who had been inspired by Willoughby to create a local women’s giving network in Blaine County.
“I didn’t know Barbara at the time. The only reason I was invited was that I was a member of the Idaho Community Foundation and Alice Hennessy, who headed ICF, came to talk to the group,” Liebich said. “Once Barbara found out that I had grantmaking experience with United Way, that was how I became the first grants chair.”
Liebich remembered some members signing up on the spot to join the new Wood River Women’s Foundation at the tea.
“It was a pretty new concept to have a women’s giving circle in the Wood River Valley. We were really starting from scratch,” Liebich said. “Within a year there were 50 women who stepped up and said, ‘Yes, we’d like to try this.’”
As the third president, Liebich’s term from 2011-2013 came on the heels of the Great Recession. The economic downturn hit WRWF hard.
“I think we’re really lucky that we survived. It was a very bad financial time and took a lot of work just to keep the organization going, and we lost members. But thankfully we had an anonymous donor who gave us $10,000 for several years in a row—something we called the sprouting fund—and that was how we began to grow membership,” she said.
Liebich credited the Women’s Collective Giving Grantmakers Network, now Philanos, for helping members keep tabs on what was happening in the nonprofit world Philanthropy Northwest—a network for philanthropists in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming—also helped connect WRWF to other budding women’s organizations, she said.
“We were trying to get a bigger picture of where philanthropy was headed in the Northwest,” she said.
With 350 women belonging to WRWF today, Liebich said the foundation’s seasonal meet and greets have been “especially wonderful” for members who live in the valley part-time. Video presentations have also helped more part-time residents feel like they’re a part of the community year-round, she said.
Liebich added that she would “hate to have just the presidents and board members get recognition.”
“It’s easy to get credit if you’ve held an office position, but there were so many women that stuck together for about six or seven years in the beginning,” she said. “It seems as if some of these names should be there.
“It was really a group effort. None of us did it by ourselves.”