Representatives from the Connie Hillman Family Foundation present a $1 million check at a luncheon Wednesday at TCC Arena.

More than two years ahead of schedule, the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona cruised to its goal of raising $1 million to receive a matching donation from a local nonprofit.

The Connie Hillman Family Foundation pledged in 2015 to match new and increased donations to the women’s foundation over the next five years, up to $1 million.

Thanks to an outpouring of support from Tucson donors, and the hard work of women’s foundation fundraising volunteers and board members, the goal was met far earlier than expected, said Dawne Bell, CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona. Bell announced the achievement during the foundation’s 25th annual fundraising luncheon Wednesday.

“This is one of the most philanthropic communities in the country,” she said. “When we look at how they’re focusing their giving on women and girls, that’s something to celebrate.”

The $1 million challenge was supposed to be a “stretch goal” to grow the foundation, Bell said after the event, held in the Tucson Convention Center’s arena.

“They just blew it away with their wonderful leaders, their vision of what needs to be done for women,” said Larry Adamson of the Connie Hillman Family Foundation. He said the challenge was designed to boost donations for years to come, not just for the duration of the challenge.

“The hope is that all the new donors will be continuing donors, and the increased donors will continue at the increased level,” he said. “It’s a long-term benefit, not just a flash in the pan.”

More than 1,100 people attended the luncheon, a big leap in size from the foundation’s first one, held at the Arizona Inn a quarter-century ago.

In the past year, the women’s foundation awarded $700,000 in grants that helped more than 9,200 women.

In addition to grant-making, the women’s foundation also provided grant recipients with expert consultants to help make the most of those funds, and to help them calculate and quantify their impact, Bell said.

The foundation estimates that every $1 invested creates $6.62 in benefits for Southern Arizona women.

The tangible outcomes of the foundation’s grant-making include:

  • $2.5 million in increased income for women;
  • nearly $1 million in reduced debt;
  • housing for 258 women;
  • employment secured for 233 women.

The foundation’s latest initiative, funded by a $150,000 competitive award from the Women’s Funding Network and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, focuses on “two-generation solutions” to poverty that focus not just on struggling parents, but their children as well.

Volunteers devoted 1,800 hours to evaluating grant applications made to the women’s foundation last year, Deb Dale, chair of the women’s foundation’s board of trustees, said at the luncheon.

“The need far outpaces what we can fund,” she said.

The organizations selected for grants include financial-literacy programs, shelter and legal services for survivors of abuse, workforce development and training, homeownership programs, microloans for women entrepreneurs, and programs that help low-income girls and women graduate from high school and college.

“When you give to the women’s foundation, you create a ripple effect,” she said. “Donors make all of our work possible.”

Contact reporter Emily Bregel at ebregel@tucson.com or 573-4233. On Twitter: @EmilyBregel