Meet Cathy Raphael

I grew up with philanthropy in my genes. My mother was always involved with different local non-profits and encouraged the same participation within our family. It was important to my parents that my siblings and I not only used our family’s wealth effectively, but were actively involved in advancing the social movements around us. We were taught to give our time, treasure and talent. Thus, giving back has always felt natural to me whether it was as a young Girl Scout on a service project in Mexico or as the Board Chair of the Ms. Foundation for Women.

Giving connects me to the world around me, and I give because I want to see change happen in my lifetime.

As a young woman growing up during the second wave of feminism, giving to women’s and girls’ issues has also been a very natural instinct for me. Having come up against barrier after barrier in my personal and professional life (like so many women have and continue to do so) I was really able to see the big picture of inequality in our world.

I remember once attending a career conference in high school. At the time, I was interested in pursuing a career in law. As I shifted through the meet and greet, I remember being told by a professional lawyer that I could be a legal secretary at most, but never a lawyer. It was unbelievable.

Then, as a metalsmith major in college I had the head of the metalsmithing department tell me that there were no female metalsmiths. He asked me why I didn’t major in “home ec.” instead. It was around that time that I joined my first feminist consciousness raising group. I’ve never looked back since.

Of course, gender-lens philanthropy isn’t just about feminism for me. Rather, empowering women and girls is how you get the most “bang for your buck”. The world cannot progress unless women get an equal place at the table whether it is in Flint, Michigan or in war zones across the globe. I invest in women and girls, because that’s what works.

Giving has also been an incredible opportunity for me to learn. I am constantly amazed at how rich my life has become through my philanthropic relationships. Women need to be part of the process of change, and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity be part of the women’s funding movement.

In 2011, I made my big + bold pledge to the Ms. Foundation for Women, the Women & Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania, the Women Donors Network and the Women’s Funding Network, the Women’s Law Project and joined Women Moving Millions. Since then, I’ve continued to focus my work in safety, reproductive health and economic justice.


Heather Arnet Describes The Impact
Chief Executive Officer, Women and Girls Foundation of SWPA


Cathy was one of the Founding Mothers of the Women and Girls Foundation in Southwest PA. That was in 2002. Since that time she has remained constantly and consistently engaged in our work. She is an advisor, a champion, a warrior and a dear friend, and fairy godmother to the Women and Girls Foundation.

And quite honestly, there would be no Women and Girls Foundation without Cathy and her generous investment over these 14 years in our work. We are an organization with very few major donors. Cathy’s leadership gifts provide us with the resources and consistency we needed in order to grow, thrive and survive as a budding non-profit.

Large, bold gifts help small non-profits to have the space to breathe, to dream, to plan, and to build. Without major donations, we become so busy scrambling to raise dollars that we can lose sight of our work and mission – to improve the lives of women and girls and achieve gender equity.

While Cathy’s generous donations through the years have been invaluable, it is her enthusiasm and love and joy and cheerleading that really have kept our spirits and our organization moving forward. As one of the founding mothers of the Women and Girls Foundation, Cathy’s vision, guidance and continued generosity and commitment to our work has been our north star.

In good times and bad, Cathy is always there for us, with a listening ear, or cool new creative idea. She is the most nonjudgmental caring and giving person I have ever met. It is the joy and knowledge that she brings to her philanthropy which make her remarkable.

She is the rare donor who wants to know about the work, who wants to get involved, and who wants to be kind and supportive to the staff as they rise and fall with successes and challenges.