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Written by: Nanda Dyssou
Photographed by: Bianca Simonian

By profession, Joan Busick is a Certified Public Accountant with her own firm in the Palm Desert area, but in her free time, she manages the non-profit, Girlfriend Factor. To date, Girlfriend Factor has given over $420,000 in grants to over 130 local women to help them pursue college degrees and occupational certificates.

In the ‘80s, Busick was a mother of two and married to the wrong man with very little money to her name. She knew she had to go back to school to take control of her destiny and to regain her independence. With the help of a Soroptimist scholarship, she was able to start over and earn her CPA credentials. Her firm now specializes in helping women become more confident in managing their lives.

In 1999, she published a book, “Surviving Beyond Happily Ever After,” and became an outspoken proponent of both traditional and financial education for women. Still, Busick didn’t feel that her advocacy work was complete until 2005, when she and a small group of dedicated women, including Donna Dunn, Diana Herrington, Jan Harnik, Katie Sween and the “Blind Faith Gang,” brought to life Girlfriend Factor, or GFF.

“Everything we do in Girlfriend Factor is meant to be fun. If I’m going to commit to working on something, I want to enjoy doing it. Quite honestly, before I started GFF, there was nothing in our community that had a fun element to it. Everything was too serious and red-tape,” Busick said of her style of philanthropy.

The organization’s primary aim is to provide financial and emotional support to women through its GoGirl! Grants. “The women we select are determined to be successful. They have a specific educational path that they are passionate about that leads to a career. And they are convinced that they will achieve their goal with or without our help.”

GFF boasts numerous success stories. “One of our first recipients, Donna, was a truck driver with small kids who had always wanted to be a nurse. She has gone on to earn a master’s in nursing, working as an emergency pediatric nurse in Loma Linda, and eventually teaching other nurses,” Busick said with a smile. “Then there’s Jennifer, who was in the middle of a divorce, struggling and she wasn’t even sure that she should apply. She is now a special education teacher at one of our local elementary schools. And we had Vanessa, from the Hispanic community, who had a small child when her husband was diagnosed with MS, and she became the sole supporter of the family. Determined to get an education, to make something of herself, she succeeded against the cultural push back from her family. She earned a degree in psychology and went into counseling.”

GFF goes further than simply writing a check. Their Recipient Relations Committee, a group of liaisons, keep in touch with award recipients. They take them to coffee, find out how they are doing and help them as needed. GFF also hosts a High Tea, where recipients can bond with each other.

The fund for the grants comes from a combination of sources: general donations, Personalized Giving Grants and fundraising events.

Their signature event is the Annual GoGirl Luncheon. “It is a celebration of our recipients and the impact, inspiration and influence women have on each other’s lives,” said Busick. “We always make sure that donors can see the faces of the women they support.” In the first year, they had seven awardees stand up and talk about their stories and plans for the future. This year, they will have 30 new awardees and several hundred past recipients and donors at this impactful event, held at Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa in November.

Looking at the future of GFF, Busick said, “We want to make sure that we are multi-generational in terms of women who lead the organization, so we have our Girlfriend 2 Girlfriend (“G2G”) Circle, consisting of young professionals, ages 25 to 40s, who may be new to philanthropy. It allows them to get to know and encourage each other in their professional growth while learning what it means to be supporting a philanthropic organization.”

As a non-profit, GFF is always looking for donors and volunteers. “We encourage people to get their feet wet, and see if they are passionate about our work. We are more of a lifestyle than a formal organization. We want people involved that love what we do,” said Busick. So dive in, the water is warm and you’ll be having fun while helping women change their lives!

Support GFF: Head to Barry Manilow’s 2017 A Gift of Love IV Benefit Concerts Dec. 12-17! You can help support GFF by purchasing tickets.

Busick’s Local Hot Spots Girlfriend Factor Palm Desert

Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar
Mitch’s on El Paseo Prime Seafood
-Il Corso

Girlfriend Factor Palm Desert
77-734 Country Club Dr, Ste E
Palm Desert, CA 92211
760.772.9594

Photoshoot Location:
Imago Galleries
45-450 CA-74
Palm Desert, CA 92260
760.776.9890 Girlfriend Factor Palm Desert