College scholarships for traditional students just out of high school are in relative abundance in the Coachella Valley due to the giving nature of our local community.

But what about nontraditional students—individuals who took a detour after high school for one reason or another, and then realized later in life that higher education or occupational training is needed to improve their economic situation and make positive changes in their lives?

That’s where the Girlfriend Factor (GFF) comes in. GFF is a local nonprofit that provides educational grants and emotional support to local adult women so they can return to school to achieve their goals and dreams. To date, GFF has helped more than 100 women return to school.

The Girlfriend Factor was founded in 2005 by Joan Busick and a group of friends. A CPA who runs her own business in Palm Desert, Joan has a special place in her heart for adult women who return to school to improve their lives.

“Basically, I was one of them back in the 1980s,” she said. “I had made some bad choices early on, but finally realized that I needed to get an education to improve my life and the life of my boys. I learned first-hand that a combination of financial assistance and encouragement from other women was a magical combination for success. There are so many common threads in women’s lives, and they tend to thrive when they have the support of other women who have been there.”

Girlfriend Factor’s educational grants, known as GoGirl! Grants, are given to local women 25 years or older who show financial need and have chosen a specific educational path that will lead them to a specific employment opportunity. GoGirl! Grants are renewable, staying with the recipients until they graduate. Supporters of GFF, known as Girlfriends, act as cheerleaders to the women they assist, providing them with encouragement. GFF also brings them together occasionally, where they can meet other recipients to share experiences and friendship.

“These students are very fortunate to live within a community that has such a wealth of great educational institutions such as College of the Desert and Cal State-San Bernardino,” said Busick. “Most recipients end up staying within the Coachella Valley once they graduate since they are already established here, which is another positive aspect of assisting local adult women.”

For the Girlfriend Factor, it’s all about local funds for local women. The leaders of GFF believe that charitable giving is most effective when supporting local individuals who ultimately become productive members of their own economy.

“When you put a face to the individual you are assisting, the difference you are making becomes real,” Busick said.

For donors to the Girlfriend Factor who truly want a direct connection to the women they are assisting, GFF recently established Personalized Giving Grants, which provide naming rights of the grant and designate a specific recipient to receive that grant, creating relationships that are gratifying on both sides.

Not only are the students receiving GoGirl! Grants nontraditional; the organization itself tends to raise funds and gain support by marching to its own drummer.

“We attempt to not take ourselves too seriously,” Busick said. “We try to always have an element of fun when raising funds to improve women’s lives.”

The next GFF event is Club Cabana, an evening when GFF celebrates local professional men who support GFF’s charitable mission. This year’s Club Cabana is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, at Toscana Country Club.

To learn more about Girlfriend Factor, visit