Women's Foundations and Funds: A Pioneering Force in Philanthropy

Monday, May 20, 2019 - 10:25 am
Tessa Skidmore

Women’s foundations and funds have established themselves as a powerful force in philanthropy dedicated to women and girls. Giving from these organizations is substantial, but aside from a 2009 landscape report from the Foundation Center and Women’s Funding Network, our understanding of women’s foundations and funds is quite limited.

A new report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute is the first study in 10 years to analyze the landscape of U.S. women’s foundations and funds. Combining interviews and analysis of more than 200 organizations, Women’s Foundations and Funds: A Landscape Study helps fill this knowledge gap and provides a thorough analysis of these organizations.

While women’s foundations and funds vary in terms of size, structure and grant amounts, they align across a number of key areas. The landscape scan offers insight into organizational patterns, including funding for the local community, an emphasis on education and economic empowerment, and participation in activities beyond funding. 

Key Findings from the report include that they give locally, invest in education and economic empowerment, and engage in activities beyond grantmaking.

Keeping it Local

It is now well known that investing in women and girls benefits the broader community, and women’s foundations and funds have been pioneers in this space. The report finds that a majority (76%) of women’s foundations and funds fund nonprofits in their local communities. Interviews with philanthropic leaders reveal that these organizations are skilled at connecting the well-being and success ofwomen to the well-being and success of their communities.

Emphasis on Empowerment

Education initiatives receive the most funding from these grant-making organizations. Interviews reveal that this is due, in part, to the view that education serves as a precursor to women’s advancement—particularly their economic advancement. Other funding priorities include economic empowerment, security and self-sufficiency.

Beyond Funding

While women’s foundations and funds primarily exist for the purpose of grant-making, nearly two-thirds (64%) of these organizations also engage in other activities, including hosting events, conducting research and engaging in advocacy, to support their mission.

Young but Powerful

Most women’s foundations and funds are relatively new; 71% were established between 1990 and 2010. Despite their youth, giving from these organizations is substantial. Women’s Funding Networkmembers alone granted $410 million to women and girls in 2015, and there are dozens more women’s foundations and funds in the U.S. that are not members of this international network.

Across the country, women’s foundations and funds are at the forefront of investing in women and girls — a growing movement in philanthropy. This report affirms that these organizations excel at identifying the needs of women and girls locally, and in turn are helping to create positive change in their communities.

As women’s foundations and funds grow and evolve, we can expect an increased focus on ensuring their investments in women and girls continue to have a ripple effect throughout their communities in the long term.

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Leadership Development