This week, the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) released a new study on women’s foundations and funds in partnership with Elizabeth Gillespie, doctoral candidate at the University of Nebraska Omaha. WPI partnered with Gillespie on a landscape scan of women’s foundations and funds earlier this year. Building on this research, Change Agents: The Goals and Impact of Women’s Foundations and Funds offers fresh insight on how these organizations effect change for women and girls and their communities.
The following is a brief summary of the key findings, brought to life by quotes from leaders of the women’s foundations and funds.
- Women’s funds share the broad goal of advancing women’s philanthropy; their specific objectives, and the ways in which they pursue them, vary widely. Top objectives include:
- Educating others
- Advancing women economically
- Creating broad social change
- Women’s funds define impact in different ways, and have been most successful at achieving short-term goals through empowerment and community-based change.
“Social change is the opportunity for people to be as successful and happy and healthy as they would like to be in our community.”
- Women’s funds pursue their organizational goals through multiple grantmaking approaches, like gender-lens and community-based philanthropy, designed to elevate their impact.
“What we know is if you don’t use a gender lens to address situations, women and girls will fall through the cracks.”
- Many women’s funds go beyond grantmaking to achieve impact, engaging in activities such as relationship-building, partnerships, and policy advocacy to pursue broader social change.
“We try…not only to give, but…through advocacy and continued education, best practices, learning from others…grow and expand our knowledge.”
- Women’s funds demonstrate intersectionality in their pursuit of goals and impact, using different lenses and voices in decision-making.
“Women of color are working a lot of part-time jobs, sometimes two and three, and not getting any benefits … they are working themselves to the bones. We wanted to see that end.”
To increase understanding of the ways women’s foundations and funds pursue their goals and achieve impact, Gillespie conducted a nationwide survey of organizations in the database that was compiled for the earlier landscape scan. She supplemented the survey findings with interviews of 15 organizational leaders included in the women’s funds and foundations database. These methods provided rich data on how women’s foundations and funds advance women and girls through grantmaking and other activities.
The details about how women’s foundations and funds perceive their goals and impact presented in the report fill an important gap in the literature on these organizations and foundations more broadly. For donors, practitioners, and nonprofit organizations, the variety of approaches and perspectives women’s foundations and funds draw upon provide examples of ways funders can support and collaborate with their communities.
Stay tuned for more information on how leaders in women’s philanthropy are applying this research.