Report provides a comprehensive look at grant-making organizations focused on women and girls
A new report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute explores patterns across more than 200 women’s foundations and funds, providing insight on a powerful and pioneering force in philanthropy dedicated to women and girls. While these grant-making organizations vary in terms of geography, assets and grant amounts, they align across a number of key areas, including funding the local community, an emphasis on education and economic empowerment, and participation in activities beyond funding to advance the causes they care about.
Most women’s foundations and funds are relatively new; 71 percent were established between 1990 and 2010. But giving from these organizations is substantial; Women’s Funding Network members 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.
Women’s Foundations and Funds: A Landscape Study, which is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, helps fill a gap in knowledge about these grant-making organizations and has important implications for donors and nonprofits alike. The report builds on a 2009 landscape study from the Foundation Center and Women’s Funding Network, providing an important update on the growth of women’s foundations and funds while also analyzing the grant-making approaches of a wider group of organizations.
Lead researcher Elizabeth Gillespie, doctoral candidate at the University of Nebraska Omaha, said, “While women’s foundations and funds are relatively young, these organizations excel at identifying the needs of women and girls locally, and in turn help create positive change in their communities. But aside from the 2009 Foundation Center and Women’s Funding Network study, which is now 10 years old, our understanding of these groups is quite limited. The goal of this new research is to fill that gap, and to demonstrate how women’s foundations and funds create impact — so they can continue to do so for years to come.”
The report revealed the following about the characteristics of women’s funds and foundations:
- About two-thirds (63 percent) of women’s foundations and funds are members or affiliates of larger foundations or other charitable organizations.
- Annual grant amounts awarded by women’s foundations and funds vary. Nearly half (44 percent) of these organizations distribute less than $100,000 in grants per year, while 40 percent grant between $100,000 and $1 million.
- While women’s foundations and funds primarily exist for the purposes of grant-making, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of these organizations also engage in other activities to support their mission, such as hosting events, conducting research and participating in advocacy on behalf of women and girls.
The report also reached several key findings about funding approaches:
- Most women’s foundations and funds (76 percent) fund nonprofits in their local communities, reflecting the idea that women’s foundations and funds connect the well-being and success of women to the well-being and success of their communities.
- Education initiatives receive the most funding from women’s foundations and funds. Other funding priorities include economic empowerment, security, and self-sufficiency.
- Women’s foundations and funds are often guided by an overarching grant-making philosophy, such as gender lens investing (addressing the specific concerns of women and girls).
“Women’s foundations and funds are at the forefront of investing in women and girls — a growing movement in philanthropy. For donors who want to increase their involvement with women’s and girls’ causes, these organizations can serve as an expert resource and a conduit to effective local nonprofits. The report’s findings can also help nonprofits deepen their engagement with local grant-making organizations focused on women and girls,” said Debra J. Mesch, Ph.D., the Eileen Lamb O’Gara Chair in Women’s Philanthropy at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI.
About the Women’s Philanthropy Institute
The Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) is part of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI. WPI increases understanding of women’s philanthropy through rigorous research and education, interpreting and sharing these insights broadly to improve philanthropy. By addressing significant and groundbreaking research questions and translating that research into increased understanding and improvements in practice, WPI helps to leverage new and expanded resources for the common good. Follow us on Twitter @WPIinsights and “Like” us on Facebook.
About the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its academic, research and international programs and through The Fund Raising School, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. Follow us on Twitter @IUPhilanthropy or “Like” us on Facebook.