Giving to Women Means Getting More
A Philanthropic Organization Is Focusing on Women and Changing the World
The importance of money in the women's movement is often overlooked. However, money has fueled women's ability to overcome critical challenges to equality around the world. The Women's Funding Network is a collaborative philanthropic effort of more than 145 organizations that fund women's solutions across the globe; their work in organizing and promoting women's funds has helped facilitate progress for women worldwide.
Since their inception in the early 1970s, hundreds of women's foundations have formed around the world to grow and spread financial resources for women's organizations. But these organizations don't just work with women; they work to solve major problems affecting all people, from poverty and violence to inadequate access to health care and education. Providing women and women-led organizations with money has proved a sound strategy for women's funds and other foundations because, no matter the locale, women spread resources out to families and communities, creating exponential growth and maximizing the impact of money.
Women's funds have also sparked huge changes in social behaviors and definitions. For example, before women's funds started bringing attention to domestic violence, it was seen as a private concern, and police often looked the other way or didn't respond when a woman was being hit by her partner. Now, thanks to the advocacy funded by women's funds, communities around the world see violence differently, and policies are in place to prevent violence against women. Women-led organizations that are supported by women's funds are educating more and more communities about the root causes of violence and how it is intertwined with other inequalities. This is because, along with money, women's foundations provide grassroots and community organizations with knowledge, connections and expertise gained from decades of experience working with women directly impacted by the issues they are working to solve.
In the decades since the first women's funds formed, women in many countries have increased their earning power, and wealth held by women has grown. In turn, women's funds have grown as donations have increased in size and frequency. A study released in 2009 by Women's Funding Network, which represents more than 145 women's funds worldwide, and The Foundation Center said assets for 55 women's funds surveyed grew more than 17 percent between 2004 and 2006. Between 2006 and 2009, the women's funds that belong to the Women's Funding Network's raised more than $181 million dollars as part of a worldwide campaign to grow the collective assets of women's funds beyond $1 billion, a campaign known as Women Moving Millions.
As more traditional foundations have realized the positive effects of investing in women, women's funds have grown in influence and stature. For example, the Global Fund for Women, a women's fund based in San Francisco, California, that focuses its support on women in countries outside the United States, gave $8 million in 2007--most of it raised by women and used to fund programs that are overlooked by larger, mainstream funders. While this is just a fraction of the $239 million the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave to women and girls outside the United States, it is a significant amount considering that the majority was raised by women and that many of the programs funded were otherwise not considered by larger, mainstream funders.
But none of this growth would be possible without community members and donors who help grow programs and prioritize funding. You can learn more about women's funds, including finding a fund near you, by going to Women's Funding Network's Web site.