How are feminist givers (givers who focus on outcomes for women and girls) different from the rest of philanthropy? Is their approach more impactful than the standard grantmaking approach, and if so, how can it be expanded? A new report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the University of Indiana helps explore the details about how women’s funds approach their mission. The report, entitled Change Agents: The Goals and Impact of Women’s Foundations and Funds, comes at a time when less than 2% of charitable giving supports women and girls.
The report outlines how women’s funds take an approach that blends grantmaking with a host of other activities that create impact, including research, coalition-building, and social policy advocacy. A majority of women’s funds and foundation, 64%, engage in a range of these activities. Women’s funds and foundations are also highly likely to take an intersectional approach to their work, and to incorporate feedback into their grantmaking process with grantees. Nearly three quarters, 74%, of women’s funds surveyed for the research said that feedback from grantee organizations influences funding priorities and decisions.
Another important distinguishing feature of most women’s funds: they get involved in policy advocacy and bring together constituents to press for systems change at the legislative level. In addition, three out of four (76%) of women’s funds and foundations focus resources on building relationships with the organizations and populations they serve. Other activities such as mentoring, running programs, and educating the public also add to the social change footprint of women’s funds and foundations.
One of the biggest barriers that the success of women’s funds continue to face is their lack of support from men. As Andrea Pactor, Interim Director at WPI points out in this Q&A on the new research, 93.1% of donors to women’s foundations and funds are women. Without more robust backing from men, women’s funds cannot realize their full potential for social change. Engaging more men in gender equality funding is critical to accelerating the impact of this work.