Women’s Funds Deploy $58.4 Million in Funding in Two Years

Leaders of Dallas Women’s Foundation, California Women’s Foundation, The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, New York Women’s Foundation, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham and Ms. Foundation on stage at the United State of Women Summit on June 14, 2016 in Washington, D.C.

Despite an increasingly hostile climate for women and girls in the United States, with access to reproductive services being cut and campus sexual assault policies being rolled back, a partnership of women’s funds that started during the Obama administration is continuing to grow and deploy needed funds to grassroots organizations.

Now, the Partnership for Prosperity, a network of 32 women’s funds and foundations located in 26 states, has announced that they have already invested $58.4 million in their first two years. The Partnership’s commitment is to invest $100 million in 5 years, so they are already ahead of schedule with their funding of community organizations around the country.

According to a press release about the Partnership, in Year One (2016), Prosperity Together partners invested a collective $29,170,427. In Year Two (2017), partners invested $29,251,072. This means that 1,022 nonprofits received funding and 137,153 women and girls were impacted across 26 states and the District of Columbia.  You can visit Prosperity Together’s website to see the report.

The Women’s Fund of Rhode Island is one of the partners in Prosperity Together, and as it happens, my husband and I attended a very thought-provoking event they held last evening in our neighborhood, at a local nonprofit cafe and theater called Theater 82. 

“Local research indicates that many features of our economy could be improved for Rhode Island women. Workplace policy, government regulations, collective action and educational attainment are all areas that can grow access and opportunity for low income women and their families,” said Kelly Nevins, Executive Director of the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island. “We are pleased to be part of this national effort to further raise awareness of those approaches.”

It’s great to have Kelly Nevins leading the way in helping Rhode Island move the needle on gender equality. (We are a state that is sadly dominated by male leadership. I cringe every time I look at my local city council and the all-male lineup, and I especially cringe when they pass ridiculous legislation about putting armed guards in all our schools.)

Prosperity Together employs a unique style of grantmaking also sometimes called participatory grantmaking, which emphasizes inclusiveness and engaging grant-recipients in the process. More on how the partnership distributes its funding:

To achieve economic security for all women, Prosperity Together partners employ a broad, inclusive approach to grantmaking. In 2017, 90% of partners supported workforce development; 81% leadership development and community mobilization; 74% financial literacy and asset building; 74% research; and 74% education.

In 2017, Prosperity Together partners targeted their grantmaking to support programs in many areas:

Job Training: Programs that are customized to address the cultural and educational needs of low-income women to secure a higher-wage job in a stable work environment.

Two-Generation Programs: Programs that assist parents seeking education, job training, or employment while concurrently placing their children in high-quality education.

Asset Building & Financial Literacy: Programs that help women develop and keep wealth.

Childcare Access & Quality: Programs that create access for low-income women to culturally appropriate, affordable, high-quality childcare so they can be successful in the workplace and their children can have a strong academic start in life.

Research: State and national research to inform best practices and policies that increase economic security for low-income women, build awareness of community-specific issues, and mobilize support for policy change.

Policy Change: Support policy change efforts that most affect low-income women, including pay equity, paid family and medical leave, minimum wage increase, improved access to childcare, reducing predatory lending, improving access to childcare subsidies for community college students, and fair scheduling and work-week bills.

Here in Rhode Island, the Women’s Fund of RI (WFRI) is doing some amazing grantmaking and collaborating with the community. Their work has a huge impact both for women and girls and for society in general, such as their collaboration with legislators and advocates to pass the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act, which enables 45,000 low income workers to earn up to three paid sick days per year.  WFRI grants about $50,000 a year, which is not nearly enough grantmaking (in my humble opinion)  for such an impactful approach. That’s why they need more funding!  Funders take note: Because Rhode Island is the smallest state, is a great state for lab testing new interventions for gender equality. If more funders took an interest in funding gender equality in Rhode Island, we could likely test out important policy initiatives that could then be scaled up to create social change in other states.

Visit the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island’s website to learn more about how you can get involved.


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Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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