Women of color pursue change strategies with limited resources

Women of color pursue change strategies with limited resources

Although they have long been frontline leaders and organizers of grassroots social change movements, women and girls of color receive only 0.5 percent of total foundation funding, a report from the Ms. Foundation for Women and Strength in Numbers Consulting Group finds. 

Based on grants data from Candid, a survey of nearly a thousand nonprofits serving women and girls of color, and a survey of twenty-three foundations that target their grantmaking to women and girls of color, the report, Pocket change — how women and girls of color do more with less (41 pages, PDF), found that in 2017 grants totaling $356 million — out of the nearly $67 billion given by foundations overall — were awarded in support of women and girls of color. 

According to the report, of the nonprofits in the study — nearly three-quarters of which are led by women and girls of color — 52.7 percent reported annual revenue under $250,000, including 26.2 percent with annual revenue between $1 and $50,000 and 4.5 percent with no revenue at all. Many lacked paid staff, and a number relied on individual donations and member dues — in communities that often are already underresourced. And while nearly all had applied for foundation funding, many — especially those led by women and girls of color — reported encountering barriers, including onerous administrative requirements (54 percent), grant descriptions that don't explicitly include women and girls of color among the intended beneficiaries (53.4 percent), grantmakers' lack of responsiveness to inquiries (48.2 percent), a lack of funding opportunities for certain types of activity (46.1 percent), and a lack of expertise in prospect research (46 percent). 

The survey also found that nonprofits serving women and girls of color address numerous issue areas simultaneously and use multiple strategies, working in an intersectional way to address the most pressing concerns of those impacted by gender and racial inequity. And while the organizations included in the study were about equally likely to be engaged in community organizing, policy advocacy, leadership development, voter registration, and service delivery, funders provided very little support for voter registration and services. 

To address the lack of philanthropic support for women and girls of color, the report's authors call on donors to do more to support organizations led by and working on behalf of women and girls of color; to pay more attention to potential grantees' leadership, intended beneficiaries, and work at the intersection of race and gender; to be vocal about their interest in supporting women and girls of color and transparent with their grantmaking data; and to fund all of a grantee's strategies, rather than limiting support to a single strategy.

"[A]lthough philanthropy's response to the pandemic has been extraordinary, the vast majority of funding flowing in this moment will not reach women and girls of color. In fact, shifting philanthropic priorities already suggest that funding to this group may substantially diminish in the aftermath of the public health and related economic crises," writes Ms. Foundation vice president of strategy and programs Roz Lee in the report's foreword. "[W]e must grow and expand movements for equity while making space for taking care and healing. Each day brings significant challenges and pressures on women and girls of color, especially indigenous and transgender women."

"The Ms. Foundation is calling on philanthropy to support women and girls of color," said Teresa C. Younger, the foundation's president and CEO. "This report showcases what we knew to be true in the philanthropic sector: women and girls of color do extraordinary and invaluable work in their communities with limited resources and barriers to funding....Women and girls of color have been able to do so much with so little, imagine what we could do with more."

(Photo credit: Girls for Gender Equity)

"Pocket change — how women and girls of color do more with less." Ms. Foundation for Women and Strength in Numbers report 07/01/2020. "Ms. Foundation for Women releases landmark study on philanthropic giving for women and girls of color ." Ms. Foundation for Women press release 07/01/2020.