Women's Foundations Focus on Local Nonprofits, Education, Study Finds

Women's Foundations Focus on Local Nonprofits, Education, Study Finds

While women's foundations and funds that expressly award grants to programs and organizations benefiting women have grown in number over the past five decades, there are gaps in knowledge about these organizations and the work they do, a report from the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds.

Based on an analysis of more than two hundred women's foundations and funds that award grants to programs and organizations benefiting women, the report, Women's Foundations and Funds: A Landscape Study (56 pages, PDF), found that 71 percent were established between 1990 and 2010; 37 percent were standalone organizations while the rest were affiliates of a larger foundation or other organization; and only 8 percent were private foundations. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the study also found that 44 percent of the standalone women's foundations and funds in the sample saw their assets increase between 2014 and 2016, while 14 percent saw their assets decline, and that their annual grantmaking ranged from $12,000 to $10.5 million.

Although they vary in terms of geographic focus, asset size, average grant size, and grantmaking scope, a majority of the foundations and funds in the study had elements in common. More than three-quarters (76 percent) were focused on making grants to local nonprofits — in keeping with the idea that women's foundations and funds often strive to connect the well-being and success of women to the well-being and success of the communities in which they live. In addition, a majority of the foundations and funds surveyed listed education (63 percent) and economic empowerment, security, and self-sufficiency (61 percent) — a key strategy for achieving broader goals such as gender equality — as priority funding areas. And almost two-thirds (64 percent) provide support beyond the grant — including resources such as mentoring and technical assistance (32 percent); educational, engagement, networking, knowledge-sharing, and leadership conferences (30 percent); research (23 percent); women-focused programming (23 percent); partnerships and collaborations (21 percent); and advocacy (16 percent). 

"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," said lead researcher Elizabeth Gillespie, a doctoral candidate at the University of Nebraska Omaha. "But aside from the 2009 Foundation Center and Women's Funding Network study, which is now ten 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."

"New Research Uncovers Patterns About Women's Foundations and Funds." Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Press Release 05/14/2019. "Women's Foundations and Funds: A Landscape Study." Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Women's Philanthropy Institute Report 05/14/2019.