New Study From Women’s Philanthropy Institute Explores Goals and Impact of Women’s Foundations and Funds

A new report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) helps fill a gap in knowledge about women’s foundations and funds – a diverse and dynamic group of organizations with a history of leading philanthropy dedicated to women and girls. The study builds on previous WPI research, including this year’s landmark women’s funds and foundations landscape report, to better understand how these organizations set goals, measure impact and take action to advance women.

The report, Change Agents: The Goals and Impact of Women’s Foundations and Funds, is the first to closely examine the change these influential organizations make among women and the broader community. The research combines survey data with qualitative interviews, and finds that while women’s funds share the broad goal of advancing women’s philanthropy, their specific objectives, and the ways in which they define impact, vary widely.

“Women’s foundations and funds are pioneers in the gender equality space, and have helped unlock significant funding and support for women’s and girls’ causes in nearly every state in the U.S. This study contributes important insights that can help women’s foundations and funds continue to refine their approach, while also providing other organizations a model for how to support their communities through individual empowerment and locally-driven change,” said lead researcher Elizabeth Gillespie, doctoral candidate at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

The report, which is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also finds that women’s foundations and funds have been successful in achieving short term goals, and often engage in activities beyond grantmaking, including partnerships and political advocacy, to achieve their desired impact.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Women’s funds share the broad goal of advancing women’s philanthropy; their specific objectives, and the ways in which they pursue them, vary widely.
  • Women’s funds define impact in different ways, and have been most successful at achieving short-term goals through empowerment and community-based change.
  • Women’s funds pursue their organizational goals through multiple grantmaking approaches, like gender-lens and community-based philanthropy, designed to elevate their impact.
  • Many women’s funds go beyond grantmaking to achieve impact, engaging in activities such as relationship building, partnerships, and policy advocacy to pursue broader social change.

The full report is available here.