Stories of Change

Women Funded 2019: Leadership for a Changing World

Over 450 women and men gathered from around the world at Women Funded 2019, the world’s largest convening for women-led philanthropy and gender equity funders.  From women of color re-shaping philanthropy to the climate crisis to de-criminalizing women and girls, we covered issues that are affecting communities worldwide. Our Host Committee worked tirelessly and generously to uncover the most relevant conversations and thinkers today. We heard from the indomitable Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, from the visionary Aimee Allison of She the People, and from so many others. Global organizations that ensure women journalists shape the media, support women running for office, create inclusive workplaces, and close the women’s wealth gap shared what’s happening now and what’s to come.  Together we explored new donor models, funder collaboratives, and the gender lens investing that are funding social change to improve all our lives.

“This was the most thoughtful, powerful and urgent conference I have ever attended.”
—Capital Sisters International

“The event was fantastic. It was great to meet so many other inspiring and amazing women leaders from so many different organizations.”
—Erin Currier, Kellogg Foundation

Watch the main-stage discussions here.


Thank you to our sponsors:

JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Fondation Chanel
C&A Foundation
Texas Women’s Foundation
Eileen Fisher Foundation
Solidago Foundation
National Basketball Wives Association
The California Wellness Foundation
Stanford Health Care
The Asia Foundation
Levi Strauss Foundation
Women’s Foundation of Minnesota
Global Fund for Women
International Women’s Health Coalition
Women’s Foundation of New York
Hotel Kabuki
How Women Lead
The Wing
Museum of the African Diaspora
The Peggy and Jack Baskin Foundation
Kabuki Springs & Spa

Participatory Grantmaking

Women’s foundations are known for their inclusivity in the communities where they serve.  Some involve former grantees on decision-making committees, others hold regular meetings to uncover current needs and then fund them.  These practices are easier said than done. With generous funding by the Ford Foundation we began a research project to uncover the factors that lead to success, what gets in the way, and how to hold true to these values.  Our research includes those who are newer to participatory grantmaking, and those for whom it’s been a practice for decades. Recommendations that can be implemented by others within the philanthropic sector will be shared throughout 2020.

Funded by the Ford Foundation

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Established to advance women’s leadership, the intersection of racial equity and gender equity has been an inherent part of the work of WFN and its members for over 30 years. Understanding that this is learning journey, WFN made an explicit commitment to this intersection and underwent a series of internal conversations with its leadership, and established an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Advisory Council of its members.  Supported by the wisdom and facilitation of The Justice Collective, we asked hard questions: what can we do better; are our actions consistent with our message of equity; what else is needed?  Leaders within our network shared candidly their personal stories and frustrations, with clear recommendations of what to put in place in 2020.  We will continue the journey with renewed clarity and focus.

Funded by the Borealis Fund

Deborah Holmes Fellowship

In 2018 our beloved Chief Communications Officer, Deborah Holmes, passed away following a fierece battle with cancer.  To honor her decades-long career in social justice philanthropy, we created a fellowship in her name, with the goal of providing a deep immersion into philanthropy for women of color.  Launched in 2019, the fellowship was co-created and co-hosted with Global Fund for Women, Deborah’s fomer employer.  The first DH Fellow, Tajma Beverly, divided her time between both organizations, joining WFN just in time to be on-site for Women Funded 2019.  You’ll have recognized her voice (she is both a writer and singer of opera) as the “voice of God(dess)”, and may have seen her in the many workshops she staffed.  Following Women Funded, as the team brainstormed ways to continue the conversation, Tajma suggested a podcast to highlight the WFN identity she deemed as” ground-breaking, fearless, energized, and intelligent.”  Thus was birthed the After Party podcast, a monthly series which Tajma will produce.

Two Generation Advocacy Cohort

In their second year of advocating for policies that support low-income women and their families, the four women’s foundations that comprise WFN’s 4-state cohort collaborated with dozens of their local partners to make lasting change.   

The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham led an educational effort and legislative campaign resulting in the passage of Alabama’s first Equal Pay Act.  They secured a $300,000 appropriation in the state education budget to connect women with a post-secondary education and the wraparound supports necessary for success, such as child care and transportation. 

The Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona built upon years of relationship-building with legislators as a non- partisan resource for issues affecting women and their families, and drafted Arizona bill SB1173 to provide child care assistance to families transitioning off of cash assistance due to increased earnings.   

Texas Women’s Foundation increased the baseline childcare subsidy rates.  With partners, they supported community outreach and marketing effort to attract new childcare providers to the Texas Rising Star Program.  

Women’s Foundation of Colorado led a coalition advocating for paid family and medical leave,  improved childcare, early childhood education, and pathways for low income women to become professionals with a living wage.  Over a dozen pieces of such legislation were passed.