Responding to COVID-19

Elizabeth Barajas-Roman
Elizabeth Barajas-Roman

Dear Colleagues,

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into focus the core of WFN’s mission. We began with the vision that by democratizing philanthropy through local funds created by, and for, women, we could dismantle gender inequity region-by-region across the globe. Thirty years later we see that vision in action through your steadfast efforts during this unprecedented crisis.

As women’s foundations, gender equity funders and philanthropists, you play a critical role in giving a voice, decision-making power, and resources to women and their families. Your efforts ensure that a gender lens remains a central focus and priority in our communities amidst this uncertain moment in history. Without your support women disappear from the conversation and, as a result, from the economic equation entirely when it comes to equitable and appropriate allocation of funds and resources.

Even with the passage of the largest fiscal relief measure in our nation’s history, the $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus law still falls short of addressing women’s needs in several ways.

We are disappointed that women and their families will be forced to jump through numerous hoops for a meager cash payment that won’t end up in their pockets for weeks or months. The law also fails to address the challenges faced by low-wage service workers, who are disproportionately women. While deemed essential workers, as they staff grocery and convenience stores, gas stations and food service and other businesses, these workers often don’t have paid leave or access to childcare outside of school. The relief package also fails to provide relief or protection to people at risk of domestic violence, who predominantly are women and their children. It also fails to protect undocumented workers, many of whom are women in the home and child care professions.

Fortunately, your efforts are stepping up to help fill the gaps. For decades you have been the connective tissue among community stakeholders helping to move women and families toward economic security — and you are now mobilizing so progress in this area does not go backward.

For example, Sheri Scavone, executive director of the Western New York Women’s Foundation, recently shared with me that they were able to mobilize quickly because they spent years creating relationships across sectors. They had already analyzed the data and made the case for women and families to stakeholders. More importantly, they had built trust amongst lawmakers so that now, those lawmakers called the Foundation to ensure women’s needs were included in the state’s response to the pandemic.

Despite managing financial loss and COVID-19 illness within your institutions, we know you remain committed to your grantmaking, and in some cases, are recasting your work in order to support women-owned businesses, and filling gaps in the relief law’s funding to support women who are experiencing intimate partner violence and those who need childcare.

While we thank you for all you’ve done to step up, know that WFN is stepping up to serve you.

Since March 20th, we’ve facilitated weekly Friday calls with your executive leaders with the purpose to deepen our connection and camaraderie so that we can learn from, and lean on, each other during the good and bad days to come. We are also working with our partners to relax grant deadlines and increase flexibility of other requirements for our members who become part of the Economic Mobility Hub cohort. We are also reimagining the two member summits we had planned for 2020 – strategizing for ways to instead create virtual engagement and regional learning spaces. We are also working to secure resources for a WFN relief fund that could quickly move general operating grants to those of you who, because of the pandemic, are in danger of shuttering. We will of course, let you know when we have more updates to share on these efforts.

Until then, know that we are with you. You are the hope we hold for a better world to come. Thank you for your leadership.


Elizabeth Barajas-Román
Women’s Funding Network
President & CEO

Additional WFN COVID-19 Resources

To support entrepreneurs and small businesses, we’ve put together COVID-19 Resources for Small Businesses: Now Available on WFN’s WERC Space website. 

Monisha Kapila

We recently offered a webinar with Monisha Kapila, Founder and CEO of Proinspire called Racial Equity as a Leadership Competency. She shares a ton of great resources and tools for leaders as well as others in the social and gender justice field on how to manage and move through this crisis while keeping those principles in focus.