Can Feminist Funding Lead the Recovery?

Dear Colleagues,

While hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 may be moving in a downward trajectory in many parts of the world, the financial impact of the pandemic on women remains dire. It will potentially take years for women and their families to fully recover — even after the pandemic ends. That is why our conversations about how to strengthen and highlight our sector’s core practices – like participatory grantmaking – is so important. As the U.S. looks to build back better, targeted investment in partnership with women’s funds is critical for community recovery and building long-term economic resilience. 

In 2020, with support from the Ford Foundation, we engaged in a research project to examine the participatory grantmaking practices within our network. While much of what we learned affirmed what we already knew – like those most impacted by funding decisions should be the ones driving those decisions – there were still a few surprises. 

First, that some women’s funds were engaged in activities and embedded in an organizational ethos that was aligned with participatory grantmaking markers, though they did not identify them as such. Second, that some women’s funds identified their programs as participatory – but over the years, had lost connection to grounding principles. We also found it interesting that years of operation, size, and location did not seem to factor into how and why women’s funds engaged in participatory grantmaking practices.

We know that our network presents a unique opportunity to generate evidence on the benefits and challenges of participatory grantmaking. As we continue our exploration and conversation with you, we hope to better understand the spectrum of use across the network, the challenges for those in early adoption or considering adoption, as well as the added value, the long-term benefits and costs, and how participatory approaches galvanize community engagement in solving complex problems, strengthens advocacy efforts, and builds power for larger movements.

We know you are still rapidly adapting and recasting your work for the greatest impact amid the pandemic-fueled She-session and caregiver crisis that is negatively impacting women’s economic mobility, personal safety, generational poverty, health and welfare. We know your learnings – informed by deep relationships with local movement organizations – hold valuable insights for policy and advancing philanthropic practice. 

As we move forward, we are eager to continue working together to not only build on this body of knowledge, but also to co-create a new framework that will connect your best practices with national funders to amplify impact at this critical time. Onward. 

Yours for equity and justice,

Elizabeth Signature

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

Letters from Elizabeth