Celebrating Our Leadership

Women’s Funding Network Members and Leaders:

This month, we are marking our one-year anniversary under Elizabeth’s leadership. In a year unlike any other, we pause for a moment of reflection on the network’s accomplishments while acknowledging the challenging work that lies ahead.

Women’s funds are on the frontlines of philanthropy and WFN and its members have played a crucial role in the lives of women, children, and families throughout the many twists and turns of the pandemic. As 2021 shows the first signs of a return to normalcy, we don’t want to ignore the difficult year many of our friends, communities, and families experienced. We pledge to work together to build power and influence across all genders and races to shape a just recovery for all, but especially for women and girls.

We’ve come so far together, and this year, there’s even more to come. We seek to be a network of value to you. One that provides access to resources that increase your capacity, a network that shares learning and knowledge to advance your work, a network committed to co-creating policy agendas that lead to real change, and a network unapologetically devoted to building economic mobility for women across the globe. These are commitments Elizabeth and the Board are deeply honored to make with you.

In solidarity,

Michelle Zych and Melanie R. Brown
Chair and Vice-Chair of the Women’s Funding Network Board of Directors 

Meeting the Needs of the Moment 

You can’t talk about 2020 without mentioning the deep and lasting impacts felt across every sector as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Members across the network were stretched to the breaking point, and as a result, we launched the Response, Recovery and Resilience Collaborative Fund (RRRCF), a multi-million-dollar initiative to support you as you adapted to the pandemic.   

The RRRCF was designed as a multi-phase, multi-year effort. Phase I of the RRRCF grant provided critical financial support to women’s funds and foundations that were in danger of closing in 2020. To date, we’ve dispersed awards to 16 recipients in 13 U.S. states. Nearly 40 percent of the grants went to women’s funds led by women of color. And we’re not close to being done.   

When asked to rank how critical the RRRCF grant award was to their organization’s financial recovery throughout the pandemic (10=critical support), the average rating was 9.5. In addition, 75% leveraged RRRCF grant funds by increasing their policy/advocacy work and investing in racial equity and justice grantmaking. 

The RRRCF is more than just a relief project. Its purpose is fundamental to the Network itself. Now on more stable ground, women’s funds and foundations continue to rapidly adapt and recast their work for the greatest impact amid the pandemic-fueled She-session and caregiver crisis. With demonstrable success and significant ROI from the first phase, we are asking partners to make larger, and/or multi-year commitments to fully capitalize on the existing opportunities for bold change.

Rebuilding the Future: Women’s Economic Mobility Hubs

Women continue to be key drivers of economic mobility in their communities. The early care and education sector has a majority-women workforce, approximately 40% of whom are women of color.  

In 2020, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Women’s Economic Mobility Hub provided grants up to $100,000 each over a two-year period, and supported strategy pivots as 5-regional and 4-state-focused hubs wrestled with some of the biggest questions faced in our lifetime regarding the economy, the nature work, and re-envisioning what it means for families to thrive. We look forward to ongoing partnership with these women’s funds in 2021 as we offer technical assistance, connect them to capacity-building opportunities, and a shared learning platform, along with additional grants for communication and narrative infrastructure.

Year in Review Highlights: 

Celebrating Our Leadership

Under Elizabeth’s leadership, the Women’s Funding Network rose to meet the needs of the moment. Whether supporting our members through resiliency grants, providing needed resources to nonprofits leading local change, or providing a space to share with and learn from one another in our weekly leadership calls, Elizabeth has been a guiding force in the fight for gender and racial equality.  

Julie Castro Abrams, former WFN Board member, made a gift in Elizabeth’s honor, and encourages others to join her.  

Elizabeth stepped in and stepped up to provide strong values-based leadership right when we needed it most. Today we learned that 5.3M women left the workforce in the last year and the majority are women of color. Vulnerable women and children are dying, and foundations and women’s organizations are scrambling to respond. During this crisis Elizabeth knew what those holding the container needed most – she raised and distributed millions of dollars in funding AND provided a forum for solutions, action and most importantly caring for each other on a weekly call of the leaders of women’s funds. Those of us in the women’s funding community are eternally grateful for her leadership. Join me in honoring her work.

Julie Castro Abrams, CEO and Chair, How Women Lead

In Their Own Words: 

Our board members are thrilled to celebrate this milestone with Elizabeth and with all of you. 

As an entrepreneur and funder, I’m always looking for unique solutions to pressing problems in our world that challenge the status quo and bring about real change. In the last year, the Women’s Funding Network has raised and distributed critical dollars to combat the unanticipated effects of the pandemic and ensure the resiliency of community-based organizations that serve women. When women were losing their jobs, WFN stepped in to offer resources, training, and more. When households were growing desperate or children were going hungry, WFN worked across the globe with a wide network of women’s funds to meet the need where it was most pressing. As a relatively new board member for WFN, I know I’ve made the right choice to join this powerful movement. It’s true — when you lift up a woman, you lift up humanity. It’s long past time we commit ourselves to focus on women as the problem solvers and trust the wisdom and experience of those most affected to lead us through these uncertain times.

Junemarie Justus, Founder and Director, The Acorn Project

I find Elizabeth’s leadership and vision to be truly inspiring. Sitting at multiple identity intersections herself, her at the helm is what we dream of when we say philanthropy needs to be led by the community most affected. To support her is an honor.  

Adriana Loson-Ceballos, M.A., Director of Network Resources, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP)

As the President and CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, I understand just how crucial international relationships can be. With Elizabeth at the helm of the Women’s Funding Network over the last year, our international commitment to philanthropy has flourished. She has bolstered key programs, developed relationships with nonprofit leaders and for-profit entities alike, and has uplifted the work of members and grantees across the globe. Congratulations to Elizabeth and best wishes for many more!

Paulette Senior, President & CEO, Canadian Women’s Foundation

In her first year, Elizabeth exhibited her adroit inside/outside leadership. Inside, she built a strong team and created a positive, inclusive, and high-performing culture within the Board and staff. Outside, she burnished the reputation of WFN as the flagship for our partners advancing gender equity and justice while also expanding WFNs connections. Elizabeth did all of this while demonstrating the kind of personal engagement, empathy, and emotional intelligence that even a global pandemic could not disrupt. Her steady hand and generous heart benefited WFN, our partners, and our funders during a tumultuous time and laid the path for a promising future together. Or you could just say—I’m in awe of Elizabeth (and her great team!)

Jill Nowak, Treasurer, Chief Financial Officer, Missouri Foundation for Health

As a humanitarian professional with over 15 years’ experience in international development, I know what it takes to design and implement successful program, policy, and development strategies across the globe. With Elizabeth at the helm of the Women’s Funding Network this past year, we have seen evidence of her leadership in every aspect — from increased membership to a greater spotlight on the issues affecting women, children, and families across the globe. I’m proud to serve as a board member of WFN with Elizabeth at the helm!

Ada Williams Prince, Senior Advisor, Program Strategy and Investment,  Pivotal Ventures

2021 WFN Board Members

  • Elizabeth Barajas-Román, President and CEO Women’s Funding Network
  • Michelle Zych, Chair, Director of Community Initiatives, The Sherwood Foundation
  • Melanie Brown, Vice-Chair, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Suzanne B. Peters, Secretary, Principal of Peters Associates
  • Jill Nowak, Treasurer, Chief Financial Officer, Missouri Foundation for Health
  • Antoinette Klatzky, Executive Director, Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute
  • Paulette Senior, President & CEO, Canadian Women’s Foundation
  • Teresa C. Younger, President and CEO, Ms. Foundation for Women
  • Adriana Loson-Ceballos, Director of Network Resources, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP)
  • Ada Williams Prince, Senior Advisor, Program Strategy and Investment,  Pivotal Ventures
  • Junemarie Justus, Founder and Director, The Acorn Project
Principles and Practice