Women’s Funds and Foundations are Philanthropy’s First Responders

First responders holding vaccine vials

Dear Colleagues,

This week WFN hosted a conversation with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP), to unpack learnings from their recent report: Philanthropy and COVID-19 in 2020: Measuring One Year of Giving

On the bright side, CDP identified $20.2 billion in funding from corporations, foundations, public charities, and high-net-worth individuals to address the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020—nearly double the total reached from the first half of the year. Individuals gave at historic rates and total philanthropic funding awarded for COVID-19 efforts dwarfed funding for other recent disasters. 

Significant also is the organizing, led primarily by Black women, that led to increased funding for BIPOC communities: of U.S. COVID-19 philanthropy to specified recipients, 35 percent of dollars was designated for communities of color, up from 5 percent since CDP’s last report. 

Unfortunately, despite being widely recognized that the pandemic disproportionately impacted women, giving to organizations serving marginalized genders increased by only one percent in 2020. 

We have been here before. Notably, in response to the destruction and displacement caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2006, WFN partnered with Ms. Foundation for Women and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to create the Katrina Women’s Response fund. The Katrina Women’s Response Fund focused on ensuring that the priorities of low-income women, and women of color and their families were central to the Hurricane Katrina relief, recovery, and rebuilding process. 

Sadly, we were one of the few philanthropic responses after Katrina that centered the impact of gender and race after the hurricane. Consequently, marginalized genders in communities of color were left to rebuild their homes, families and lives with little support. 

The 2020 data from the CDP report underlines just how important your work remains today.  

Because of your meaningful relationships to grassroots organizations, you were able to target and move funds quickly last year. You transformed every dollar raised, up to 950 percent, thereby increasing the resources available to respond to the shifting demands and unique challenges of a global pandemic on women and their families. 

Even still, vaccinations remain out of reach for many around the world, and while marginalized genders in communities of color are at the heart of recovery efforts, organizations led by and for them remain woefully underfunded. 

Thank you for continuing to demand a philanthropic response from our colleagues and donors equal to the scale of the work ahead. 

You were philanthropy’s first responders and are now philanthropy’s long haulers. Thank you.

In solidarity,

Elizabeth Signature

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

Letters from Elizabeth