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WFN Best of 2021: Member Highlights

This organization is what it is because of the people that are in it. As 2021 draws to a close, we’re highlighting incredible stories of change from WFN members across the globe.

Our “best-of” highlights are just a glimpse into the many powerful stories of gender justice funders working on the front lines of their communities across the globe, deploying feminist funding principles that will ensure equity and fairness for all.

We’re committed to investing in the strength and resiliency of our international membership community, but you can help us do more.

Join us by giving generously to your local women’s fund and if you can, also support our network so we can amplify the power of your gift. Use our member directory to learn more about a local women’s fund or foundation near you.


Erie Community Foundation

The Erie Women’s Fund awarded a $100,000 Grant to a local nonprofit working to combat infant mortality and pregnancy loss, especially within the black community. Emma’s Footprints is an Erie, PA based nonprofit that supports women and families experiencing pregnancy or infant loss. Recently, they partnered with Birthroot and Erie City Moms to create a Community Doula Alliance Program. By providing accessible doulas to expecting mothers, this program will help women feel supported and empowered during their pregnancy. These doulas will act as a mediator between mothers and medical professionals, offer support and advice, and can even be in the delivery room with mothers to provide comfort and assistance. Empowering women and families is the goal of The Erie Women’s Fund and this program provides the support mothers need.

Women’s Fund of Rhode Island 

What a year! Women’s Fund of Rhode Island celebrated its 20th anniversary AND passed critical legislation around Fair Pay, Increasing the Minimum Wage, Preventing Source of Housing Income Discrimination, Perinatal Doula Health Insurance Coverage, Protecting Explanation of Health Benefits Information, Nursing Home Staffing & Quality Care, Prohibiting Gender Rating in Health Insurance Products and Free Feminine Hygiene Products in Public Schools & Prisons! Our work literally is impacting EVERYONE in the state of Rhode Island. 

Fonds pour les Femmes Congolaises 

In anticipation of the upcoming 2023 national elections and the need for more participation of women in this fragile democracy, Fonds pour les Femmes Congolaises led a workshop in Kinshasa on Women’s Leadership and Good Governance this past August. Twenty women from civil society and political parties participated. Among the modules were Leadership (duties and principles), Feminism (a fight for equality between men and women, changing negative perceptions against women), the Principle of Accountability (an obligation to report to one’s base, one’s community), and Legal Instruments Promoting Women’s Rights. This was an overwhelming success and the demand to replicate this training is high.

One of the participants recounted:

“I want to thank the whole team of facilitators for having given us another, more dynamic version of female leadership. Our special thanks to FFC Executive Director, Julienne Lusenge. We will not be silent in after this experience that was offered to us by our valiant Mrs. Faida (FFC board president and special advisor to UN Women in Mali) who herself is part of the icons of women making history. I congratulate each one of us who decided to prioritize this training, which turned out to be a positive and necessary asset in our fight for equal rights. May Congolese women live with a big F: I am a Feminist, I fight for my rights!”  

ffc workshop participant

The Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga 

During the 2021 Tennessee legislative session, a record 10 of the Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga‘s priority bills passed. 

A bill that we authored to protect donors and distributors of menstrual hygiene products from liability lawsuits, the reason that many manufacturers gave for not donating to help fight period poverty, passed unanimously through both chambers. The bill became law in July and in September, Kotex pledged to donate 8 million tampons across the states of Tennessee and Maine, the only two states with laws of this kind. With 1 in 5 low-income women and girls reporting missing school or work because they don’t have access to or cannot afford menstrual hygiene products, this donation is important to thousands in our state.    

The good news doesn’t stop there. After we shared our success with the Women’s Funding Network’s Advocacy and Public Policy Peer Community, even more Women’s Funds will be leading for this legislative change in their states in 2022!  

Women’s Foundation of Colorado  

The Women’s Foundation of Colorado introduced a new strategic framework that names gender, racial, and economic equity as our overarching goal. Equally important, we identified ourselves as a learning organization in order to stay adaptive and agile in a rapidly changing environment. For instance, grantee and community input from two 2020 grantmaking programs – our WFCO Relief Fund and Women Achieving Greater Economic Security (WAGES) – informed two new community-led grantmaking strategies launched in 2021 that are highly responsive and relevant to Colorado women.  

Their new Women & Girls of Color Fund explicitly and directly funds women-of-color led organizations throughout Colorado, while building economic power of Black, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, and Latinx women and girls. WINcome, short for Women + Income = Women Thriving, will provide flexible and holistic resources to Colorado women through direct-service and public policy advocacy organizations that will help them meet basic needs, pursue economic opportunity, and increase their incomes through supplemental cash assistance. In 2021, the Women & Girls of Color Fund granted $447,000 and WINcome announced $900,000 in grants. In 2021, The Women’s Foundation of Colorado’s work generated more national and local foundation partners as well as diverse individual and business donors than ever before. 

“It’s a humbled honor to receive recognition for our work from our community of sisterships that have been created and maintained in our NIBPOC (Native Indigenous, Black, People of Color) community. The ability to provide stewardship and accountable autonomous empowerment is the way forward in equity and inclusion. The Women’s Foundation of Colorado exhibits their leadership and community building promoting self-sufficiency aligns with our Native Carlanas Apache ethics.”  

Nancy Rae, executive director of Herbal Gardens Wellness and a Women & Girls of Color Fund grantee partner

The Ascend Fund 

The Ascend Fund, a collaborative fund committed to accelerating the pace of change toward gender parity in politics, awarded $600,000 in grants to 13 partners as part of a new three-state pilot to elect more women to state legislatures in Michigan, Mississippi, and Washington. This is a part of our larger strategy to achieve 50% representation for women in all 50 states by 2050.  

For the first time, Ascend conducted an open call and utilized an external review committee to select grantees as part of a participatory grantmaking model. Collectively, these processes and others improved the inclusiveness, transparency, and equity of our grantmaking and resulted in the selection of the strongest partners best positioned to work collaboratively to build a pathway to public office for women.  

In 2022, our partners will build state coalitions and identify common barriers to elected office unique to their state’s political environment and design strategies to remove, reduce, or circumvent them, allowing more women to run. And to increase the likelihood that women win, the coalitions will provide training, tools, and resources. Additionally, The Ascend Fund will provide administrative and logistical support to facilitate partnerships, promote learning, and increase efficiencies across the portfolio.  

The International Women’s Convocation (IWC)  

The International Women’s Convocation (IWC) seeks to empower women and girls worldwide. This year, we hosted three parallel events at the 65th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65). Panelists represented our partners globally: 

•  The Shadow Pandemic: Confronting Domestic Violence in India, Transylvania, and the Philippines

Panelists from three countries shared action they are taking, including investigating the intersection between domestic abuse and human trafficking, gaining legal assistance for rape victims, and ways in which they enlist men to support their awareness efforts. 

•  Women’s Leadership Training: Innovations in India, Kenya, and Transylvania 

IWC partners in these regions empower women and girls through education by providing scholarships, establishing leadership schools, and implementing leadership development programs to train women for leadership positions. 

•   Climate-Smart Strategies: Creating Bold Bolivian Women!

IWC’s Bolivian partners are teaching women to grow resilient gardens that secure enough clear water as well as support the Escazú Agreement, a groundbreaking regional treaty that protects environmental human rights defenders and addresses the political realities experienced by people who defend the environment. 

Texas Women’s Foundation  

With an average of 206 evictions happening every day in Texas even pre-COVID – disproportionately impacting women of color – Texas Women’s Foundation established the Housing Stability Fund. This fund will invest more than $3.5 million into stable housing for women and families through multi-year grants, policy initiatives and direct investments.  

To advance this mission, TXWF assembled a cohort of key community stakeholders in a learning community to address housing instability. The nonprofits are a diverse, capable cohort of leaders in the housing sector. With them, TXWF addresses the various components of housing stability through:  

  • Direct programming grants: Eviction diversion and prevention programs, landlord mediation and legal support, transitional housing and direct payments to families, that have been proven to be effective ways to prevent the cycle of homelessness.  
  • Policy advocacy: Advocating for passage of a Tenant Bill of Rights, guidelines for allocation of American Rescue Plan funding, and for other issues that positively impact women and families are our priorities.  
  • Education: Because landlords and tenants often do not understand the laws surrounding HCVs, there is a huge gap in use of this service. With education, landlords can realize a consistent revenue stream and voucher users will be able to move more freely. 

The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts 

The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts awarded over $250,000 in grant funding to 37 nonprofits serving women and girls in the region to aid in COVID emergencies, support the prevention and intervention of sexual-based violence, and establish a new community-centric grantmaking process, which centers racial equity, local leadership and youth. 

In addition to funding solutions, the WFWM established the Greater Springfield Women’s Economic Security Hub to promote economic prosperity in the community. This research initiative and community collaborative effort will seek to create action and change around barriers to economic prosperity for women at or below the poverty level in the Greater Springfield region. 

Join the WFWM for their newest “Wait…What?!” conversations. These discussions offer a chance for the community to convene on emerging issues we all face, albeit with varied challenges. In 2021, the WFWM has curated interactive talks on evictions, racial disparities in maternal health, BIPOC women and mental health, and most recently, gender, care, and unpaid labor.

The Iowa Women’s Foundation

The Iowa Women’s Foundation is pioneering local solutions to the child care crisis. As a part of our Women’s Economic Mobility Hub, they hosted dozens of listening sessions across the state with a cross-sector of nonprofit, business, and government leaders. The organization increased access to affordable child care by expanding its Building Community Child Care Collaborative from 30 to 44 communities, increasing awareness and business investments in child care, advocating for child care policies with elected officials, joining the Governor’s Child Care Task Force, and awarding $80,000 in child care grants to 9 child care projects. As a part of the child care taskforce, they shared their learnings and recommendations with Iowa’s state leadership, leading the way for long-lasting structural change. Learn more about our economic mobility hub and support investments in global ground-breaking initiatives impacting women and girls: Iowa Women’s Foundation – Women’s Economic Mobility Hub  

Women’s Fund for the Fox Valley Region

It was an honor to celebrate the accomplishments of eight young women as they graduated from the Starting Point 2.0 and EmpowHER programs on December 1. These women have taken another step towards creating a brighter future for themselves and their families and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for each of them.

Since launching the first program in 2017, more than 90 young women have graduated and over 75 children have been positively impacted by participation in the two-generational approach to increasing life-long economic security through education. Learn more about their program and how you can support more local initiatives.

Women’s Foundation of the South

“I did not think this was for me. I thought this was a hoax.”

So went similar initial responses from 26 BIPOC womxn community leaders in New Orleans when the newly-created Women’s Foundation of the South (WFS) called them to 1.5 days of rest. Their responses confirmed for WFS that there is no more radical act for womxn of color than to restore themselves by resting, and for WFS to invest its first grant round in the rejuvenation of the womxn who are doing the work.

WŌC @ REST (Womxn of Color at Rest) began with hand-delivered Love Boxes to 26 womxn leaders who have provided for their communities without taking a break for themselves. These leaders shepherded their communities through the onset and persistence of COVID-19, through heightened months of racial reckoning, and recently through Hurricane Ida.

At December’s retreat, WFS and its partners lavishly cared for them with a safe environment to share their truths, beautiful décor, delicious food, inspiring and nurturing messages, luxury hotel stay, massages and other body care, and $5,000 grants to compensate them for their time and support each womxn’s unique “wellness plan” moving forward. WFS sought to gain the womxn’s insights to inform its theory of change without causing extractive harm.


Follow the #womenfundedbestof2021 campaign on our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn. #fundwomensfunds 

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