Women’s Funds

I’ve recently been asked to get involved with a new women’s fund that is being created here in Winston-Salem (which I feel compelled to mention is the home of the extremely impressive Wake Forest football team! Go Deacs!) The idea is that women are both underrepresented as charitable donors (because even in two-income families men tend to control a household’s charitable giving) and that charities specifically targeted toward helping women and girls are underfunded (according to the statistics the fund gave me, less than five percent of philanthropic dollars in the U.S. go specifically to programs for women and girls). The idea is that you buy into the fund, pledging to make an annual donation every year for three years, and then you get a vote as to how the fund’s resources are allocated. Do any of our readers have experience with these kinds of funds? Any reactions about whether they are a good idea?

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5 Responses

  1. Sarah S. says:

    Professor –

    Check out Women’s Way at http://www.womensway.org

    I think the allocation process is different in that full time staff or board members get to choose where the funds go (recipients are either member agencies or apply for grants from the general fund), but similar in its umbrella-like/clearinghouse features.

    “Founded in Philadelphia in 1977, WOMENS WAY is the country’s oldest and largest women’s funding federation. Our mission is to raise money and public awareness to fight for and achieve women’s equality, safety, self-sufficiency and reproductive freedom through women-centered funding, advocacy and education.”

  2. law student says:

    I have no experience with these types of funds, but I did want to put in my two cents.

    I am a firm believer that programs targeted towards young women and girls – particularly programs that introduce girls to some of the more male-dominated areas (eg. engineering, the hard sciences, and yes, even law) are incredibly valuable. Of course, I may be biased because I graduated from a women’s college… however, I will always be grateful for the support and encouragement I received from role models who were women. And I think any steps that would serve to extend this type of support towards other women (whether it be through mentoring or donating to to these types of funds) is an excellent idea.

  3. AYY says:

    Wouldn’t you want to know what percentage of the proceeds actually goes to charity? Also, you make a donation and all you get is one vote (out of how many) as to how the funds are going to be allocated? What if they decide to allocate the funds to groups you’d prefer not to support.

    You can donate to any charity you want without going through the rigamarole. So I don’t understand what’s the advantage of the fund

  4. Jennifer, there was an article yesterday in the NYT on “giving circles” and larger philanthropic funds: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/13/us/13circles.html?_r=1&oref=slogin. AYY: The idea behind these funds or giving circles is that you leverage your philanthropy. If 20 friends were to donate $100 to a women’s shelter in dribs and drabs, the money would go to the general fund. However, $2000 (or $20,000) could be earmarked for something more substantial, and the fund could be more influential in choosing what that would be. In addition, the transaction costs for donating to individual causes may be higher than the administrative costs of donating to a fund. How do you research what charities are best or most efficient? Just like investing in individual stocks v. a mutual fund/index fund, a philanthropic fund centralizes these research costs.

  5. Donna Douglass says:

    I am involved in starting a women’s fund right now. One answer to AYY’s question, “Why go through the rigamarol?” is that the “rigamarole” is the democratic process. There are still numerous instances of women not having full democratic experiences in their daily lives–even women “of means.” In fact, sometimes, especially, women of means. They are often married to men who make all the philanthropic decisions in the family–not to mention the importance of women’s funds in emerging economies around the world. Our plan is to raise $50,000 in pooled funds each year to be awarded to only one or two nonprofit projects that will have significant impact in our community. At the same time we are accepting contributions to a Women’s Fund Endowment so that this experience will be available to our daughters and granddaughters.