What are women's funds?

Women’s funds are international, regional and national grant makers that support groups working towards women’s empowerment.  They invest in women and in women-led solutions and build the leadership of grassroots groups that address the issues of women and girls within their context.

The first women’s funds were established in the 1970s by women who saw that little mainstream philanthropic funding was being specifically targeted at women and girls. To address these gaps, these women created vehicles to redress this funding imbalance and to provide a new “gender lens” in philanthropy.

Thirty years later, not only has the number of women’s funds grown rapidly, but the total giving by women’s funds, particularly in the South, has increased at a faster rate than foundation giving on the whole.  The distinctive contributions of women’s funds stem from the overall impact of their grant-making as well as the strides they have achieved in gaining recognition for the importance of investing in women and girls as essential solution-builders. The growth of women’s funds likewise suggests that funders are becoming increasingly aware of the potential for accelerating social change by investing in women and women-led organisations.

Most women’s funds function as both fundraisers and grant-makers, amassing and investing resources for the benefit of women and communities. The capacity of women’s funds is broad and deep — broad enough to propel worldwide transformation and deep enough to engage and empower women on the ground. Thus, this movement unites money, ideas and action to create lasting change for women, girls, their families and communities.

What we fund
In the Issues Affecting Women Programme, we currently fund a number of women’s funds operating in the global south and east, including the two international women’s funds, Mama Cash amd Global Fund for Women. We also fund the International Network of Women’s Fund, which seeks to strengthen the capacity and impact of women’s funds worldwide by providing mechanisms for emerging and established funds to share experiences, test ideas, and promote understanding of women's rights activism, feminism and philanthropy.