All In for Women and Girls

Jul 29, 2019

by Rachel Siegel

A new report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, All In for Women & Girls, explores the characteristics of women’s fund and foundation donors. For example, compared to general donors, they have given to women’s and girls’ causes for a longer period of time and give higher amounts to charity, to more organizations, and use different tools and strategies for giving, such as giving circles and wills. These donors see themselves and philanthropy differently, considering themselves experts, leaders, and activist donors. Women’s fund and foundation donors are more satisfied and more focused on evaluating their giving, having direct contact with organizations and taking on leadership positions. Finally, the report found that women’s fund and foundation donors are more likely to be giving at capacity to women and girls, and are more likely to increase their giving to those causes if they were to have more resources.

I found this report to be telling, but also not surprising, since it describes donors to the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York so well. One of the greatest assets of our organization is the committed volunteers who use their time and resources toward creating a more equitable world for Jewish women leaders and women and girls around the world. This is a good thing, because we are a donor-driven grantmaking organization. Those who volunteer with us span the generations; they are in their 20s through their 80s and everywhere in between. Just as the report indicates, the majority of our donors are female. The report found that 11.8% of women’s fund or foundation donors identified as LGBTQ, compared to 4.2% of the full sample, and 11.8% are people of color, compared to 9.7%. We are looking to make our Board of Directors and donor base more diverse and the two characteristics highlighted are among those in which we need to continue to improve. We have recently added two women of color to our Board, which will help us to add new perspectives to our work, but we still have a ways to go to meeting our goals. Our volunteers have experience with grantmaking, both with JWFNY and with other foundations. Many have been involved with the JWFNY for at least a decade, which is common for women’s fund donors, some since JWFNY was founded nearly 25 years ago. Their passion for creating lasting change for women and girls in the Jewish community remains unwavering. Just like other women’s fund and foundation donors, our volunteers “bring thoughtfulness and intention to their giving to women and girls.”

One unique aspect of our work is that donors to JWFNY have the opportunity to really engage with our grantmaking. In the past year, JWFNY changed our direction, shifting from a focus on organizations and programs serving women and girls to a commitment to women leaders themselves who use their transformative leadership to make change around the world. Our volunteers took a leap of faith with us, spending hours reading applications, doing online research, interviewing participants, and making final decisions about where communal dollars are spent. We gave them tools that enable them to be philanthropic leaders in this field, selecting the first cohort of Jewish women social entrepreneurs to The Collective that are tackling intractable issues affecting women and girls around the world. The decisions they have made do not only live on paper, but our volunteers will have the opportunity to engage and learn from our grantees at our inaugural Convening on September 17th. Those who choose to sit at our decision-making tables are filled with pride, not only in the final results of their labor, but also in the personal growth achieved through the collaborative grantmaking process. We like to think of our volunteers as visionary leaders because they are inspired, creative, and innovative. The WPI report is added proof of how special they are.