This Black history month, give where it counts


Elizabeth Barajas-Román


Dollars go further when you support women’s funds that invest in Black communities.

The recent open letter to philanthropy by the Black Feminist Fund, co-signed by several other major foundations, highlighted the urgency for greater investment in nonprofits led by Black women, saying that ‘across our most urgent global challenges, Black feminists are dreaming and delivering the solutions we need.’ We agree. If we’re truly going to help advance justice for all, we need to get comfortable funding efforts led by Black women and gender non-conforming people.

From my work leading the Women’s Funding Network, the world’s largest philanthropic alliance for gender equity, I can tell you that these funding initiatives are what will drive true change. Women’s funds – community foundations created with the goal of accelerating progress for all by investing in the feminist leadership of women, girls, and gender non-conforming people, especially people of the global majority – have consistently been at the forefront of deploying capital to nonprofits and grassroots organizations that support Black women. They’re usually doing it with fewer resources and support as they tackle deeply entrenched issues, ranging from maternal mortality to economic security. And that needs to change.

Currently, we face an abysmal lack of investment. Of the $67 billion dollars of charitable donations made by foundations in the U.S. in a single year, less than 0.02 per cent of that was specified as benefiting causes that support Black women and girls, who represent seven per cent of the population.

Yet we know from a recent survey we commissioned of nearly 100 gender equity funders, our 2022 Landscape Report on Gender Equity Grantmakers, that the overwhelming majority of women’s funds are championing and enabling work centred on both gender and racial justice. And the majority (51 per cent) of our network’s US, place-based women’s funds are led by women of colour, 73 per cent of whom identify as Black. The work WFN members are doing demonstrates what’s possible and serves as a blueprint for how funders can invest in the leadership and vision of Black women.

Ready to join us? Here are a few great places to start funding important work at the intersection of gender justice and racial justice:

  • The Black Girl Freedom Fund, led by Grantmakers for Girls of Color, which is calling for the investment of $1 billion in Black girls and young women over the next 10 years (#1Billion4BlackGirls), raised over $20 million in their first year from the co-investments of over 15 institutional funders and more than 1,000 individual donors, including celebrities like Ciara and Gabrielle Union. And they’ve begun deploying funds to grant recipients who are focused specifically on addressing the wellness and safety of Black girls.
  • The Canadian Women’s Foundation is currently awarding up to $20,000 to 25 grantees through its 2023 Community Needs Grant, which provides short-term support for nonprofits doing gender justice work with a focus on smaller grassroots organizations, including those focused on gender-based programming that supports Black women.
  • The Women’s Foundation of Colorado’s Women & Girls of Color Fund directs capital to grassroots movements that traditional philanthropy might label ‘too risky’ but are built on the lived experiences of women of colour, with a focus on accelerating the economic security of these women.
  • The Women’s Foundation of Greater Memphis launched their Vision 2025 strategic plan with the goal of increasing investment and reducing poverty in five Memphis neighbourhoods by 2025. During the first year, 1,705 residents participated in job skills training and more than 200 were placed in jobs.

Women’s funds are an important piece of the funding landscape that need to be more widely recognized and resourced. We’ve seen what’s possible when we’re intentional about funding organizations that share our core belief about the connection between gender and racial justice. It starts with funding organizations that are led by Black feminists, dedicated to improving the lives of everyone, everywhere.

Elizabeth Barajas-Román is the President & CEO of the Women’s Funding Network, the world’s largest philanthropic alliance for gender equity.

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