Women’s Groups in Arizona: Here’s a Possible Funder for You

Women’s issues are often broadly defined in terms of entrepreneurship and gender violence, and there’s one local funder that’s put an exclusive priority on the women and girls of Southern Arizona. The Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona (WFSA) has funded more than 170 local organizations and the Spring Unidas Grants RFP just opened up on March 1. This is a funding opportunity for nonprofits that fight gender and sexual violence and encourage girls’ and women’s empowerment and leadership.

WFSA hasn’t been around all that long, but it’s addressing a key local need. In fact, this is the foundation that’s exclusively devoted to programs that serve women and girls. At least 17 percent of women in Southern Arizona live in poverty, and that rate more than doubles for female-headed households with children. The Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona is also a supporting organization of the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona.

Here are a few key things to know about this very specialized funder:

Three Counties, Three Categories

Grantmaking is generally restricted to the Southern Arizona counties of Pima, Cochise, and Santa Cruz. The three program categories for grants are (1) health, safety and well-being, (2) economic justice, and (3) social justice and human rights.

Unrestricted and Multi-Year Grants

Grantseekers can rejoice in the fact that WFSA awards unrestricted and multi-year grants. Since 2011, the foundation has funded unrestricted grants of $10,000 to $15,000 to help organizations increase their capacity to promote economic self-sufficiency for women. The foundation’s Equity & Opportunity Fund grants are $75,000 three-year grants that provide sustained support to organizations to develop or increase the capacity of programs helping women and girls.

Only a Dozen or Two Organizations Get Support Each Year

In 2014, WFSA awarded 15 total grants totaling $265,000. Although this isn’t a multi-million dollar funder, it works in a particular area often overlooked by many larger foundations. Since its inception, the foundation has awarded more than 300 grants totaling more than $2.25 million. Current grantees include Accion for an economic opportunity and entrepreneur employment program, CGTI for a career advising program, the Mariposa Community Health Center, and Planned Parenthood of Arizona.

Site Visits Are Common

Like many small funders, WFSA makes a regular practice of conducting site visits. These typically take place in February. After that, grantees are notified of their awards in March.

Community Volunteers Review Proposals

Each year, volunteers review the grant proposals that the foundation receives. Then the volunteers make recommendations to the board of trustees. The board is a community-based volunteer board that sets the funding priorities. There are currently four women who serve as staff for the foundation, led by CEO Dawne Bell. She just joined the foundation in January and who comes from a social justice and nonprofit background in New York City, New Mexico, and Michigan.