Going Strong: Women’s Foundations in the Southwest

 Tuscon, AZ. Photo:  Chris Rubino/shutterstock

Tuscon, AZ. Photo:  Chris Rubino/shutterstock

In recent months, we’ve taken a closer look at women’s foundations and women’s giving circles in some major American cities. Economic security has been a top priority of many of these groups lately, and they also tend to support small nonprofits in their home regions with general operating support.

One place where women's funders are doing well is the Southwest, with record setting commitments and innovative focus areas.

Here we highlight two different women’s funders in the region that have some big things going on—one in Dallas, and the other in Tucson. A lot of our women-centric giving coverage lately has been about giving circles. But these are two independent foundations that are committed to the needs of women and girls in their communities.

The Dallas Women’s Foundation is actually one of the older women's foundations in the U.S. It was created in 1985 and, as we've discussed in the past, one of its founders—Helen LaKelly Hunt—is well known as a pioneer of women's philanthropy. More than thirty years later, DWF is going stronger than ever. It recently set a grant giving record, reaching a total of $4,544,515 through 198 grants benefitting women and girls in 2017.

This is a funder that’s been deep into funding efforts to enable women-led households to get on a stronger footing. New grants were awarded as part of DWF’s annual community grants, as well as its strategic initiative areas of child care, economic security, healthcare, and leadership.

Like many other women’s foundations, economic security is at the top of DWF’s priority list. This funding area is all about advancing opportunities for women and girls to obtain quality education and job training in order to become more financially secure and capable. The foundation gave more than $750,000 in 2017 to this initiative, directly benefiting 11,000 women and girls.

Yet the largest grantmaking category for DWF last year was access to healthcare. The funder gave $972,000 through this initiative to help 16,000 women and their families access healthcare and safety net programs. 

It's not surprising to see DFW doing so well. There's a lot of wealth around right now in North Texas, after years of economic expansion and stock market gains. And here, as elsewhere, more of that wealth is the hands of women. 

Meanwhile, the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona is also doing well. This group is based in Tucson and recently won a national award for supporting two-generation solutions to local poverty. Here at IP, we’ve discussed intergenerational funding that ties children and seniors together for mutual benefit. But this women’s foundation effort is a bit different.

Rather than targeting unrelated seniors and kids, WFSA has been focusing its poverty approach on both struggling parents and their children. The foundation received recognition and $150,000 from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Women’s Funding Network to help create public-private partnerships related to child care, early childhood development, workforce development, and career opportunities for low-income women. Interestingly, the Dallas Women’s Foundation also received one of these awards, as well as the Women’s Foundation of Colorado and the Women’s Foundation of Greater Birmingham.

Dawne Bell, CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona said:

We’re so excited to be leveraging these tremendous resources to help bring a bold approach. It’s really about breaking down silos. This is about creating a connection between child-care systems and workforce systems.

This is an especially relevant time for WFSA to be working on this issue because the poverty rate in Arizona has increased by about 37 percent in the last decade. And among the single-parent households that are below the poverty level, about 80 percent of them single-parent households led by women. Like many states, the Arizona state government has cut subsidies and programs that help families like these, thereby increasing the need for women-focused philanthropy in the region. WFSA has been awarding grants since 1991. In 2017, the group awarded over $700,000 in grants to 28 organizations.

Depending on where you’re based in the Southwest, you can learn about applying for a Dallas Women’s Foundation grant here, and a Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona grant here.

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