"First to Invest." The Latest From a Women's Foundation That's Not Afraid of a Challenge


The New York Women's Foundation is always worth keeping an eye on, as a longtime leader in funding for gender equity and related issues. Last month, this funder announced $4.135 million in grants to 43 organizations that serve women, girls, trans, and gender fluid individuals and families in poverty in New York City. This investment makes up the foundation’s giving for the first half of 2018. It plans to award $9 million in total this year. It has granted more than $69 million since 1987.

The foundation focuses on economic security, anti-violence and safety; health, sexual rights and reproductive justice, and capacity building for grantee partners. It does not shy away from challenging causes like fighting human trafficking and supporting poor transgender youth in urban environments. It states it is “often the first to invest in emerging community-led solutions.” It frequently gives to the same partners repeatedly and prides itself on practicing participatory grantmaking, in which guidance is sought from members of the involved communities.

“Our grantmaking strategy creates opportunities to identify, support, and strengthen effective women-led, gender competent, community-based responses and solutions with the intention of achieving long-lasting change, including individual transformation, community engagement, mobilization, and systemic change,” Ana Oliveira, president and CEO of the foundation, said in a statement. Gender competence usually refers to an individual or group’s ability to recognize how societal gender norms and biases can influence perspectives and situations.

With its latest round of investments, the foundation has awarded multiyear grants under the umbrellas of “Early Investment” and “Resilience NYC—Civic Engagement” to 21 organizations for the first time. These are intended to allow the groups to carry out both short- and long-term projects.

“Multiyear grants allow grantee partners to dedicate more of their attention and time to achieving their goals and increase their impact. At a time when most community-based leaders and organizations experience an environment less supportive of their needs and leadership, the foundation is focusing on increasing our support and partnership,” Oliveira told Inside Philanthropy.

“Long-term investment in grantee partners facilitates organizational sustainability,” the funder’s site states. The spring 2018 grants range from $40,000 to $150,000. Six organizations and their initiatives have been granted $150,000:

  • Generation Citizen, Young Women Leaders of Tomorrow Program—for efforts to create civic education curriculum and opportunities for students

  • IGNITE, IGNITE Political Power in Young Women Across New York City Program—for work to involve young women in politics

  • New American Leaders, New American Women Leaders Program—for work to support individuals from African, Arab, Asian Pacific Islander, Caribbean American and Latino communities in becoming political candidates and local leaders

  • New York City Anti-Violence Project, Leadership Development/Civic Engagement Initiative—for work to empower people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected communities and allies “to end all forms of violence” through organizing, education, counseling, and advocacy

  • New York Immigration Coalition, Women Count: 2020 Census & Redistricting—to support a policy and advocacy group made up of more than 200 immigrant and refugee rights groups in New York

  • VoteRunLead, VoteRunLead for Transformative Scale—for work to “train women to run for political office and win.”

One of the newer grantees is Jahajee Sisters, which has a mission to “create a safe and equitable society for underserved Indo-Caribbean women and girls through healing, the arts and leadership development.” It received $60,000. Another first-time recipient is the Coro New York Leadership Center, which partners with the New York City Council to increase the amplitude of youth voices in government and to engage young people in participatory budgeting. It received $125,000.

Another significant undertaking of the foundation in recent years was co-founding the NYC Fund for Girls and Women of Color with the NoVo Foundation. It’s a group of funders increasing investment in women of color in New York and indigenous young women in the Tri-State area. The fund started grantmaking in 2015 and has since awarded more than $2 million.

The foundation also supported an initiative called “A Call to Men,” which has programs designed to help men develop healthy perspectives and behaviors toward women, with a $100,000 grant. These two groups have co-hosted several men’s trainings, including in 2015 and 2017.

In 2018, the foundation launched a campaign called Radical Generosity at Work on March 8, International Women’s Day. This initiative calls on individuals and companies to form employee fundraising teams. Money contributed will be used to create workforce development and other economic opportunities for women. Regarding this project, Oliveira pointed out that “only 7.5 percent of foundation funding goes to causes specific to women and girls,” as Inside Philanthropy previously reported.

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