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Investing In Women of Color Is An Investment In Our Entire Communities

// June 14, 2023

Women & Girls of Color Fund Fills A Gap for Women of Color Leaders, But More Resources Needed

Women and girls of color receive about one half of one percent of the total $66.9 billion given by foundations, according to Giving USA, 2018. It’s literally pocket change, as first described by the Ms. Foundation in 2020.

With women of color leading so many transformative movements in the U.S. currently and historically — including increasing voting access, gun safety, abortion access, and fair wages — they deserve to be invested in not with pocket change, but with significant resources. While their community impact far outweighs the funding they receive, they contend with expectations to “fix decade-long problems within a few short years but are provided with little personal and professional support,” according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, placing them at the edge of a glass cliff.

Grantees and Community Members Evaluate the Impact of the Women & Girls of Color Fund

Through the Women & Girls of Color Fund at The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, we are reimagining philanthropy from the inside out. The fund focuses solely on investing in women and nonbinary leaders of color, but does not dictate how the funds should be used. However, restricted dollars have been given for self-care to ensure the executive director takes care of their wellness.It encourages them to lead authentically, with flexibility, consideration of the whole person, and with support for personal development.

“Liberatory leadership is at the heart of the Women & Girls of Color Fund,” said Camisha Lashbrook, WFCO donor relations manager. “Our grantees prioritize liberatory practices such as collective leadership, self and community care, and culturally relevant approaches both internally and externally.

“It’s hard to raise money for operating costs, let alone the care needed to prevent burnout and foster a culture that cares for women and nonbinary people of color. We are proud that funding from the Women & Girls of Color Fund can support our grantees in those critical ways.”

With the Women & Girls of Color Fund, WFCO enlisted the help of Point b(e) Strategies to evaluate the impact of our grantmaking programs. This report highlights what we have learned from our grantees and the community about the impact of The Women & Girls of Color Fund through surveys, focus groups, and a community engagement initiative.

What’s clear is that while the Women & Girls of Color Fund is making a difference for organizations and community members, women of color leaders remain under-resourced and under-supported.

Outcome #1: Women of color grantees are able to more deeply support their organizations and communities.

93% of organizations reported they were able to invest in their operations, 81% reported they were able to invest in their staff, and 41% said they had more time to focus on fundraising.

Those who reported they were able to invest in operations shared they were able to hire more staff, promote staff, give raises, and provide benefits. They were also able to support their staff’s wellness through things like gym memberships, healing energy work, yoga, and other ways that honor their culture.

Additionally, 85% of grantees reported they were able to increase the quality of services, with 74% reporting the had more capacity to work closely with their communities and to listen to their communities.

Community members agreed. One person commented, “What feels different is how clear it is that The Learning Council really does care about giving back to the community. So many informative workshops, community meals, markets bringing the community together.”

Outcome #2: Women of color grantees are able to take a range of approaches to advancing the economic security of women and girls of color based on their communities’ needs.

70% of grantees were able to increase the variety of their approaches of services or programs, while 74% were able to increase their adaptability to respond to and address community-based needs.

One community member said, “The immediate response to community food needs when COVID hit was extremely impactful and supportive….We were able to find friends, resources, jobs, and support when we found Sheridan Rising Together for Equity.”

Another community member reported, “Action is Safer lifts up and values queer people and while there are other local groups doin this, Action is Safer is the only one I have found that also values disabled people and recognizes that there are disabled people in all other oppressed groups…There is a genuine sense of trust and mutuality in this org…”

Outcome #3: Women of color grantees feel more connected to other women of color who are leading organizations.

64% of grantees said they feel supported as a leader of color and they feel connected to other leaders of color, yet 80% stated they still need more support as leaders of color.

One grantee shared feedback that although they get support, they still feel a sense of isolation as their fellow leaders of color are all barely making it or exhausted themselves.

WFCO staff has begun to host monthly Zoom gatherings for any woman or nonbinary executive director located in Colorado. Registration is required.

Outcome #4: Women of color grantees feel they are better able to perform at their full potential.

68% of respondents reported that they felt better able to perform at their fullest potential within their organization, yet only 36% reported feeling less stressed in their jobs.

“It has given me hope, dignity, and inspiration to keep fighting, although exhausting, this funding proved there are great possibilities for funding that align with our values as an organization,” said one executive director.

While nearly all respondents (92%) feel they lead authentically, only a little more than a third (36%) are able to practice self-care, and less than a third (32%) are unable to set boundaries for themselves.

“We know that women of color leaders are extremely under resourced,” said Lashbrook. “And even when there’s funding for it, leaders may feel guilty spending money on care rather than putting it directly into programming. The scarcity mindset and competitive environment that funders create are recipes for burnout. Through the Women & Girls of Color Fund, WFCO hopes to help move the needle toward a culture of collective care within the funding process.”

Outcome #5: Women of color grantees increase their funding by leveraging funding from The Women’s Foundation of Colorado.

Nearly half of all respondents (46%) were able to leverage their Women & Girls of Color Fund grant to secure additional funding.

We recognize how hard it is for women-of-color led organizations to get their first institutional funder, and once they do, often other funders are more likely to feel that they’ve been “vetted.”

The complete evaluation report can be read here

What’s Next?

Since 2021, WFCO has invested nearly $1.4m into organizations across the state through our Women & Girls of Color Fund. Our most recent cycle of funding for rural grantees invested in 18 organizations for a total of $249,500. Letters of intent interest for the next cycle of Front Range grants open June 13 and close on July 13 at 5pm. Apply here.

Featured image: Gloria Kat, executive director of Fort Collins’ The Family Center/La Familia, with development director, Analia Weber. 

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