This research extends knowledge of women’s foundations and funds in the U.S. following the publication of a landscape scan of these organizations in May 2019. The landscape scan revealed that women’s foundations and funds use philanthropy to empower women, create positive change, and impact women and the broader community. They foster empowerment, change, and impact through grantmaking and by engaging in other activities, including advocacy and collaboration. The landscape scan also found that women’s foundations and funds often apply grantmaking philosophies, such as social change and gender lens philanthropy, and carry out their work through a variety of approaches. This study builds on the landscape scan to better understand how these organizations set goals, measure impact, and take action to advance the causes they care about.

This study was guided by the following primary research question: How do U.S. women’s funds understand their goals and impact? More specifically:

  • How do women’s funds achieve their goals and impact through grantmaking?
  • How do women’s funds achieve their goals and impact through activities beyond grantmaking?
  • How do women’s funds demonstrate intersectionality?


Finding 1: Women’s funds share the broad goal of advancing women’s philanthropy; their specifc objectives, and the ways in which they pursue them, vary widely.

Finding 2: Women’s funds define impact in different ways, and have been most successful at achieving short-term goals through empowerment and community-based change.

Finding 3: Women’s funds pursue their organizational goals through multiple grantmaking approaches, like gender-lens and community-based philanthropy, designed to elevate their impact.

Finding 4: Many women’s funds go beyond grantmaking to achieve impact, engaging in activities such as relationship building, partnerships, and policy advocacy to pursue broader social change.

Finding 5: Women’s funds demonstrate intersectionality in their pursuit of goals and impact, using different lenses and voices in decision making.