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Women’s group aims high

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By Jennifer Whytock

Despite tough economic conditions, the Women’s Funding Network said it still aims to meet the 10-year goal it set in 1998 to triple assets of its member foundations that support women and girls.

The group’s target is for its members’ assets to grow to $450 million by 2008, up from $220 million now and triple 1998 assets of $150 million, says Emily Katz Kishawi, the network’s membership and communications director.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is giving $4.8 million over four years to help the network reach its goal.

While most charities are struggling to bring in new donations, women’s foundations have been successful by appealing to a broad pool of people, particularly middle-class women, says Christine Grumm, the network’s executive director.

Katz Kishawi says the network “faces many of the same challenges as other foundations in this economy, but most of our members are resilient and are being creative.”

Faced with pressure to reduce grants, for example, a foundation member in Maine opted to postpone filling a vacant position so it could make grants, she says.

Few network members have reported staff cuts, and most are maintaining the level of service they provide in their communities.

However, many nonprofits supported by network members are struggling to reach fundraising goals and have had to cut staff, services, and programs, says Katz Kishawi.

The Women’s Funding Network is an umbrella organization of 94 foundations that make at least 75 percent of their grants to women and girls’ groups, and have a majority of women in leadership roles.

It also includes 28 associate members.

Women’s foundations have existed in large U.S. cities for many years, but increasingly are forming in small urban centers such as Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio; and Monterey, Calif.

Since 1985, foundations in the network have made over $200 million in grants to support causes such as economic development, women’s health and preventing violence against women.

In 2001, 1,000 of the largest foundations in the U.S. gave over $1 billion to programs mainly serving women and girls, about 6 percent of their total giving, says Steven Lawrence, director of research at the Foundation Center in New York.

Roughly 6 percent of foundation grant dollars support women and girls’ programs, a level that has remained steady for many years, he says.

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