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Empowering Women in Philanthropy

Introduction: What's Wrong with this Picture?

In 1990, for example, the United Way gave the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) $39 million more than the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). The Boy Scouts received $32 million more than the Girl Scouts from United Way affiliates. Allocations for Boys Clubs (now called Boys and Girls Clubs) and Girls Clubs (now called Girls, Inc.) show a more extreme discrepancy, with Girls, Inc. being outfunded seven-to-one.

Of $3.25 billion given in a sample of 1990 foundation grants, only 5%, or $165.8 million, went to programs specifically aimed at women and girls.

There's an even greater need for advocacy and services among women of color, who are three times more likely to be poor than white women. Out of a sample of 2,700 foundation grants that went to women and girls in 1989, only 110, or 4%, went specifically to women and girls of color.

The small burst of fundraising activity that moved women's programs from a mere 2% of the pie in the mid- Seventies to only 5% today is viewed as if it "solved" the problem of "past" under-funding. Funding women's programs is seen as out-of-vogue today by many large foundations. Worse yet, according to the National Council for Research on Women, many professional fundraisers believe that having Swomen" or "girls" in the name of an organization or as the focus of an organization's grant proposal is the "kiss of death" for successful fundraising from the largest foundations or agencies.

Programs Serving Both Sexes Are Biased

Both private foundations and public charities are quick to point out that most of their grants go to "broad- based" programs that serve everyone. In practice, however, the broadbased programs usually offer more to men and boys than to women and girls.

At Big Brothers/Big Sisters, for example, boys get a much bigger share of the pie. Of the 60,000 young people that the organization served in 1990,45,000 were boys, meaning that only 25% of those served were girls. This was in spite of the fact that there were far more Big Sister volunteers than Big Brother volunteers.

(Empowering Women in Philanthropy, The Empowering Women Series, No. 3; A Publication of the Feminist Majority Foundation, 1991.)