Women have begun to move forward politically, economically, professionally. They have done so by working with and for each other. But each step forward has revealed still more ground as yet untouched by women's leadership.
Traditional foundations and corporations have typically not directed their monies toward projects that specifically benefit women. As recently as 1996, foundations gave less than 5% of their dollars to women's programs.
The social and economic status of women calls for philanthropic attention. Women have redefined the very idea of philanthropy in a climate where:
Women have begun to put pressure on existing foundations to change their funding and decision-making practices to better address the needs of women. And, more importantly, they have begun to establish funds whose sole purpose is to assist women.
The number of women's foundations has grown from 4 in 1980 to 28 in 1986. Their fundraising efforts have already yielded some impressive results. Two foundations in San Francisco and Philadelphia, for example, each raised a half million dollars in 1985. In New York the Ms. Foundation generated more than $700,000 in a single year. In Minnesota, the Women's Fund has fulfilled the realization of a $10 million endowment.
Women's foundations use their monies in various ways. One allocates funds to groups working with low-income women; one limits its grants to individual feminists in the arts; one provides support to native women's organizations.
Whatever their emphasis, the 70 women's funds hold in common the philosophy that women draw their strength from and can therefore empower each other.
The Michigan Women's Foundation is the most recently organized philanthropy of and for women. Founded and endowed in 1986 with a gift of one million dollars, it is the first philanthropic enterprise of this kind in the state of Michigan, the only statewide public fund designed specifically for women and girls.
The Foundation emerged not only from the recognition that many women are -- even in the 1990s -- without the means or knowledge to assume full control of their own lives, especially financial control. In response, the Foundation's particular philanthropic mission is to generate economic power and independence for women in a socially just society.
The foundation believes that women and girls continue to face significant barriers and challenges to reaching their full potential. Therefore, the Michigan Women's Foundation promotes economic self-sufficiency and personal well-being of women and girls of the State and strives to maximize their contributions to society. We do this by providing assistance and funds to non-profit organizations serving women and girls; by educating the general public, policy makers and donors; and by encouraging women and girls to exercise their responsibilities as philanthropists.
To fulfill its mission, the Foundation has established four major goals and has identified significant projects by which these goals can be realized.
Goal 1: MWF will fund programs that address the economic self-sufficiency, health, and well-being of Michigan's women and girls.
In an attempt to redress the economic disadvantages of low-income women and girls, the Michigan Women's Foundation will sponsor:
Sample Project: On-going and new direct service activities
Through grant allocations, the Foundation will work to strengthen the stability and self-sufficiency of on-going projects, such as legal aid programs, shelters, educational assistance funds, and job training efforts which directly serves poor women and girls. In addition, the Foundation will provide seed funding for new programs designed to redress the economic disadvantages of low-income women and girls. The Foundation intends such allocations to serve as incentives for agencies or organizations to give attention to neglected populations (rural women, disabled girls, etc.).
Goal 2: MWF will expand Young Women for Change to encourage philanthropy in girls and to expand their life choices.
To develop those qualities which result in leadership; potential, the Michigan Women's Foundation will establish programs such as:
Young Women for Change (YWFC)
A girls as grantsmakers program which targets the needs of girls and young women. A diverse committee of 20 teenage girls from urban, suburban, public, private, and charter schools distribute $20,000 per year in grants. Chapters of YWFC are operating In Kent County and in the Metro Detroit east side area. Other sites will be established statewide as funding is procured.
Goal 3: MWF will provide leadership in the dialogue about issues facing women and girls through its publications, research, meetings, and programs.
MWF pulishes research reports, such as its report on the status of women's health, and forms collaborations to address critical needs.
MWF helped create the Michigan Women's Directory, a database of capable and accomplished women. This recent partnership with Crain's Detroit Business and Executive Recruiters International helps Michigan companies and non-profits search for women candidates for their board of directors.
Goal 4: MWF will secure the resources it needs to ensure the financial stability necessary to effectively carry out is mission as a statewide organization. Projects include:
BOARD OF TRUSTEES. The Board, numbering no fewer than nine and no more than twenty-five directors, will be responsible for the policy decisions of the Foundation.
STAFF. An executive director and five staff members will be responsible for day-to-day decisions.
FRIENDS: Friends include men and women whose time or money support the work of the Foundation.
COMMITTEES: The work of the Foundation will be carried out by board members, staff, and friends serving on the following committees: Executive, Fund Development, Allocations, Nominating, Finance, Communications, and Advisory.
Contributions of money, time, and expertise will be vitally important to the growth and effectiveness of the Foundation. Such gifts might include:
The Foundation has established fund development goals to be realized in the next eighteen months. The goals include:
The Michigan Women's Foundation owes its existence to the following women:
The Foundation exists so that Michigan women -- women of all classes, ages, colors, and economic means -- can transform and be transformed. Such transformation will occur when women know themselves as mutually linked to each other, mutually responsible for creating the common good.