Washington Area Women's Foundation

Closing the Gap in Funding for Women and Gender-Expansive People of Color

At The Women’s Foundation, we know that philanthropy is not immune to the racist ideas that permeate society. In 2016, we publicly committed to tackling racism head on and advancing equity for women and girls of color. We committed to better understand how racism shows up in our sector and to fix it from within. We also began our team journey to learn about addressing anti-Black racism and bias with an intersectional lens, and to increase our investments in movements and organizations led by Black and Brown women and gender-expansive people.

But even when many progressive philanthropists are moving in the same direction as us to bring about racial justice, foundations are less likely to publicly identify women and girls of color as a priority. Less than one percent of the total 66.9 billion given by foundations in the US goes towards Black and Brown women and gender-expansive people, largely remaining out of sight in public discourses and funding.

As data on the burden of the pandemic started to circulate, we were not surprised to learn that across the board, communities of color, particularly women, queer, and trans people of color, have been the hardest hit, disproportionately dying from the disease, but also experiencing increased job loss, economic insecurity, violence, and harassment.

During normal circumstances, organizations by and for women and girls of color do extensive critical work with extremely limited resources. At the outset of the crisis, we were concerned about the pressure the coronavirus outbreak would exert on their budgets, knowing their work would more than duplicate and that these organizations typically face significant barriers to unrestricted foundation funding. But we also knew that despite the historic lack of support from philanthropy, women of color-led organizations would bear the burden of the wide-reaching and multi-faceted consequences of the public health crisis and resulting economic downturn, but that as they have done time and time again, they would be at the forefront of social change, leading with resilience, power, and determination.

During this unprecedented time of social upheaval, social isolation, and economic depression, it is more important than ever for us to live our gender equity and racial justice values, and support small organizations led by women and gender-expansive people of color who are responding to the outbreak with a gender and race lens, and who understand the specific risks and vulnerabilities women and girls of color face.

For our first round of emergency funds—with investments totaling $100,000—we identified an issue area with critical gaps in funding and where the need has been significantly exacerbated by the pandemic—the safety of women experiencing violence.

We are supporting organizations that work to counter gender-based violence through a trust-based approach that is transparent, streamlined, flexible and removes unnecessary barriers that disproportionately impact small organizations without dedicated capacity to complete funder-imposed paperwork. Most of the organizations we are supporting have received little to no financial support from other Covid-19 emergency response efforts, are led by women or gender-expansive people of color, provide culturally specific and trauma-informed services, and build deep relationships with survivors of sexual and domestic violence at the intersections of gender, race, and other identities. Our grants are unrestricted funding to ensure our Grantee Partners will have flexibility to allocate funds where they are needed the most and where they will make a real difference—whether that’s on the project they originally applied for or to respond to emergent needs.

Through this round of grantmaking, we build on the work we have been doing over the past four years to fight anti-Black racism and to create an ecosystem where nonprofit leaders are valued, supported, and trusted. Now more than ever we are proud to be a community supported foundation that invests in the power of women and girls of color in the Washington DC region.

As a feminist in philanthropy working to advance gender and racial equity, I am thrilled we are investing in organizations that center the voices and experiences of women and girls of color and who are led by women and gender-expansive people of color. I am proud we are supporting the leadership of women and gender expansive people of color through our work, and we hope others in the sector recognize the importance of supporting organizations by and for women and girls of color through their racial justice investments.

The following innovative, resilient, and courageous organizations addressing the immediate impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, are our latest Grantee Partners, and we are looking forward to supporting them beyond the grant.

Asian-Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project $20,000
Bringing a part-time case manager to help ease the very high caseload they have because of COVID-19. Their cases have increased by 70 percent because of new clients and recurring clients who have been triggered.

Building Bridges Foundation $5,000
Linking survivors of domestic violence who seek emergency medical services at United Medical Center with wrap around services and case management to help them exit abusive relationships.

Community Advocates for Family and Youth $15,000
Increasing their pro bono counseling availability to clients who do not have health insurance or who are undocumented and increasing the client financial assistance fund to directly support client needs.

DC Rape Crisis Center $15,000
For general operating support to advance the mission of the DCRCC in advocating for, and providing services to, survivors of sexual violence.

DEAF DAWN $20,000
Supporting their overall programming, including resource referral, case management, wrap around services, peer advocacy, counseling, support groups, resiliency education, and emergency crisis support

Tahirih Justice Center, Greater Washington Region  $10,000
For general operating support to advance the mission of providing free legal and social services to immigrant women and girls fleeing violence, and to provide direct financial assistance and meet the basic needs of their clients.

The Safe Sisters Circle $15,000
Bringing a temporary staff attorney to assist The Safe Sisters Circle’s sole attorney with the influx of survivor’s cases during COVID-19 and immediately afterwards.