Women Changing Face of Philanthropy : Grants Rise to Groups Benefiting Females as More Enter the Field

Times Staff Writer

Like poverty, philanthropy is being feminized.

Traditionally, white male graduates of elite Eastern schools ran nearly every grant-making foundation in the country that was big enough to have a paid staff. Overall they targeted less than 1% of their grants to organizations dedicated to serving women and girls, one study showed.

“Ten years ago philanthropy was almost exclusively an old boys’ network,” said Joanne Hayes of New York, executive director of Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy, which was formed in 1977 to get more foundation and corporate grants for women’s and girls’ organizations and to get more women in careers in philanthropy.

Up in Last Decade


Today, Hayes estimates, women’s and girls’ organizations get between 3% and 5% of foundation and corporate grants, up from 0.6% in 1974-76 and more women are entering the field. Hayes said grants targeted to organizations serving men and boys in the mid-'70s were at least 10 times greater than grants for women’s and girls organizations.

Hayes and others say that these changes result from women’s groups pressing for grants, from women foundation trustees asserting themselves and from growing numbers of women breaking into foundation work as program officers and executives, although often at lower pay than men in similar positions earn.

Several hundred women with careers giving away other people’s money gathered here this week to discuss their successes, how to channel more grants to women’s and girls’ organizations and how to get more power and money for themselves.

And high on their agenda is fighting the feminization of poverty by making grants to organizations that help women become economically self-sufficient.


“Changing funding priorities and bringing women up as policy makers in foundations and corporate giving programs are our twin goals,” said Jing Lyman, who helped found Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy, which members refer to as Women And. Lyman is a trustee of the Enterprise Foundation in New York and her husband, Richard, is president of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Women And had its beginnings in 1975 when the Council on Foundations, which is holding its annual conference here this week, met in Chicago. Eleanor Peterson of the Chicago Donors Forum, an organization of Windy City grant makers, put a hand-lettered sign on a door at the hotel where the foundation executives were meeting. The sign read “Women Only.”

Lyman said she later heard about Peterson’s action to discuss funding women’s and girls’ organizations and about incidents that lead her to believe that “attitudes at the Council on Foundations were less than supportive of women and minorities.” Lyman and others decided to seek changes at the council and to start an affinity group similar to the Assn. of Black Foundation Executives, which was founded in 1972.

“Women And made all of us assertive to a large degree because we knew there was an organization that supported our efforts and pointed the way to organizations and issues we could support,” said Cecile Springer of Pittsburgh, the director of contributions and community affairs for Westinghouse Electric Corp. since 1979.

Alicia Philipp, Women And’s board chairman, said that “having women making recommendations on grants has heightened awareness in the philanthropic community of women’s and girls’ organizations and their needs and made the boards of trustees, which approve grants and which are mostly male, understand that these organizations are not as risky as they had thought. A lot of men had it in their minds that these organizations were radical.”

Increasing Understanding

Philipp, who is also the executive director of the Metropolitan Atlanta Community Foundation, which has grown from $6 million in assets to $60 million since her appointment eight years ago, said Women And has also arranged meetings between male foundation executives and trustees and leaders of women’s and girls’ nonprofit organizations to increase understanding.

“This is a long process,” Philipp said. “They (men) aren’t going to change their grant making overnight, but we are starting them on a new path.”


Philipp said one of the most important recent developments is the agreement reached Tuesday by 37 representatives from 15 women’s funds from around the country, including the newly formed Los Angeles Women’s Foundation, to form a national coalition to press for more contributions and more foundation and corporate grants for women’s and girls’ organizations.

“Just five years ago there were no women’s funds, but there will soon be about 20 of them,” said Jill Shellow, an Urban Institute fund-raiser whose book, “Grant Seekers Guide: Funding Sourcebook,” is being published today by Moyer Bell Ltd. in Mt. Kisco, N.Y.

The Los Angeles Women’s Foundation hopes to build an endowment, with the interest income being used to make grants, according to Pat B. Etienne of Santa Monica, the acting community relations manager for General Telephone of California and one of the foundation organizers. The Women’s Foundation is located at the Southern California Center for Nonprofit Management, 1052 West 6th St., Los Angeles.

In Minneapolis a similar women’s fund was created recently and it has already $2.5 million of its $10-million initial goal.

Depend on Contributions

Most of the women’s funds do not have an endowment. They depend either on contributions from the general public or in some cases, such as the Women’s Funding Alliance in Seattle headed by Dyan Oldenburg, on federated fund-raising drives in which supporters have donations deducted from their paychecks.

A key element in getting more money for women’s and girls’ charities is getting more women into leadership positions in philanthropy, say Women And leaders (some of whom are men).

Until recently only one woman--Margaret E. Mahoney of the Commonwealth Fund in New York--headed one of the 79 foundations with $100 million or more in assets. In December, the Northwest Area Foundation in St. Paul, Minn., named Terry T. Saario as its president and this year Anna Faith Jones became head of the Boston Foundation, bringing to three the number of big foundations headed by women.


In addition, growing numbers of foundations have women as their No. 2 executives and hundreds of women are now program officers--the entry-level professionals who evaluate grant requests--in both foundations and corporate giving programs.

Today, half of foundation program officers are women, according to Terry Odendahl, an anthropologist at Yale University’s Program on Nonprofit Organizations, and Elizabeth Boris, the Council on Foundations director of research.

Just over one in four of the 429 foundations surveyed by the Council on Foundations in 1982 reported it had a woman chief executive officer, according to “Working in Foundations: Career Patterns of Women and Men,” a book by Odendahl, Boris and Arlene Kaplan Daniels that was published Wednesday by the Foundation Center in New York.

‘An Elite Occupation’

“Foundation work is an elite occupation in terms of status and the type of work,” Odendahl said. “But we found women make just 59 cents for every dollar men make in foundation work.”

Odendahl said to get ahead in foundations “woman have had to make sacrifices men have not made. We found that 85% of the women we studied did not have children and half did not have husbands, while nearly all but one of the male foundation executives had wives and most had children.”

Joy Beaton, a former program officer at the Chicago Community Trust, that city’s community foundation, said she is concerned that many women will find philanthropic work a dead end. She said “it is generally assumed” in the field that corporations put many women in their contributions programs to meet anti-discrimination requirements and that these women will have few if any opportunities to work in the operations side of their corporations. “I know of several women who have specifically charted their career path to exit corporate giving and re-enter their corporation on the operations side,” said Beaton, who is now a consultant.

Beaton also questioned whether the growing number of women in No. 2 positions will lead to more women as foundation chief executives. “The practice in foundations is still widespread recruiting from without rather than promoting from within,” she said.

Growing Influence

One sign of women’s growing influence in philanthropy was visible in which workshops drew crowds at Women And’s eighth annual conference, held in the modest surroundings of the Capitol Holiday Inn, several miles from the Sheraton Washington where the Council on Foundations is meeting. A beginner’s workshop on professional development drew only 35 women, while a workshop on how to use grants to encourage enterprises owned by women drew a crowd twice that size, including five men.

“A foundation is not a bank and it may not legally make a grant to a for-profit organization,” said Judith K. Healey, vice president of the Northwest Area Foundation in St. Paul, Minn. “But if a foundation’s stated philanthropic purposes include helping alleviate poverty or making people self-sufficient, then it can make grants to nonprofit organizations that provide technical advice, operate loan funds and otherwise help women obtain some economic self-sufficiency through owning their own businesses.”

Healey and others explained how a $90,000 seed grant from the Northwest Area Foundation helped the Women’s Economic Development Corp., a Minnesota nonprofit organization, begin a loan fund in 1982 for women to start their own businesses. She said of 50 business loans made to date only two are late in their payments.

Healey and Lyman encouraged other women grant makers to adopt this model and to look for other ways to funnel the charitable dollars they control into helping stem the feminization of poverty.