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European giving to women and girls

For the past decade, the value of investing in the rights and well-being of women and girls has been making headlines. The centrality of gender equality to the Millennium Development Goals, recent commitments by various governments and foundations to fund women and girls, and the creation of UN Women in 2010 reinforce some of the encouraging, concrete results that have emerged from the conversation about the importance of investing in women and girls. How are European foundations engaging in this conversation? To what extent are European foundations providing funding to women and girls? In which areas? What approaches are they taking? Effective philanthropy depends on informed decision-making. Yet to date, there has been very little data to bring to bear on these questions. In this spirit, Mama Cash, the world’s oldest international women’s fund based in the Netherlands, commissioned the research study titled ‘Untapped Potential – European Foundation Funding for Women and Girls’ to understand the nature of European foundation support for women and girls and bridge the critical data gap in this area.

Summary: inspiring conversation and collaboration

The goals for this report is both collegial and catalytic. Mama Cash hopes that conversations and collaborations inspired by the research findings will contribute to mobilising leadership as well as realising increased giving in support of the rights, well-being, and empowerment of women and girls. According to the fund, investment in the human rights of women and girls is not only just and right, it is essential to achieving stable democracies based on fairness and dignity.

Methodology: a rich mixture of survey, grants, and interview data

While this study seeks to advance conversations about philanthropic support for women and girls, it also represents the most comprehensive study to date on the philanthropic activities of European foundations, in general. The study draws upon a rich mixture of survey, grants, and interview data to understand the range of foundation characteristics and interests, as well as their specific approaches to work related to women and girls. Altogether, 145 foundations from 19 countries, diverse in their missions and size, participated in the study.

Conclusions: European giving to women and girls

Foundation Giving in General

  • Nearly three-quarters of European foundations surveyed (73 percent) are active in the area of education. In addition, about half of all foundations work in health (50 percent), arts and culture (49 percent) and community development (46 percent). Lower priority areas are religion (8 percent), public affairs (9 percent), and peace (11 percent).
  • Children and youth are the top beneficiary population (74 percent) designated by European foundations. Significant numbers of foundations also work to benefit the economically disadvantaged (50 percent) and people with disabilities (48 percent). Lesbian, bisexual, and transgender populations were the least likely to be the beneficiaries of foundation activities (9 percent), followed by people with HIV/AIDS (12 percent).


Foundation Giving to Women and Girls

  • About a third of the foundations in the survey sample (37 percent) reported that they engaged in at least some grant making or programmatic activities that were specifically intended to benefit women and girls. Nearly one in five foundations (19 percent) said that they explicitly named women or girls in their mission statement or grant making guidelines as a population group they seek to support.
  • The majority of foundations surveyed (58 percent) allocated less than ten percent of their expenditures to programmes benefiting women and girls in 2009. This includes one-quarter that did not designate any funds to programmes intended to benefit women and girls.

You can find more results in the research under Reference Material.

Foundation Approaches to Supporting Women and Girls

  • There are multiple points of entry for foundations in this work, as foundations have different reasons for and approaches to supporting women and girls depending upon their missions, histories, and operating philosophies.
  • Foundations take diverse approaches in their support of women and girls. Some foundations are directly engaged at the mission level and/or have a dedicated programme that focuses on women and girls. Others may not have a specific focus on women and girls, but integrate gender perspectives into their work nonetheless.
  • Though there are challenges inherent in this work, foundations that have successfully supported women and girls have identified key practices that have contributed to effective engagement. These practices include: 1) developing strong board and executive staff leadership who understand the importance of giving to women and girls, 2) providing on-going professional development for staff to build organisational capacity related to women and girls, 3) creating foundation practices, policies, and strategies that are flexible and adapted to fi t the unique needs of organisations serving women and girls, and 4) paying close attention to the importance of data and impact.

22 Feb 2012

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