May 25, 2011

One-Third of European Foundations Support Women and Girls: New Study

European foundations’ interest still far exceeds actual investments

More than a third of European foundations support women and girls, according to a new study, but a huge gap exists between the monies that foundations allocate and their professed interest in activities related to women and girls.

Untapped Potential: European Foundation Funding for Women and Girls,” released Wednesday by Mama Cash and the Foundation Center, indicates that the median percentage of total grant monies allocated by foundations in support of women and girls was 4.8%, based on 2009 grants data from sampled foundations.

Yet, fully 90% of European foundations expressed interest in at least one issue related to women and girls.

"The gap between interest and investment tells us that there is genuine potential and motivation for European foundations to step up and provide more funding for women and girls," Nicky McIntyre, executive director of Mama Cash, said in a statement accompanying the study’s release. "Data consistently show that no country has yet achieved gender equality."

Key findings:

  • Thirty-seven percent of the foundations surveyed reported that they had engaged in at least some grant making or programmatic activities that were specifically intended to benefit women and girls. Nineteen percent said that they had explicitly named women or girls in their mission statement or grant making guidelines as a population group they seek to support.
  • Fifty-eight percent of foundations surveyed allocated less than 10% of their expenditures to programs benefiting women and girls in 2009.
  • Foundations that expressed an interest in issues related to women and girls showed particularly high levels of interest for violence against women (74%), poverty among women and/or girls (73%), and women's and/or girls' access to education (71%).
  • Lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights generated the least interest among foundations surveyed (30%).
  • Nearly half of all grants identified as benefiting women and girls were in the area of human services (45%). The second largest share of grants focused on human rights (21%).
  • Foundations that engage in grant making or programmatic activities specifically intended to benefit women and girls were significantly more likely than other foundations to be involved in human rights and social justice-oriented grant making.

Altogether, 145 foundations from 19 countries participated in the study. The report drew on a 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.

The report was commissioned by Mama Cash and co-authored by the Foundation Center and Weisblatt & Associés, in cooperation with the European Foundation Centre. It was made possible in part by support from the Ford Foundation.

"As the first research study of its kind to examine the scope, distribution and diversity of European-based funding for women and girls, this report establishes critical baseline data for measuring change in the future," Seema Shah, director of research for special projects at the Foundation Center, said in a statement.

Founded in 1983 in the Netherlands, Mama Cash is the oldest international women's fund in the world, according to the statement. The organization mobilizes resources from individuals and institutions; makes grants to women's, girls' and transgender groups; and helps to build the partnerships and networks needed to successfully defend and advance women's and girls' human rights globally.

U.S.-based Foundation Center provides information about philanthropy worldwide. Established in 1956, it is supported by 550 foundations.

Reprints Discuss this story
This is where the comments go.