The brainchild of a group of women who all served as staff or trustees of local foundations, the Women's Foundation was formed as a response to research showing that only about 5 percent of philanthropic dollars go to programs aimed specifically at women or girls. Since the organization's inception in 1982 as a branch of the Minneapolis Foundation, women's funds have sprung up across the nation, all with a handful of goals in common: to increase women's economic self-sufficiency, to promote social change and equality, to encourage women to see philanthropy as a tool for economic empowerment, and to fund women's causes overlooked by or deemed too controversial by more mainstream foundations. The foundation has made grants to, among others, groups helping low-income women start businesses, to resource centers for rural lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women, and to a coalition that last year worked to halt welfare reform. Last year the foundation's endowment reached $10 million--the largest to date of any women's fund in the U.S.--but that's still chicken feed compared to what's needed. Gifts are tax-deductible.


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