Giving Power

Over September 11-13, Women Funded 2019 will be underway in San Francisco. The aim of a more equitable world is at the center of the biannual conference produced by Women’s Funding Network, the largest of its kind devoted to funders of women’s and girls’ equity around the world.

Back in 1985, when the organization and its corresponding conference were founded, philanthropy was largely dominated by men at the helm of large family foundations. “Women aren’t part of directing money to fix social issues, so we’ll raise our own money,” CEO Cynthia Nimmo recalls of the Network’s collective founding ethos. “We’re only going to invest in women and girls, hear from them directly about what needs to be resolved, and entrust them to be leaders in creating solutions. It doesn’t seem radical now, but it was then—to flip philanthropy on its head and create a new and inclusive model of giving.”

Nimmo, a Santa Clara University graduate who has been with the organization in some capacity since 2003 and came aboard as CEO in 2014, attests to that sea change. Today, she notes, “Women are investing in and starting other businesses, contributing as donors to women-led organizations, or contributing to political campaigns of other women.”

There is still work to be done and much to discuss at Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco, the location of this year’s conference. “We hear directly from people experiencing the challenge,” Nimmo says. “Whether they are formerly incarcerated and are creating new programs to fix the system, or girls in school or women in the workplace, it’s that level of expertise that the conference is always shining a light on, which is pretty unique.”

This year, the focus is largely on climate change, women investing in women, women setting policy, and where social, cross-sector solutions intersect with issues that pertain to women. Plenary sessions will include “Gender and Climate Justice: Lessons from Asia and the Pacific” and “Women of Color: Reshaping Philanthropy.”

While the highly interactive conference spans 2.5 days—including networking opportunities, break-out workshops, round-table lunch discussions, and keynote speakers—local attendees may be interested in knowing that a one-day ticket is also available. “It’s not meant to be so elevated that you can’t be part of the conversation,” says Nimmo. “There are ample places and spaces to be connecting.”

In that vein, over 60 participating speakers will appear, including Alicia Garza of Black Futures Lab; Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland; and the writer, speaker, and activist Kevin Powell.

“It’s not about funding women just for the sake of fairness. It’s about smart decision-making, and dismantling the barriers to women’s participation and leadership,” says Nimmo. “How do you fix anything without hearing from half the population?”

For more information about what you can expect to hear at Women Funded 2019, please visit

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