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By Meagan Anderson Longley

March is Women’s History Month, an annual observance and celebration of the contributions of women to events in American history and contemporary society. This year marks an especially momentous occasion as it coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Women’s Fund, which was the first program of its kind here at Austin Community Foundation.  

Founded in 2004, the Women’s Fund has evolved significantly over the years into what it is now—a vital force for change focused on eliminating the racial wealth and health divide faced by women of color in Central Texas. To date, the Fund has granted over $3.71 million to more than 100 local nonprofits that support the building blocks of economic security for women and children in these critical impact areas: 

  • Child Care
  • Education
  • Housing
  • Women’s Health
  • Unintended Pregnancy Prevention
Why establish a Women’s Fund?

Coverage of The Women’s Fund of Central Texas’ second annual Power of the Purse luncheon in 2006

In 2001, “…of nearly $35 billion given through foundations and corporate funding to charities, less than six percent went to programs that specifically serve[d] the needs of women and girls”. The Women’s Fund was created to address this gap in philanthropy and to empower women to make decisions about how and to whom grants were awarded. In 2005, during its first year of grantmaking, $59,000 was awarded to seven organizations at the inaugural “Power of the Purse” luncheon. Notably, founders of the Women’s Fund were intentional about planning for the long-term sustainability of the effort by establishing an endowment at Austin Community Foundation. Thanks to this vision, the Women’s Fund Endowment is nearly $500,000 and supports our ongoing work to ensure the economic mobility of Central Texas women and their families.  

Re-envisioning the purpose of the Women’s Fund

Since 2010, Austin has become one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. As the city experienced the inevitable challenges that come with a tremendous population boom, the Women’s Fund sought to re-envision its purpose, recognizing that the effort would only be successful if it reflected the needs of the Community. In 2016, after extensive focus groups and a commitment to data-informed grantmaking, the Women’s Fund announced a new strategy to invest in the economic security of women in Central Texas as an evidence-based way to close the opportunity gap. 

Data can paint a powerful picture of how people in a region are experiencing key indicators of daily living. Several research reports have been commissioned and released over recent years, highlighting progress made as well as the barriers that still exist in ensuring the economic mobility for women and children in Central Texas. However, this picture is incomplete without engaging directly with community members with lived experience to best understand the opportunities and barriers to economic mobilitywhich is why in 2020, the Women’s Fund refined its strategy even further to create a more equitable grantmaking process. 

Today, the Fund is focused on eliminating the racial wealth and health divide faced by women of color.  This re-structuring and more equitable grantmaking strategy not only set new standards for the way we conduct equity-centered philanthropy, but also helped pave the way for the establishment of the Hispanic Impact Fund and The Black Fund.  

In December 2023, the Women’s Fund celebrated its largest impact to date. Thanks to the generosity of investors and volunteers, the Women’s Fund awarded $500,000 in general operating support to 15 nonprofit organizations working to support the economic mobility of women and children in Central Texas.  

Looking ahead to the Fund’s future

As we look forward to continuing this critical work, we invite you to be a part of it. Consider making a gift to support our 20th year of grantmaking or discover ways to volunteer. If you would like to learn more about the Women’s Fund, please contact us at impact@austincf.org. 


Meagan Anderson Longley is the VP of Community Impact at Austin Community Foundation.