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Funding Empowerment: U.S. Foundations and Global Gender Equality

  • Jill A. Irvine (a1) and Nicholas Halterman (a2)
Abstract

Although U.S. private foundations provide significant and varied kinds of support for women and girls globally, we know little about the scope of foundation giving or its effects. In what ways, we ask, has foundation funding attempted to promote the empowerment of women and girls? An important critique has emerged among scholars and practitioners that funding practices often undermine women's activism and movements. We study the empirical evidence for this critique, examining funding trends internationally in the areas of capacity building, issue framing, and coalition forming from 2002 to 2013. We argue that there are reasons for both optimism and concern. On the one hand, we find that the share of funding for organizations and issues that have a political advocacy component has held steady in the past decade. On the other hand, we find trends in the opposite direction in declining shares of funding for general operating costs, leadership training, and coalition building for groups engaged in political advocacy—trends that may weaken the ability of gender equality organizations to promote enduring change.

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We would like to thank Patrice McMahon, Andrew Halterman, Carol Lilly, and our reviewers for their valuable input on earlier drafts of this article. We gratefully acknowledge a grant from the University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences for acquisition of the Foundation Center data.

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