- Assets: $9,222,255 (2013)
- Grants Received: $4,946,777 (2013)
- Grants Awarded: $2,171,114 (2013)
Established in 1981, the Women’s Foundation of California (WFC) describes itself as “not just a grantmaker, but a relentless advocate for social change.” Its mission is to create “a just and equitable California, in which all people and communities, in every region of the state, thrive.”
The centerpiece of WFC’s work is its Women’s Policy Institute (WPI), a year-long program of training retreats for activists who are affiliated with grassroots organizations that “advance a feminist agenda.” “Built on a feminist perspective” and “founded on a social justice framework,” WPI laments that women —“especially women of color”—in the United States “are disproportionately affected by social and economic inequities.” To address these matters, the Institute works to promote “the equal participation of women,”particularly those from “underrepresented communities,” in “all realms of society”—most importantly “the policymaking process” of “government at all levels.” Women who enroll in the WPI program work in teams, with mentors who are experienced in public policy work and who help the trainees develop and implement various policy-advocacy projects of their choosing. As of January 2015, Institute graduates—called “Fellows”—had contributed to the passage of at least twenty new laws in the areas of women’s health, safety, and finances.Many WPI Fellows are concerned about “the negative impacts that the criminal-justice system has on the lives of women, families and communities.” Citing “the disproportionate incarceration of people of color,” they contend that the system is awash in racism and discrimination. Thus they seek to “reduce the prison population, particularly the female prison population,” through such methods as “prevention, sentencing and parole reform, ending prison expansion, and promoting alternatives to incarceration.” Moreover, they aim to expand “rehabilitation and reentry programs” for currently and formerly incarcerated women, and to help them gain easier “access to public programs and benefits.”
In 2010, WFC/WPI and three other organizations—the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, and the Jemmott Rollins Group—worked together on the Blue Shield of California Foundation’s Strong Field Project, a four-year effort aimed at “building a strong, coordinated network of domestic violence service providers in California.”
WFC’s Health program, administered under the auspices of WPI, aims to help women and their children deal with such issues as obesity, school health, and food access.
The Workforce Development Project—also an initiative of WPI—promotes legislation that serves women who are unemployed and/or underemployed in low-paid jobs. Toward that end, Project activists advocate on behalf of government-funded programs designed to help women in the areas of: (a) “job placement, retention and advancement,” and (b) “access to education, vocational and training services”—e.g., instruction in basic job skills, computer literacy, and life skills. Lamenting, moreover, that two-thirds of all minimum-wage workers in California are women, WFC/WPI calls for greater public investment in “programs and services that bridge the transition to living wage careers.”
WFC’s Smart Cookie Scholarship Fund covers tuition costs for immigrants from Latin America who are first-generation college students in the United States. And the Foundation’s Stand With Women program uses advocacy, lobbying, and strategic communications techniques to spread an “anti-poverty” message that calls for expanded “safety nets” (i.e., taxpayer-funded social welfare programs) and more “good jobs” (i.e., living-wage jobs) for women.
Among the influential organizations funded by WFC are the Advancement Project, All of Us or None, the Center for Community Change, Critical Resistance, Faith in Public Life, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Planned Parenthood, and several California-based chapters of the YWCA.
Surina Khan, who once served as executive director of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission—and more recently as a director in the Ford Foundation‘s Democracy Rights & Justice Program—has been WFC’s chief executive officer since 2014.