Key Points

This article is a case study of women’s advocacy funders and their network organization, the Women’s Funding Network (WFN). WFN developed in the context of alternative (targeted) private funding sources emerging in the 70s and 80s to support newly formed social action and identity groups, some of whom had been encouraged by federal programs before the Reagan era, but that in those years were also not receiving support from more traditional funders like the United Way and many foundations.

The author analyzes the evolution of the network and its member funds from 1985 to 2012 as they struggled for survival in a complex and changing environment, and examines tensions that exist between the ideals of a social-movement organization and its drive for money, the nature of women’s organizational leadership, and what it means to view civilsociety activities through a gender lens.

This case study illustrates dilemmas inherent in the development of identity-based social-movement organizations as they seek resources for sustainability and prominence in a crowded field.

Open Access