This toolkit provides a guide, based on the experiences and research of women’s funds and philanthropy at large—from across the country—who are investing in families and communities with a whole family focus. Learn its origins, goals, and offerings in the following letter from the project’s leadership team.

Dear Colleagues,

Over the last fifty years, the women’s funding movement has grown and evolved as an inclusive force for change in the lives of girls, women, and their families. Thirty five years ago, this movement looked to leaders working in communities who were convinced that philanthropy and social change needed to more fully recognize and include women’s voices. Today, Women’s Funding Network is the largest gender justice funding community in the world advancing policy, program, and community resources to improve the lives of women and their families. Building upon the insights and experience of generations of women donors as well as vital social justice organizations, the Women’s Funding Network has enhanced and strengthened the vital role of women’s philanthropy to empower women and advance social change.  

Concurrently, since 2010, Ascend at the Aspen Institute has been a national driver of whole-family approaches, also known as two-generation (2Gen) approaches, which build family well-being by intentionally and simultaneously providing opportunities for and meeting the needs of children and the adults in their lives together. From its inception, a gender and racial equity lens has been central to Ascend’s work.  

Over the last five years, these approaches have been embraced and advanced by women’s foundations and funds who are leading systemic change through policy solutions in partnership with state policymakers and elected officials. Women’s foundations and funds recognize that for the next generation to thrive, their mothers must thrive. As Melanie Bridgeforth, president and CEO of the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, said, “when women move forward, their children thrive, and the community moves with them.”

Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and all women of color have historically and persistently been marginalized by structural inequities. Whole-family approaches are inherent in Indigenous communities around the globe and inform and drive systemic change by acknowledging and considering the multiple lenses and lived experiences of families necessary in developing lasting solutions that lift families out of poverty and into economic mobility. 

Whole-family approaches offer the opportunity to multiply that success because they account for the wide range of influences that define and support prosperity for families in today’s complex world, including the unique roles of women in the family. Investing in this approach to policy and practice is a win for families, who benefit from improved supports, services, and programs. And funders win because investments have a greater impact. Funders can play a critical role in supporting families through adopting some or all the elements of a 2Gen approach in their investment strategy. Importantly, this guide helps funders, including those who want to improve gender and racial equity,  identify how their foundation can directly engage grantees, parents, and policy makers resulting in more responsive and relevant grantmaking.

We offer this funder’s guide to encourage philanthropy across the country to invest in families and communities with a 2Gen, whole-family approach. Our goal is to increase the impact of philanthropic investing for families, resulting in increased well-being for parents, caregivers, and children, with an intersectional racial and gender equity lens.

Yours for family and community success,

Elizabeth Barajas-Román

Elizabeth Barajas-Román
President and CEO
Women’s Funding Network

Anne Mosle

Anne Mosle
Executive Director
Ascend at the Aspen Institute