Funding story: Gender equality

Organisations working to promote equality for women sometimes find it hard to get grants from funders.

Gender equality has taken some big steps forward in recent years thanks to changes such as the Equal Pay Act and flexible working hours for mothers. But according to the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for equal rights for women, there's still a huge amount of work to be done.

Rowena Lewis, head of fundraising at the society, says securing specific grant funding for organisations still working in the field of women's equality can be challenging.

"The majority of trust funders in the UK have a very specific focus," she says. "We don't usually fit within their causes, especially with the exclusions on campaigning and lobbying work."

Despite this, Fawcett managed to expand its trust funding to 59 per cent of its entire grant income - a total of £283,000 last year - of which 25 per cent was core funding and 75 per cent was spent on projects.

"The expansion has been led by the director, across the fundraising work," says Lewis. "It was done without input from a specialist fundraising trust, which is unusual. I think our success is a reflection of our networks and how well we're regarded."

There are some funders, such as grant-making foundation the Sigrid Rausing Trust, that focus on women's equality. But project funding from more general grant-makers, such as the Lloyds TSB Foundation for England and Wales, is an option that involves conforming to funding criteria that aren't specifically designed to support women.

Birgitta Clift, head of grant-making, south, at Lloyds, says: "We made a grant of £60,000 to Fawcett's project Seeing Double: Making Ethnic Minority Women's Interests Visible. It met one of our priorities to support diverse minority communities."

Helen Whittaker is trusts and grants manager at Womankind, an organisation that gives women in developing countries a voice. She believes that focusing on women's issues in the context of international development has made it more attractive to a wider variety of donors.

"We focus at the moment on a small number of trust donors," she says. "But if we're going to improve the lives of a whole community, we can't ignore the needs of half of that community."

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