Can anyone become a member of the Women's Fund?

The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara welcomes all women who want to make an impact in their community through focused, collective grantmaking to benefit women, children and families in southern Santa Barbara County. 

There are two types of tax-deductible annual Women's Fund memberships. You may be either an Individual member or a Group member—or you may choose to be both or belong to more than one group. 

If I am interested or have a friend who is interested in the Women's Fund, how can we get information?

You can learn more about the Women's Fund by reading our website or emailing us. We will be happy to send you more information or to meet with you.

How much is membership in the Women's Fund?

No minimum donation is required to join, but each vote requires $2,750. Many members join in a group and pool their donations to reach the $2,750 minimum. Many groups exceed that minimum and gain an additional vote for every $2,750 that they donate. Members may also join on their own and vote if they donate $2,750 per year (up to a maximum of four votes). 

Here are the two ways you can join:

  • Become an Individual Member by contributing $2,750 (or more) in a calendar year. Receive one vote on how collected funds are distributed the next spring for every $2,750 contribution you make, up to a limit of four votes.
  • Become a Group Member by joining with other women who together contribute $2,750 (or more) in a calendar year. Each group receives one vote for every $2,750 contribution the group has made. There is no limit to the size of a group or how much a woman may contribute.
May I join more than one group?

Yes, a member may belong to more than one group and at the same time be an Individual Member.

How much of my annual contribution is tax deductible?


When is my contribution due?

By December 31 of each year.

Am I a permanent member when I join?

No, memberships are good for one year.

In what ways may I make a donation?
  • Go to Join / Renew where you may make a secure online payment:
    • By credit card (preferred)
    • By check: payable to the Women's Fund of Santa Barbara. Mail to: Women's Fund of Santa Barbara, c/o Santa Barbara Foundation, 1111 Chapala Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101  
  • By transfer from another charitable fund, such as a donor advised fund or private foundation. Request payment from the organization holding your fund.
  • ​By securities gift: contact the Santa Barbara Foundation (805-963-1873). 
If I wish to be part of a group membership but can't create one, what should I do?

We would be happy to help connect you to others. Contact the Membership Committee and we'll get back to you with names of other women wishing to form a group.

If I give more than the $2,750 needed for a membership, do I get more than one vote?

An Individual member receives one vote for every $2,750 contribution she makes, up to a limit of four votes.

Each Group receives one vote for every $2,750 contribution the group makes. There is no limit to the size of a group or how much a woman may contribute.


Is the Women's Fund a giving circle?

In the sense that a giving circle is a group of individuals who pool their money and decide, collectively, where to donate the money, the Women's Fund is part of the national trend of women's giving circles.

How does the Women's Fund of Santa Barbara differ from other women's funds in California and across the country?

Many of the grants given through women's funds across the country are for $10,000 or less. All of our grants have been over $20,000 and more than half have been $75,000 or more.

Does the Women's Fund meet as a group?

The Women’s Fund holds two events a year. In the spring members are invited to the Presentation of Grants event where the newest grantees are announced. In the fall we invite members and their guests to a Site Visit to learn about our most recent grant recipients. Members receive a monthly electronic newsletter to help them stay connected.

What obligations do I have if I become a member?

A member has no obligation, other than to make her annual contribution. Most of our members enjoy the voting process but we have some members who believe that any program the Research Committee selects for the ballot is worthy of their support and thus sometimes they do not vote. The Women’s Fund motto is “you can do a little or you can do a lot."

What is the relationship between the Santa Barbara Foundation and the Women's Fund?

The Women’s Fund is a Field of Interest Fund of the Santa Barbara Foundation. They serve as the fiscal home of the Women’s Fund, handling all financial transactions. The Women’s Fund is the sole decision maker for all issues regarding the organization. However, the Santa Barbara Foundation has supported the Women’s Fund since its inception and continues to do so.  


How does someone apply for a Women's Fund grant?

The Women's Fund does not accept unsolicited applications for funding.  Each year the Women’s Fund Research Committee draws from a master list of local nonprofit agencies and invites agencies to submit applications. Invitations are based on the issues our members recommend we research within our mission of supporting local women, children and families. 

The Women’s Fund does not fund scholarships nor do we lobby or advocate for causes.

How are grants awarded?

Every year the Women's Fund Research Committee conducts their own rigorous research on local agencies that meet our mission. The grants pool is amassed during the calendar year from our membership donations. In the early spring, researchers create a ballot of well-vetted agencies, asking our members to vote for the programs they would like to see funded. Grants are awarded based on a simple majority of members' votes. Read more about the research process.


How does the Women's Fund educate its members about philanthropy?
  • Each year members see their grants in action at a mid-year Site Visit and review of recent recipients.
  • Through the ballot presentation and voting, members learn more in depth about local organizations and the work they're doing to address critical community needs.
  • Research Committee members have opportunities to learn about nonprofit organizations and their programs as part of the in-depth research process.
  • Women's Fund members are invited to attend occasional education forums and the educational programs of the Santa Barbara Foundation.
  • The Research committee publishes special reports which can be found on the website, for example: 2014 Impact of Poverty Report, 2015 Report on Education.
How is giving to the Women's Fund different from giving to the Santa Barbara Foundation?

Both collect funds, do research and distribute funds within Santa Barbara County. It is certainly possible to contribute to both.

The Women's Fund is unique because:

  • Women's Fund members are the only decision makers as to where the pooled funds will be donated. The Women’s Fund Research Committee does its own research based on select criteria.  Final recipients are selected by a democratic vote of all current members of the Women’s Fund.
  • With the exception of a small reserve fund maintained for unexpected circumstancs, all membership dues collected are given as grants every year.
  • Only women are members.
  • If desired, Women's Fund members may volunteer to serve on committees that manage the operations of the Women's Fund.
  • Women's Fund gifts are not based on a grant application process.
  • The Women's Fund gives only to nonprofit programs and capital projects impacting women, children and families in southern Santa Barbara County.
Why not just give directly to my favorite nonprofit organizations?

While giving directly to favorite charities allows a woman to have more control over where her money goes, we have found that most of our participants give to the Women's Fund IN ADDITION to their charities of special interest. There are several reasons our members state for loving the concept of a collective fund:

  • Our members appreciate that by combining their donations with others, their giving is leveraged into larger amounts that can have a much greater impact in the community.
  • Because of our unique research process and careful monitoring of the use of our grant money, the Women’s Fund can safely grant money to smaller and newer organizations that an individual might not have the time or resources to investigate fully but that are deserving of funding.
  • The Women's Fund gives to specific projects/programs that allow us to know exactly how the money will be spent and the recipients report to us at least twice during the year of receiving a grant.
  • While the Women's Fund as a whole doesn't have mandatory meetings and events, our members find they really enjoy the camaraderie of doing good work together. Our "group" members love getting together to decide their vote each year; and all members look forward to coming together for the announcement of the new grant recipients at our Presentation of Grants event.


How does the Women's Fund Endowment operate?

In 2012, we created the Women's Fund Endowment to support our mission and to offer members and friends a vehicle to make larger or longer-term gifts, such as appreciated assets, bequests or memorials.

While we are unwavering in our focus to collect annual contributions (memberships) and to give all the funds away within the year, the Women's Fund Endowment is an important additional tool. It provides another way to support the Women's Fund mission by helping sustain our financial health over time. Click here to read more about the Endowment. If you have any questions, please contact us.

More Questions?

Did we answer all your questions?

If you have a question that is not answered in the previous FAQs, please email us.