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

The Women’s Fund welcomes all women to join us. Men are welcome to make a donation but cannot become voting members. We respect all people and value diverse perspectives.

Do I have to be invited to become a member?

Not at all.  Any woman who wishes to make a membership contribution is welcome. If you don't know anyone in the Women's Fund, we will be happy to help you find a 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?

The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization with Federal Tax ID 82-5169678. Donations to the Women’s Fund are fully qualified charitable deductions. Please consult your tax adviser or the IRS to determine if you are eligible for the deduction.

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.

What obligations do I have if I become a member?

A member has no obligations, other than to make her annual contribution. Most of our members enjoy the voting process but a few opt-out, trusting the Research Committee to provide a full ballot of worthy projects. The Women’s Fund motto is “you can do a little or you can do a lot." We welcome members as volunteers in all areas of the organization for both short- and long-term responsibilities.

How can I make a donation to the Women's Fund?

There are six ways to donate to the Women's Fund:

Click here to view or download a larger version of the Payment Options Chart.

How do I donate stocks, bonds or mutual fund shares to the Women's Fund?

The Women’s Fund accepts donations of marketable securities.  Click here  for the detailed transfer instructions.

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 across the country?

Many Women’s Funds rely on distributions from their endowment funds to fund their grants. The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara collects donations annually to fund its grants. In this way, we can make large, meaningful grants. Many of the grants given through women's funds across the country are for $10,000 or less. Our minimum grant amount is $50,000 and more than half of our grants have been $75,000 or more.

How is the Women's Fund governed and how does it operate?
  • The Women’s Fund is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors who are all Women’s Fund members.  
  • Committees, comprised of volunteers, manage the day-to-day operations of the organization, including communications, membership and education. All Women’s Fund members are welcome to serve on these committees and help at our membership and educational events.
  • We hire contractors to handle bookkeeping and accounting, manage our database and website and provide administrative support.
  • Operating costs are carefully managed and we seek sponsors and underwriters to help offset costs.  
Does the Women's Fund meet as a group?

A Ballot Review Meeting is held in March for members to learn more about the proposed grantee programs and projects before voting. In the spring, the Women’s Fund holds a Celebration of Grants where members and guests enjoy the announcement of our newest grantees. In the fall, we invite members and their guests to a series of educational programs called Grants in Action. These programs include forums on issues our grantees are addressing as well as some smaller visits to grantee locations.  

Members also receive an electronic newsletter to help them stay connected.

Many voting groups meet socially during the year.

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

The Women’s Fund was created in 2004 as a Field of Interest Fund of the Santa Barbara Foundation. In May 2019, the Women’s Fund received its nonprofit tax exemption, and began transitioning to independent operations. The transition was complete on January 1, 2020. The Women’s Fund maintains a good working relationship with the Foundation.  


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 receive a ballot of potential programs that address the most critical needs in our community. Members are then invited to a Ballot Review Meeting to learn more about the issues and potential grantees before voting.   
  • With ballots in hand, Women’s Fund groups meet to discuss the issues and possible grantees and to decide how they will cast their groups’ votes.
  • Each spring, members and guests celebrate the announcement of our new grantees and learn more about the programs we’ve funded.  
  • Each fall, members and guests are invited to an educational Grants in Action series which includes educational forums on issues as well as small-group visits to some grantee sites
  • Grantee year-end final reports are posted on the website to provide additional information to members. further member education.
  • Research Committee members have opportunities to learn about nonprofit organizations and their programs as part of the in-depth research process.

The Women’s Fund publishes special reports, which arise from the rigorous work the Research Committee does to prepare the annual ballot. The reports are in the Women’s Fund Library on the website. Three recent reports: 2019 Research Report on the Working Poor, 2019 Research Report on Housing and Homelessness, 2019 Research Report on Children and Families.

How is the Women's Fund grant making unique?
  • The Women's Fund gives to nonprofit programs and capital projects impacting women, children and families in southern Santa Barbara County.
  • Women's Fund members decide where the pooled funds will be donated. The Women’s Fund Research Committee does its own research based on established criteria. Final recipients are selected by a democratic vote of all current members of the Women’s Fund. Only women are voting members.
  • The Women’s Fund does not accept unsolicited applications. Applications result from a rigorous research process entered into with agencies that are invited to apply for funding.
Why not just give to my favorite charity?

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 deserving smaller and newer organizations that an individual might not have the time or resources to fully investigate.
  • The Women's Fund gives to specific projects/programs, allowing us to know exactly how the money will be spent. The recipients report progress to us at least twice during the twelve months following receipt of their grant.

While the Women's Fund as a whole doesn't have mandatory meetings and events, our members find they 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 Celebration of Grants. 


How does the Women's Fund Endowment work?

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 fund a generous grants pool for distribution each spring, the Women's Fund Endowment is an important additional funding 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.