Investing in our future together

New suggested minimum and voting thresholds for 2019 membership

With growth comes many opportunities—more dollars to grant to local nonprofits, more women engaged as knowledgeable philanthropists. Growth also has its costs—namely in increased expenses to manage a larger organization. 

Effective January 1, 2019—​and for the first time in 15 years—we are increasing the suggested minimum contribution for Women’s Fund membership from $250 to $275 and raising the voting threshold from $2,500 to $2,750 (one vote per $2,750 contributed).  We are also introducing a more formal sponsorship program for our local businesses and our members.

What is our goal in making these changes?
Sustainability.  We want to maintain an annual grants pool of at least $500,000 a year. And we want to ensure that we have a strong infrastructure to sustain our growth and efficiency. 

Why are we making these changes?
As the Women’s Fund grew from 68 members in 2004 to 900-plus today, our expenses grew as well. The Santa Barbara Foundation began charging an administration fee, technology and payment processing costs came into play, and generous underwriting and modest event attendance fees could no longer cover all our expenses. And, of course, the cost of living has gone up in the past 15 years as well.

How will these changes affect 2018 WF members?
These changes are effective January 1, 2019. Nothing changed in 2018 so the threshold for voting in March 2019 will remain at $2,500. Any new or renewing member for 2019 will be asked to participate at the new threshold levels.

How will these changes affect Women’s Fund groups?
To vote NEXT YEAR—in March of 2020—each group will need to combine its 2019 donations to meet the new $2,750 threshold or better. However, groups and Group Captains will continue to have the flexibility to decide among themselves how to manage the contributions within their groups and how to reach the new threshold.

How are WF values and operating principles affected by these changes?
With the creation of the Women’s Fund In 2004, our founders adopted a set of values and operating principles that included keeping expenses low to maximize the amount of money we provide in grants to the local community. In our early years, we actually achieved zero net expenses because we were much smaller, the Santa Barbara Foundation provided free administrative support and the few costs we did incur were paid by generous underwriters. As the organization grew, our values and principles remained the same but expenses increased.

What is our expense budget that is driving these changes?
In 2018, our unaudited gross expenses totaled about $84,000—more than half of which ($45,000) were offset by sponsorships, underwriting, in-kind gifts, event attendance fees and a grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation. Our 2018 net expenses were about $39,000.

Our largest expenses in 2018 were:

  • Administrative fees to the Santa Barbara Foundation (include processing donations and expenses, donor tax letters, etc.)
  • ​Credit card processing fees
  • Technology (website, database and tech support)
  • Seven informational events/meetings attended by more than 1,150 members (some attended more than one event) and potential members (almost all of our event costs were underwritten or covered by attendance fees)
  • Legal fees

Most expenses—from transaction processing to technology upgrades—are expected to increase in 2019.

What have we been doing to manage expenses up to this point?
From the beginning, we have used a number of strategies to reduce costs and manage our expenses so that the maximum amount of our membership donations flows into the community as Women’s Fund grants. For example: 

  • We are volunteer-led and managed. Dozens of talented women each donate hundreds of hours of their time to the Women’s Fund. We pay for administrative, payment processing and technology support, but we have no employees. As membership and contributions to the community continue to grow, we may need to pay for some services where volunteers aren’t available. 
  • Generous underwriters and sponsors have helped pay some of our expenses.
  • Generous members have made in-kind donations to offset expenses for everything from food and beverage to printing and office supplies.
  • Members who attend our largest informational events pay a modest attendance fee to help offset the costs.
  • We use technology to reduce costs in managing our membership donations and communicating with our members. 
  • We hold no costly fundraisers; our membership grows almost entirely through word-of-mouth.

That said, we need to do more if we wish to continue distributing at least $500,000 in grants every year.  We are so proud of what we’ve accomplished together since 2004 and as we look toward our 15th anniversary in 2019, we want to sustain that success into the future. 

How will the new sponsorship program work?
We will offer companies, organizations or individuals the opportunity to underwrite specific WF expenses in return for certain benefits. 

We will be offering these sponsorship opportunities to local businesses but first we want to offer these opportunities to our members, many of whom have been underwriters in the past, are business owners themselves or employed by local businesses or perhaps have relationships that might provide an introduction leading to a sponsorship. Members who have recommendations or are interested in sponsoring are asked to contact us at

Women's Fund Article