Looking to the Past to Prepare for the Future

VGIF wants to help grantees understand that vision alone, without a sense of strategy, makes achieving a goal all the more challenging. Our goal is to push them to develop that strategy.

Kim Bylander, VGIF

After more than 45 years of grantmaking, VGIF is in a learning phase to understand more fully the impact of what it has funded to date, and improve ongoing and future funding. By systematically organizing and analyzing its successful activity, VGIF plans to invest more strategically going forward. This phase of reflection is allowing VGIF to evolve and update aspects of its approach. One important consideration remains ever-present—local women’s movements should continue to drive program design and be recognized as central to addressing longstanding community needs.

VGIF is an international women’s fund based in the United States whose mission is to provide grants globally to fund locally generated projects that advance the rights of women and girls. The fund is viewing this reflection phase as an opportunity to build its own capacity. VGIF recently invested in growing its team and establishing a larger office, and the board of directors shifted from a working board to a governance board. This was just the start, as VGIF engaged in a significant capacity-building effort to further expand its grantmaking program, and to strengthen its grantee support and oversight efforts.

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Grantmaking Approach

Funding Women's Movements

“VGIF’s effort to build out more strategic components of staffing, the grants process, and partnership roles continues to rely on its core strategy, to let local experts design the projects,” shares Kim Bylander, the Palmer fellow for monitoring and evaluation. Kim joined VGIF in 2013 during its expansion phase and is responsible for compiling and organizing all of VGIF’s granting data to help it learn from its investments to date. “The goal is to understand how projects we fund are operating, capture learning from the field, and help inform future funding decisions.”

VGIF has a rich history of funding women’s movements that are at the forefront of challenging issues and implementing programs with a holistic approach. Kim shares that a lot of VGIF’s funding goes to economic development projects, as access to livelihoods is what women most often identify as a need. Grantees will then build on the economic intervention to address other impending needs, including health, literacy, and conflict-resolution. For example, in 2013 in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, VGIF funded a local, woman-led organization, Association of Volunteers for the Management of Vulnerable Children and Unaccompanied (AVEVENA), that was working to improve the economic and social status of young girl ex-combatants and girls affected by the conflict. Funds were used for sewing and business skills trainings, literacy education, and HIV/AIDS and reproductive health workshops.

We are still a relatively small staff, but there is a real push and commitment in looking at the future.

Kim Bylander, VGIF