Action Fund: Progressive Movement-Building

The Action Fund initiative lets us, as progressive women funders, pool our resources and have a much bigger and longer-term impact than if we were funding individually. Mary Willis, WDN Board Chair

Our Vision

In response to a growing concern that the progressive movement in America was lacking the cohesion necessary to make systemic social change, WDN members launched the WDN Action Fund, focused on Progressive Movement-Building. Through the Action Fund, members leverage their power for change by working and funding together.

We set a goal of raising $250,000 per year for four consecutive years for each funding cycle, for a total of $1 million each. We have thus far concentrated on three critical areas through the following targeted grant-making initiatives:

  • Think Tanks/Research
  • Communications/Media
  • Leadership Development

Our Impact

WDN raised a total of $2 million over four years for the first two Action Funds, providing critical general-operating support for two key organizations in the progressive movement, at a time when it was sorely needed. We were ahead of the curve, building support for the strategy of forward-looking, long-term investments in movement building when this kind of funding was anything but the norm. In the think tank category, WDN granted $1 million to the Center for Community Change, which has become a major national leader around issues including immigration reform and the fight for job creation and economic justice. To address issues of media, WDN granted $1 million to American Forum—one of the few national organizations that specifically promotes voices of women to gain a mass audience in the mainstream media.

See below for a summary of our work in the Action Fund Initiative to date:

Action Fund 1 Action Fund 2 Action Fund 3
Focus Think Tank Media Leadership Development
Grantee Center for Community Change American Forum In process
No. of Donors 33 39
Timeframe 2005- 2008 2006 – 2009 2012 – 2015

Our Strategy

All WDN members are welcome to participate in the WDN Action Fund Initiatives with a minimum pledge of $5,000 per year, for four consecutive years. Based on criteria set by an advisory committee that consists of WDN members, the President & CEO, the Director of Programs, and outside consultants, the committee selects a group of finalists after a structured process, and then conducts site visits.

Proposals are analyzed based upon their fit with our Request for Proposals, the soundness of the approach, the capacity of the organization to deliver on its plans, and the group’s demonstration of its ability to assess the context, opportunities, and complexities involved in the endeavor. WDN Action Fund donors evaluate the chosen finalists and vote to select a final grantee. The entire WDN membership is invited to participate in all activities related to the WDN Action Funds.

The WDN Action Fund is in its third granting cycle, exploring a project that could support women’s leadership development.