Straight Talk: Why we disqualified some organizations from the People's Momentum Award - Women's Foundation California

In line with the rules and regulations of our contest, we needed to disqualify some of the organizations nominated in our People’s Momentum Award. This was a truly difficult decision because we would love nothing more than to make this contest available to all great organizations that are improving the lives of women and girls in California and we know that we have to stay true to our mission and core values.

For over 36 years, the Women’s Foundation of California has been a partner, grantmaker and a relentless advocate for women’s equity and social justice. In 1979, when our organization was founded by a group of visionary women activists and philanthropists, only 1 percent of all philanthropic dollars in the U.S. went to support women and girls’ causes. Just 1 percent!

Our founders set out to do something about it. Now, almost four decades later, we can say that the number has grown to 7 percent. And that’s still not nearly enough!

We’re a community foundation and we have to raise every dollar that we give away as grants. But where we lack in endowment funds we compensate in passion, determination and love.

We’re proud to say that over the last 36 years we’ve contributed to growing the funding pie for the women’s rights movement in California by giving over $36.5 million in grants to over 1,260 organizations. We wake up every day determined to raise more funds to support more women’s organizations that are advancing women rights, especially the rights of low-income women, women from the communities of color and immigrant women.

We launched the People’s Momentum Award contest because we wanted to celebrate Women’s History Month in a unique way. We wanted to raise visibility for the often hidden work of women’s organizations. We wanted to engage our community in a fun way and ask them to identify a women’s organization they admire the most. We wanted to award that organization an unrestricted $10,000 grant, which we know they urgently need to run their programs. But, most of all, we wanted that organization to be a women’s rights organization that’s working, day in and day out, on designing programs and services that benefit women and girls.

That’s our mission, that’s our vision and that’s what we stand for.

The response to this year’s People’s Momentum Award has been phenomenal—we didn’t expect so many organizations from so many diverse fields to get nominated. We wish we had enough resources to fund all organizations that are supporting women and girls—and so many are doing so in so many different ways: they’re hiring women, selecting women for their Boards, creating staff diversity programs, making sure that women are equally represented in their workplaces, classrooms and programs. Those are all important interventions on behalf of women and girls and we’re grateful to these organizations—they’re extraordinary allies. And we thank them.

But, many of those organizations are not women’s rights organizations—and we fund women’s rights organizations. A women’s organization breathes and lives women’s rights, approaches their work though a gender lens, designs their programs and program strategies with women and girls in mind; basically, advancing women’s rights and equity is central to their missions.

We sincerely regret that our rules and regulations were not explicit enough to some and that some ineligible organizations were nominated and received a great number of votes. We regret having to disqualify these organizations because we can see that they’re doing extraordinary work in their fields of expertise while also supporting women and girls. We also regret having to disappoint these organizations’ ardent supporters. We hope they’ll come to understand our reasoning and will see that we’re just trying to be fair to the nominated women’s rights organizations.

Finally, we wanted to say that a disqualification from our contest is in no way a value judgment on any organization; it simply means that the organization is not eligible for this particular grant.

Surina Khan
CEO, Women’s Foundation of California


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