San Francisco Women's Giving Circle funds childcare and economic security
Four members of EDJe Giving Circles. Barbara Pierce is third from the left.
Four members of the EDJe Giving Circle. Third from the left, Barbara Pierce smiles her iconic smile.

Barbara Pierce is one of those women you love to meet. She’s optimistic, cheerful and purposeful. They say that a genuine smile makes one’s eyes squint. Barbara’s eyes become two almonds when she smiles.

Barbara grew up in a working class family in Massachusetts. Like many working-class women, her mother was faced with a conundrum—to work or to stay at home:

“My mom didn’t feel like she could work outside the home because she could not earn enough to justify it. She felt that this influenced a lot of her choices because, as a stay-at-home mom, she didn’t have freedom in terms of making financial decisions. That’s always struck a chord with me.”

Barbara’s mom had different plans for her daughters:

“She really drilled into me and my sister how important it was to go to college. She taught us that a college education and a good job would give us choices we otherwise would never have.”

Today, Barbara is a fundraising professional with more than 20 years of experience. She has used her education and professional expertise to advocate for women’s economic wellbeing: “I chose fundraising because I really wanted to help people and be a part of an important mission. I wanted to be part of solving problems and helping people thrive.”

Barbara first learned about the Women’s Foundation of California through a friend and immediately became interested in the Foundation’s San Francisco-based Economic Development and Justice (EDJe) giving circle. The mission of the circle resonated with her:

“We focus on the barriers low-income women must overcome to get out of poverty and get ahead. We look at how financial issues, such as lack of affordable childcare, are holding women back,” said Barbara.

Since its inception in 1999, EDJe has made over $3 million in grants to organizations dedicated to increasing women’s economic security.

“We are always striving to increase our impact and this last year we made an important—and very innovative—grantmaking decision. Instead of funding three or four organizations, we funded a group of child care organizations. These organizations are joining their forces and working together on an important research project. We also commissioned a report on anti-sex trafficking in the Bay Area and are working on collaborating with other funders in our area,” said Barbara.

Childcare is a critical issue for all families in California and it’s an issue EDJe has prioritized. Did you know that in our state single mothers spend 44 percent of their income on childcare? That’s shocking!

“I was privileged enough to hire a nanny for my six year old son Tyler and have the flexibility to have him in our home. But when I was looking into good childcare options in San Francisco, I learned that it was incredibly prohibitive,” said Barbara.

[quote_center]”Good childcare should be a right, not a privilege.”[/quote_center]

“A lack of access to childcare, particularly in low-income families, can hinder a woman’s ability to work at a job that provides a living wage. Think about it: If you don’t have quality child care, you can’t find work. You can’t just leave your young children at home alone. ”

This year EDJe proudly awarded a $50K grant to the California Child Care Coordinators Association (CCCCA).

“Rather than putting organizations into competition with each other for limited funds, this grant really leverages their collective impact. This model is very similar to the giving circle model. As giving circle members, we pool our resources to award more—and more effective—grants. The CCCCA childcare organizations are doing the same—they are pooling their resources and expertise to create system level change in California,” said Barbara.

“This was their idea and I’m thrilled about it because it really sets a precedent. It lets advocates and nonprofit leaders know that we are supportive of innovative and collaborative proposals like this one.”

The CCCCA will use their grant to research and develop a report that will closely examine what can be changed within the public system to ensure greater access to childcare resources. Barbara added, “Initiatives like these have the power of transforming public policy and impacting millions of families across California.”

EDJe members really have fun together.
Barbara was telling the truth. EDJe members have a ton of fun together. When they meet, we always hear them laughing.

Barbara enjoys being part of EDJe for more reasons than one:

“We do important work and it is fun. It is a highlight for me to spend time with women who have similar interests and values. EDJe members are all passionate, incredible women that I probably would not have met otherwise. We are small but powerful.”

We invite you to reach out to the Economic Development and Justice giving circle to learn more about their work. Email Barbara Pierce at

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