By Sarah B Lange under Philanthropy Stories on May 13, 2021

This blog is written in remembrance of Simone Joyaux; colleague, mentor, friend. She passed away on May 2nd. Now there’s a big hole in my heart. Simone will be sorely missed.

Since 2001, the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island has distributed more than $810,000 in funding to address gender inequity – all Powered of Philanthropy!

Fundraising pioneer Simone Joyaux approached the Rhode Island Foundation in 2000 to ask if they’d work with her to create the Women’s Fund of RI. Thankfully, they said yes (although, knowing Simone, she would have kept banging on doors ‘til someone did!)

Four years later, this social justice fund became its own independent nonprofit corporation. They started a new kind of grant making program, directed specifically at social change activities that would improve gender equity for both women and girls in RI.

Their funding priorities include:

  • Systems change ideas that work to level of the playing field for women and girls in RI
  • Civic engagement and leadership
  • Economic self-sufficiency and justice, particularly equitable pay and living wages
  • The health and well-being of women and girls, particularly freedom and access to reproductive health and freedom from sexual harassment

But the work of the Women’s Fund stretches beyond grant making. They have a prolific research program – the first of its kind in Rhode Island — focused on women and their economic independence, political and social equality, housing and other issues that affect their opportunities.

They created the Women’s Policy Institute – which is still running! – as a vehicle through which to develop a cadre of well-informed advocates and policymakers. For years, they hosted an annual justice rally with compelling and inspirational speakers who challenged the status quo of women – and hundreds of Rhode Islanders attended each year.

Simone – and the other women involved with the Women’s Fund — created a special and unique social justice organization, which initiated and partnered with others for fight for gender equity. By women, for women.

The Women’s Fund has benefitted from philanthropy – and I’m not just talking about the donations they’ve received and the grants they’ve distributed. The time, energy and commitment of everyone who’s participated – on the staff, as a volunteer, on the board, on a committee, as partners, colleagues, advocates, activists and fans – has been instrumental to the success and impact of the Fund.

The Women’s Fund of RI is a beautiful example of what I believe to be true: that all of us together are better than any of us alone. And Simone knew that – she understood the power of collaboration and partnership. She understood that changing the world requires a systematic joint effort. The Fund sums this up beautifully in their Call to Action: “The playing field isn’t level yet. But it could be, with your help.”

What’s your Call To Action? What kind of world are YOU advocating for? What would it look like to invite others to join your cause? What possibilities would more collaboration and partnership make possible for YOUR organization? 

And how can I help you get there?

Stay tuned for more stories of change that’s being Powered by Philanthropy! Meanwhile, if you’re facing a challenge or have a burning question that needs to be answered, you can book a free 15-minute Pick My Brain Session here. 


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