Countless studies have shown that advancing the rights of women and girls also advances the family, the community and the country and that failing to do so seriously affects a country’s economic progress. If you are a girl, you are more likely to be a victim of violence, as well as to be denied education, health care, or even birth. Starting from birth, women face progressive discrimination that closes doors regarding credit, land rights, widows’ rights and employment opportunities.

Our Approach

VGIF provides small grants to grassroots projects that empower women and girls. We focus our investments on projects that create local solutions to advance women’s rights and social justice in developing countries. VGIF often provides early support, funding innovative projects that help grow new organizations, test new community change strategies and foster women leaders. We rely on local project directors to identify their own needs, design action strategies and develop projects.

Project Spotlight: Guatemala and Honduras
COMPPA - Comunicadoras y Comunicadores Populares por la Autonomia
Leadership, Community Engagement, Awareness Raising

There are currently close to 1 billion people living in poverty worldwide, and women and girls make up 70% of the world’s poor. Although the status of women has improved in many areas over the last several decades, the progress remains slow, particularly in lower-income countries. VGIF recognized long ago what is now a more generally accepted truth; investing in women’s education, health and other areas does not only improve the lives of women, but their families, communities and entire countries.

While VGIF provides funding to a number of issues under the broad umbrella of “empowering women and girls,” there are also a few funds with a specific target group in mind. The current four funds are: the Erna Hamburger Fund (to encourage the education of girls in mathematics, science and engineering); the Asian Regional Endowment (to target projects throughout Asia); the Central/South America/Caribbean Regional Endowment (to support projects in Central and South American, and the Caribbean); and the Leaders Fund (to support cutting-edge, innovative, or entrepreneurial projects.) For more details, see VGIF Funds.

Our Grantmaking History

Founded in 1969 by members of the International Federation of University Women (IFUW), VGIF’s grantmaking began with a few grants a year to IFUW and its affiliates and to women college graduates, primarily in lower-income countries. This helped support women’s leadership trainings, education and small community development projects. VGIF remained a small organization for the first 30 years of its life, but has since grown more significantly. We currently support 30-40 projects each year.  

Over our history, VGIF has invested more than 2.7 million USD in more than 515 projects in 93 countries. We are growing and working to develop systems to further expand our grantmaking systems, enhance our partnerships and provide additional support to grantees.  

VGIF Funds

Funding for our project grants comes from our members’ donations and from our investment income, as well as from board-designated funds. These funds are professionally managed within two investment accounts—the VGIF Fund and the Virginia Palmer Fund.

In addition to our regular grant guidelines, there are currently four special funds created to provide grant funding for specific types of projects.

Erna Hamburger Fund (EHF)
This Fund is for projects that encourage the education of young girls in developing countries in the areas of mathematics, science and engineering. This Fund is named after Erna Hamburger, a former VGIF Board member and was established in 1988 through a generous first donation from Board Member Elizabeth May. 
Asian Regional Endowment (ARE)
This Fund is for projects all over Asia. The Fund was established in 1997 as VGIF’s first regional fund.
Central/South America/Caribbean Regional Endowment Fund (CSACRE)
This Fund is for innovative and entrepreneurial projects in Central/South America and the Caribbean region.  The Fund was established in 2006 to better target, and ensure funding for, this region.
Leaders Fund (LF)
This Fund is for cutting-edge, innovative, or entrepreneurial projects. The Fund was established in 2004 and enables VGIF to respond to special opportunities as they arise, providing flexibility to meet changing needs.

For further information about the entire VGIF Endowment Portfolio, please contact