Our goal is to increase the percentage of women in the region earning a living wage.

Our Grantmaking Process

We both initiate and invite proposals from within the SouthCoast region. Throughout 2022- 2023, priority will be given to living-wage focused education and training, particularly in the areas of early childhood education, and career preparation and health, safety, and wellbeing, including reproductive health information and access. Blueprint areas will be considered as well.

Our grantmaking is dedicated to closing the gender gap that exists on the SouthCoast. Currently full-time working women in New Bedford earn 77% of their male counterparts in equivalent positions. At the same time 82% of women ages 25 – 44 are high school graduates compared to only 75% of men. Nineteen percent of women in this age group hold bachelor’s degrees compared to 16% of men, and 6% of women hold graduate or professional degrees compared to 4% of men.

Local Grants


In response to the COVID-19 pandemic which dramatically impacted the SouthCoast region, we made a strategic decision to alter our 2020 grant process. We awarded emergency grants to frontline agencies that were able to deliver the most critical human services: Shelter, Food Security, and Mental Health.

The following agencies and organizations were awarded one-time unrestricted grants to address COVID-19 pandemic needs:

Bristol Community College Women's Center

Food Security for past LifeWork Project participants

Grace House

Clothing and Women's Sanitary Supplies

Our Sisters' School

Urgent Family Needs: Food Security and Emergency Repairs

The Women’s Center

Food Security


Outreach and Services to Older Women; New Youth Empowerment and Safety Program; Food Security

For more information on how COVID-19 has affected the status of women and girls in Massachusetts, particularly the childcare effects, see Child Care and Education During COVID-19: A Report on the Economic and Social Impact on Women in Massachusetts


The successful LifeWork project, a five-year visionary program conceived by the Women’s Fund SouthCoast to assist low-income women achieve a better life for themselves and their children, ended in 2020. The accomplishments of the LifeWork graduates were robust and measurable, and demonstrated how women can advance with proper support. We are delighted to announce that Bristol Community College Women’s Center has adopted the LifeWork project, reimagined it as the Parenting Advancement Pathways Program, and will continue its legacy by empowering women through advocacy and education.

The goal of the LifeWork project was to offer participants a path that made it possible for them to earn a living wage. The initiative targeted predominantly single mother heads of households and promoted their economic mobility by building on and adapting a five-point collaborative plan put forth by Empath (formerly the Crittenton Women’s Union) in Boston. The plan’s five pillars of their Bridge to Self Sufficiency® were employment/career management, family/housing stability, education/training, wellbeing, and financial management.

At the end of 2015, the first year of the LifeWork project, 76% of the participants were gainfully employed. Take a look at their accomplishments at the end of five years.

LifeWork Results

Initially 20 women participated in the project, and all attained improved outcomes for themselves and their children. Their accomplishments after five years are stellar:

The Parenting Advancement Pathways Program

The Parenting Advancement Pathways Program at Bristol Community College Women’s Center, based on the LifeWork model, is an innovative program exclusively designed to support parenting students with wraparound services often found outside the college experience.

The initiative promotes economic mobility by providing holistic support and skills to help low-income parents, from diverse backgrounds, move toward economic independence and college degree attainment. It provides individual support and access to resources that are often difficult to obtain for low income/first generation parents. This program will help provide opportunity and stability for women to balance education while raising children on their own.

The program will provide resources such as holistic case management, financial and career planning, counseling, day and evening child care support, and on-going educational advisement that leads to degree attainment


The Community Economic Development Center (CEDC) grant helped to create a program, Mujeres Victoriosas, a support and resource group for immigrant women and mothers from Central America.

The goal of the program is to help participants share lived experiences, to develop mutual support actions, and to hone their leadership skills so they can become increasingly a voice in the community. The grant stipends provide a lead facilitator and community outreach coordinators to address barriers immigrant women face, such as language, lack of formal education and legal immigration status. Immigrant women are important contributors to the local economy by forming the backbone of labor in New Bedford’s $1B fishing industry. This program helps to mobilize and to lift up their collective voices to speak out and affect societal change.

The group meets bi-weekly and includes a Spanish-speaking regional resource on topics such as education, health, housing, benefits, trauma, abuse, sexism, racism, and xenophobia. From these meetings, leaders emerge who become resources for other women in their community.

Through CEDC’s broad partnerships in the community, we have been able to connect the group to a wide range of organizations in New Bedford including: New Bedford Public Schools, City of New Bedford Health Department, SC Fair Housing, the New Bedford Women’s Center, The Greater New Bedford Health Center, South Coast Counties Legal Services, United Way/Family Resource Center NB Immigrant Support Network.



The YWCA recognizes that coalition building, legislative advocacy, and the mobilization of public support requires a dedicated staff person to manage these responsibilities.

This multi-year grant provides salary relief to aid the director of advocacy and resource development, who sustains and grows the YWCA’s advocacy program, coordinating legislative campaigns and advocacy activities for Fiscal Year 2021.

This staff member develops and maintains relationships with regional and statewide associates, community groups, and other key partners, policymakers, and their staff. Other responsibilities include mobilization of public support and action, providing information to supporters about legislation, policies, social, or political movements related to eliminating racism, empowering women, and accessing information about how people can take action. Often individuals are asked to contact their legislators, participate in a rally, attend a fundraiser, complete a survey, and/or share information on social media about the importance of an issue. This staff member sponsors events that engage the local community on advocacy issues related to gender equity and racial justice.

Martha Briggs Educational Club: Educational Planning for Parents and students

The Martha Briggs Educational Club, Inc. (MBEC) will develop a series of workshops to aid students of color and their parents or guardians to make appropriate plans and decisions for varying levels of education or training. Many students of color lack access to the sources of information necessary to make sound and viable decisions. The limitations of school staffing and a system that is based on unrealistic assumptions causes too many students to have major deficiencies in their planning as they progress through the New Bedford Public Schools. The path for a future surgeon is different from that of a potential plumber. Financial planning is different if one utilizes the state school system or attends private schools. Union apprenticeships offer different opportunities than do personal tutors.
In an effort to level the playing field, the MBEC will engage local educational professionals to develop and conduct two series of workshops this spring, one for younger students as they look towards high school options and one for post-secondary educational options. 
New Bedford Fishing Heritage Museum

This online photographic exhibit showcases the contributions women make to the lucrative fishing business on the SouthCoast. Entitled Women’s Work: At Sea, On Shore, At Home, In the Community, it is the brainchild of Laura Orleans, Executive Director of the New Bedford Fishing Center and can be viewed on their website by clicking the link below. We helped to sponsor this digital display and value how women continue to make waves in this traditional male-dominated industry. 
Girls on the Run

Girls on the Run is an after-school program that challenges young girls to embrace their inner strength, to gain confidence, and to foster care and compassion for others through the physical challenge of running. The eight-week program culminates with a 5K run that encourages participants to give it their all to reach the finish line. The Women’s Fund SouthCoast is sponsoring a local chapter of this national program and encourages you to volunteer as a coach or as an advocate. You don’t have to lace up your sneakers to make a difference in a young girl’s life. Head coach, Caroline O’Leary, who has taught in New Bedford for the last six years “cannot wait to see the growth and empowerment of this amazing group of girls!”

Grants Committee

The Women’s Fund Grants Committee oversees grantmaking in accordance with the Fund’s mission. The Committee takes a strategic approach to accomplishing, over time, the recommendations of the Economic Blueprint for Women through investing our resources.

The Committee develops funding priorities, considers the timing of grants, refines grantmaking parameters, issues RFPs, communicates with potential grantees, and reviews proposals. It also maintains ongoing relationships with grantees, including assessing the impact of grants, and the needs of grantees to be more effective in their work. All projects are evaluated and shared with appropriate organizations and individuals.

Grants Committee Members

Meg Steinberg, Chair
Bettina Borders
Iva Brito
Jeanne M. Costa
Marianne Demakis
Maria Fortes
Andrea Garr-Barnes
Marilyn Halter
Nan Johnson
Mary McCurry                Peggy Bacon                  Darlene Spencer

What Drives Us

We imagine a world in which women and girls are valued and their voices heard.

Local Impact

The success of women and girls ripples through the community to make a more just place for all.

Why Give

Local women helping local women. We advocate, we advance. Our collective voice initiates change.

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