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History

Women’s Fund of Hawai`i was first envisioned in 1989 by the then-CEO of Hawai`i Community Foundation (HCF), Jane Renfro Smith. Ms. Smith and the Fund’s original supporters shared a vision of creating an expanding resource permanently dedicated to women and girls.

A fund is necessary because the nonprofit agencies that address women’s inequalities receive little philanthropic support. Throughout the country, programs serving women and girls receive only 8 percent of all philanthropic dollars. At HCF, the fund grew to over $200,000 in permanent endowment and awarded modest grant on an annual basis.

In 2003, with the continued support of HCF, the key leaders of the Women’s Fund of Hawai`i conducted a needs assessment and feasibility study. The results of the needs assessment confirmed that many challenges remain preventing women and girls from achieving their full potential. The feasibility study established that there was a base of support for a separate non-profit entity.

In 2005, the Women’s Fund of Hawai`i hit several significant milestones: the IRS granted the organization its own 501(c)(3) status, a dynamic board of directors was elected to carry out the work of the new organization, and the organization hired its first Executive Director, Sara Buehler. Since it’s rebirth in 2005, the fund has been guided by prominent women from a diverse array of fields throughout the islands, and a Grant-Making Committee that carefully conducts its due diligence of the applicants.

Each year the applicant pool for grants continues to rise, and we are able to provide more grants to women and girls in need in our community. The heartbreaking part of our work, though, is that for every grant we give, we turn down four qualified organizations. Join us in helping the neediest girls and women throughout Hawai`i by sending your donation today. Each of your dollars will be put to work making Hawai`i a better place for women and girls.