Who We Are

VGIF is an international women’s fund based in the United States and governed by an international Board of Directors. We support women-led grassroots projects in developing countries around the world; projects that help improve the lives of women and girls by advancing women’s rights and social justice.

VGIF was founded in 1969 and has funded over 475 projects in 89 countries, focusing on issues ranging from education and health to economic empowerment and human rights.

VGIF recently established a larger office with increased responsibilities, while the Board of Directors moved from being a working board to becoming a governance board. VGIF is engaged in a significant capacity building effort to further expand its grantmaking program and to strengthen its grantee support and oversight efforts. Currently, in collaboration with the Board of Directors and its committees, the work of VGIF is conducted by five staff members, with a cadre of local and international volunteers, a graduate Fellow, and several interns.

Staff at the VGIF office

Mission

The Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund provides
small grants for grassroots projects that empower
women and girls in developing countries.

Over 40 years supporting women in developing countries including:
Economic empowerment of women
Community development
Health and nutritional support
Literacy and leadership training
Educational seminars and workshops
Promoting education in the sciences for girls
Human rights education

More than 475 successful projects in 89 countries.
All of our projects are listed in the Project Grants Library.

Project Spotlight: Turkey
TÜKD Adana Branch
Small Business Development, Income Generation, Skills, Technical, Vocational Training

History

The Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund (VGIF) was founded in 1969 by eleven members of the International Federation of University Women.

Initially, the Fund assisted women college graduates — particularly in low per capita income countries — to identify and implement solutions to a variety of problems confronting their nations. Grants of small amounts of money were awarded in aid for educational projects and other community development projects affecting the condition of women and girls. Within a decade, the Fund broadened its original purpose and began to encompass projects beyond those narrowly aimed at university women and to utilize a variety of conduits for aid.
 

VGIF Milestones

During its 45-year history, VGIF has moved from helping women participate in international discussions and supporting women who explored urgent issue within their own countries to supporting women addressing specific issues in their own communities. Increasingly and through today, we have supported grassroots groups that identified both the problems and solutions in their own communities.

1969
VGIF is established as an independent corporation by members of the International Federation of University Women (IFUW). The fund is named after Virginia Gildersleeve, who in turn was a co-founder of IFUW. The intent is to support women’s activities and women’s involvement in international development.
1970
VGIF makes its first grant to support women’s leadership building—helping women from South and East Asia, North and Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the Middle East to attend the 1971 IFUW conference.
1975
VGIF makes its first grant to fund a grassroots project, focusing on skills training in child care, nutrition, health, and improved farming practices in Pakistan.
1986
VGIF expands its relationships with women’s groups in Sub-Saharan Africa, funding training and income-generation projects for women in rural areas.
1988
VGIF establishes the Erna Hamburger Fund to provide grants for projects encouraging the education of girls in developing countries in mathematics, science, or engineering. 
1990s
VGIF expands it grantmaking during this decade to provide over $300,000 in funding to 94 projects, including reproductive health, skills-training, agricultural, and human rights projects.
1991
VGIF begins partnering with pioneering organizations in South America and West Africa to fund HIV/AIDS prevention education for high-risk groups, including young girls and female sex workers, as well as projects supporting people living with AIDS. This year, VGIF also hires its first paid employee, Fay Kittleson.
1999
VGIF funds a counseling and support program to address violence against women in the Philippines. The project provides needed legal assistance and financial training for women who have experienced abuse.
1999
VGIF supports the first of several programs that help women deal with unique challenges in post-conflict countries, including Columbia, Croatia, Nepal, Rwanda, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Liberia and South Sudan.
2001
VGIF receives the first of several generous gifts from Virginia Freese Palmer. These donations are used to fund VGIF’s operational costs, which opens up opportunities to further build the organization and significantly increase its grantmaking efforts. VGIF begins this effort by establishing its own office in 2002.
2011
VGIF funds it first multi-year grants that provide longer-term support to women’s organizations. Grantees include the Women’s Center in Georgia and the Ntankah Village Women Common Initiative Group in Cameroon, selected to expand successful work in their communities.
2014
VGIF celebrates its 45th Anniversary and reflects on its successful grantmaking.