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Rigorous Research Process

The Research Committee has developed a very rigorous and in-depth research process focused on our mission to award significant grants to organizations meeting the critical needs of women, children and families living in south Santa Barbara County. The Women’s Fund does not accept grant applications but rather conducts our own research.

The integrity of the research process is a top priority of Women’s Fund leadership.

  • Researchers sign a Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality agreement each year in order to ensure a high degree of objectivity in the research process.  Generally, researchers may not be employed by a nonprofit that could be researched by the Women’s Fund.  Researchers may serve on a nonprofit board; however, they may not assist in any part of researching that agency. 
  • The Research Committee maintains a master list of over 200 community agencies whose programs meet our mission. Every other year we ask our members for their input on the critical needs of the community and agencies they would like to see added to our list.
  • Agencies on our list that have not received Women’s Fund grants in the last two funding cycles are eligible to be researched. 
  • Researchers do preliminary research and objectively discuss findings to narrow the master list to about 30 agencies for in-depth review. 
  • Researchers invite selected agencies to describe their organization and the programs or capital projects that are candidates for funding.  Organizations also submit detailed financial reports.
  • Researchers make site visits to see programs in action. 
  • Researchers write evaluations and present their recommendations to the full Research Committee.  Questions and answers are exchanged with each agency until the committee has a clear understanding of how the funds would be used and effectiveness measured. 
  • The committee uses a list of criteria for evaluating each organization's programs and capital projects, including:
    • Does it meet a compelling and critical need in the community?
    • Is it effective and can the organization demonstrate a method for measuring effectiveness?
    • Does it leverage funds by paying dividends down the line or by having other funding provide a match?
    • Can the organization demonstrate leadership and program sustainability?
    • Is this a critical financial need that can't be met elsewhere?
  • After thoroughly reviewing all the agency information, the committee selects the agencies to place on the Women’s Fund ballot sent to members in the spring. Grants are awarded based on a simple majority of members’ votes.

Agencies receiving grants are required to provide mid-year and year-end reports on how they used the funds and the impact the Women’s Fund grant had on the agency and its clients. The agencies also agree to participate in the Women’s Fund Site Visit in the fall, enabling members to see and hear how the grants are being used.


Their research process helped us look at our organization critically. And they allowed us the opportunity to think bigger, to dream. - Ernesto Paredes, Easy Lift Transportation, 2011-12 and 2015-16 Grant Recipient