Celebrating 27 Years

A group of 27 women met in Iowa City on August 27, 1994 to discuss the creation of Iowa’s only statewide foundation to raise money and fund projects addressing the needs of Iowa’s women and girls. They asked, “what if every woman and girl in Iowa had a fair opportunity to achieve her personal best?”

The meeting resulted in a unanimous vote to establish the Iowa Women’s Foundation (IWF). Founder Jean Jew reported, “Everybody said yes, and then, at the end, everyone just shouted hurray and started clapping!” From that enthusiastic beginning, IWF went to work.

The founders laid the groundwork for a strong, flexible structure that has allowed the organization to grow and change as it has served Iowa women and girls. IWF was incorporated in November 1994 and obtained 501(c)(3) status in October 1995.

A Board of Directors steers strategy and oversees operations.  A President/CEO, Vice President of Finance, Vice President of Operations, and many volunteers ensure that the strategy, mission, and vision are brought to life.

As IWF developed, five key strategies for change emerged and remain the focus of activities today:


IWF funds and supports research that enables it to invest wisely in activities that create pathways to economic success for Iowa’s women and girls.  Notable research projects include:

  • The first Status of Women in Iowa report, a collaboration with the Chrysalis Foundation of Des Moines, was completed in 2002.
  • Workshops to create a gender equity index to measure progress toward common goals, a collaboration with the Iowa Division of the United Nations Association, was done in 2005.
  • The Iowa Women’s Leadership Project’s SHE Matters report on the status of women and girls in Iowa and accompanying online mapping tool was created in 2012.  IWF promoted the mapping tool through workshops across the state in 2013 and 2014.
  • Focus groups were held in 18 communities across Iowa to understand why and how the Foundation can positively impact the economic self-sufficiency of women and girls in 2015.
  • In 2018, the Building Child Care Solutions collaborative was founded to shatter the first of six barriers identified by communities across the state as keeping women from economic self-sufficiency: Employment, Child Care, Housing, Education/Training, Transportation and Mentors.

Fundraising and Grantmaking

At the heart of IWF is the goal of raising funds to provide grants to organizations addressing the needs of women and girls in Iowa. IWF provides funds to nonprofit organizations throughout the state who work directly with women and girls to shatter these six identified barriers: employment, child care, housing, education/training, transportation and mentoring. Grantmaking gives IWF the power to advance the lives of hundreds of Iowa women and girls each year. The funding helps give them the resources they need to achieve economic success.

Since its founding, IWF has awarded more than $1,295,000 in grants to over 260 projects benefiting women and girls in all 99 Iowa counties.


In order to lead change, IWF educates policy makers and other community leaders regarding issues and solutions. IWF has been a voice for Iowa’s women and girls for 27 years.


IWF educates the community about the importance of improving the lives of Iowa’s women and girls through philanthropic giving. IWF also seeks to partner with local nonprofit organizations to educate women and girls about economic self-sufficiency.


IWF works with social service agencies, government agencies, schools, and businesses across Iowa to address the needs of women and girls in a coherent and complete way. IWF facilitates collaborations with a variety of stakeholders to help influence and impact economic self-sufficiency of women.

IWF remains the only statewide organization working to enhance and improve women’s economic self-sufficiency in a comprehensive way.