Women In Philanthropy 

Foundation News

Women In Philanthropy 

8 Mar 2021

On this International Women’s Day (8th March) let’s celebrate the women in philanthropy in NI, their leadership and the increasing impact they make.

Women are most likely to engage in charitable and social activities, generously giving each year and are quickly catching up with male counterparts. Mainly through independent financial means which may not always have been the case historically. In the past women’s philanthropy would have been the privilege of those in the upper-middle classes or confined to the wives of rich men, but today we see women supporting a wide range of causes and with more exposure to paid employment and financial independence, taking leadership roles. Take for example our women’s fund at the Foundation, a giving circle set up for women by women. Chaired by Joan Smyth, the fund has made grants to over 50 women, to empower and support them in the last 5 years. Give Inc, is another great local example of a giving circle where women in NI make a regular donation and individually propose where funds should be awarded. This model enables reach into local communities, networks and need, which otherwise simply wouldn’t happen.


An increasing number of donor advised funds at the Foundation are led by women, most recently, The Hobson Fund, set up by retired school teacher Jennifer Hobson who wanted to give back to disadvantaged young people in NI. This year The Hobson Fund will support seven organisations who look after children and young people, and those transitioning from care. Nearly £80,000 has been awarded to ensure these young people are given the care and support they need.


Women in NI are also inspiring Philanthropy throughout NI. Through the Kate Lagan Fund, her children continue their mum’s passions, including supporting children. Set up just a year ago in memory of Kate, the fund celebrates her life and leaves a legacy of hope to local charities and organisations. Bangor and North Down Samaritans are just one of the much-needed organisations that have benefited recently.

“Covid has created a lot of anxiety with many callers anxious about catching the virus.  Normally, volunteers do one day a week but in the height of the pandemic, they were doing much more to fill the gaps left by those who were self-isolating highlighting just how important this service is to individuals in need.” Wesley Wilson, Director of the Samaritans branch in Bangor.

Organisations such as these are pillars of hope in their communities, providing a lifeline for many vulnerable individuals.

More recently, women are increasingly more likely to leave a charitable gift in their will (12% compared to 9% of men) a source of support for our community that ensures the future of those places and people they care about.

At the Foundation, women play a central role, on our board, on our panels, staff, leadership team and as ambassadors. Congratulations to all the women in philanthropy in NI today, you are making a huge impact building a peaceful, prosperous, shared and just society through your generosity of time, talent and treasure.


Siofra Healy, Director of Philanthropy, CFNI


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