The Women's Fund:

Strong, Focused, Growing and Ambitious









The Women’s Fund began as a Fund of the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts, with a donation by a local attorney and Judge, the Honorable Bettina Borders. Bettina’s personal herstory, including her work in the Women’s Rights movement and community organizations, heightened her awareness of the importance of a permanent fund focused on supporting equity for all women and girls.  Once the fund was established, a cadre of committed philanthropic women, The Founding Mothers, carried the work forward.



In 2004, the Founding Mothers hired Kate Fentress as Executive Director. Under Kate’s direction, the Fund began awarding small, individual grants (“Action Awards”) supporting local programs for women and girls.  Among these was Bristol Community College’s “Women in Successful Environments” (WISE) employment program for low-income women.  WISE demonstrated the value of just one semester’s support. Yet it also highlighted the challenges facing working women who were not earning a living wage. 




To provide more than a single semester’s support, the Women’s Fund convened a community collaboration to enable low-income women with families to receive the education and skills needed to earn a living wage. The resulting LifeWork program provided training, mentoring and cohort support to foster economic mobility. LifeWork continued through 2019, showing strong results: better grades, improved credit ratings, higher rates of graduation and educational continuation, increased employment, and a greater sense of personal agency.


In 2014, Val Basset became Executive Director. With a focus on raising the per­centage of regional women earning a living wage, Val convened a regional Task Force that researched income disparities, barriers and best practices, developing  an action plan: the Economic Blueprint for Women.



The Blueprint set a bold, shared agenda for regional partners and became the basis for all Women’s Fund grants.   It also initiated the Women’s Fund’s focus on advocacy as we promoted policies like Equal Pay, Paid Family and Medical Leave, and Universal Pre-K. 


In the fall of 2019, Joanne Murray became our new Executive Director.   A strategic and innovative thought leader with deep experience in the individual and societal advancement of girls and women, Joanne’s passion has already fueled extraordinary growth and excitement. In 2020, Joanne is positioning the Fund for continued evolution and increased impact for the women of our community.


Since inception, the Women’s Fund has dispersed over a million dollars and benefitted thousands of women and families in our region.

Supporting Equity for Women and Girls Throughout the SouthCoast

The Women’s Fund advances economic security for women and girls in Southeastern MA, promoting equity across race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, gender identity and country of origin.  We build partnerships and use our voice, advocacy, and grantmaking to foster a more just region.

  • Instagram
  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon

The Women's Fund is a Fund of the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts

135 Union Street| New Bedford, MA 02740 | 508-717-0283 |