Connecting and growing women leaders in the NPO sector

Women in Philanthropy’s Cynthia Rayner discusses the history of the women’s networking organization, and how it is growing to become more representative of the sector that it supports.

Women in Philanthropy (WiP) was started with a simple idea: to bring together passionate women active in the social sector to connect, learn, collaborate and inspire.

In 2010, ten founding women members came together for breakfast to hear the inspirational story of Helen Lieberman, founder of Ikamva Labantu.  This initial concept was repeated every two months, and over time, the network began to grow organically.  Today, the network is comprised of more than 600 women in the Cape Town area, and a Johannesburg network was launched in 2014.

The network defines philanthropy broadly and aims to support women who give time, resources and influence to social causes and organisations that they care about.  While most members work professionally for nonprofits, many members are volunteers and donors as well.

WiP is set up to support women as leaders and individuals, whereas other networking organisations often support organisations or industries.  WiP believes that by growing women as leaders, the entire nonprofit sector will benefit.  The core objectives for the network are to:

  • Connect. WiP is a place where philanthropic women in Cape Town can connect with one another.
  • Learn. WiP is a forum for women to gain knowledge in order to perform their philanthropic work with greater impact.
  • Collaborate. WiP is also a space for women to reduce duplication, share resources & identify partnerships.
  • Inspire. WiP creates a place where women can find inspiration, mentorship and support for their philanthropic journey.

WiP recently distributed a survey to its membership to understand why women join the network and how the network can serve its membership better.  The results of the survey showed that the group has been growing primarily through word-of-mouth – mostly through friends and colleagues encouraging their own personal networks to attend.  The survey also revealed that the membership valued the women-only forum.

Based on the results of the survey, WiP has brought together a steering committee comprised of active and original founding members to guide the growth of the network.  The aim is to grow the network intentionally to become more inclusive and diverse, and formalise the network with a website that allows networking and resource-sharing to continue beyond the bi-monthly events.

WiP’s next event is “What Happens after Passion?” an interactive discussion with nonprofit leaders who have grown professional nonprofit organisations beyond the initial start-up phase.  The event will be held on August 5th, 8h30-11h00 at the Bandwidth Barn in Khayelitsha.

Membership to WiP is free and open to all women active in the social sector.  You can learn more about Women in Philanthropy by visiting their Facebook page: or by emailing

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