Leslie McNeill had a vision for and unshakable belief in women’s collective efforts when she founded the Cincinnati's Women’s Fund in 1995 by making a donation to The Greater Cincinnati Foundation.
| Les McNeill
Les had been an active volunteer for many charities when she kept noticing the same phenomenon: there was little emphasis for funding to help women in our community even though there was a huge need.
She didn’t know at the time what impact her initial donation of $5,000 would have, but she knew no other organization was filling the niche in the way she had envisioned.
On the eve of the very first event for The Women’s Fund, tensions were high. She hoped that ten women would be interested in her new concept. Sixty-five showed up. They were a diverse group and they were “proud in public” about their philanthropy.
Just like at the first event, Les is delighted when women “get together and are proud to be philanthropists.” Her inspiration has drawn many others to this effort. That $5,000 has turned into more than $800,000 in grants, research and advocacy that are helping women, girls and families become self-sufficient.
The recommendations from this research inspired the creation of the “WE” suite of programs at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber (including WE Lead and WE Celebrate) and has inspired other organizations to apply a gender lens to their work.
The Women’s Fund has been a proud part of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation for 20 years. As our region’s community foundation, GCF inspires current and future generations to invest in a more vibrant and prosperous Greater Cincinnati where everyone can thrive. We are proud to bring our gender-specific work to GCF’s portfolio of strengths.
Over our twenty year history, The Women’s Fund has changed the conversation about women and girls in our community. We have provided critical data to our community that has also strengthened the case for support for other organizations serving women and girls.