In 1996, seven grantmakers1 began to discuss the creation of a funders' affinity group on population and reproductive health and rights. This "founding committee" agreed on the need for improved communication and collaboration among grantmakers in this area. But many questions arose. Did other grantmakers in the field see a need for an affinity group of funders? If so, what type of group would best meet their needs? What services should it provide, and how should it be structured?
To answer these questions, the group retained a consultant, Laurie Mazur. In the spring and summer of 1997, Mazur conducted a survey of the population and reproductive health and reproductive rights community. The survey sought to clarify points of consensus and/or disagreement about the need for an affinity group, as well as its purpose, structure and membership.
The survey uncovered a great deal of support among both grantmakers and grantseekers for an affinity group. Generally, respondents saw the need for an organization that could help funders share information, provide opportunities for collaboration, and bridge the gap between funders who work on domestic issues and those who work on international issues.
Encouraged by the survey findings, the founding committee hosted a planning meeting in Chicago in November 1997. At that meeting, 48 grantmakers, consultants and resource people officially launched the new Affinity Group on Population, Reproductive Health and Rights. Participants began to shape the new organization's mission and structure.
Soon after, the affinity group secured 501(c)(3) status, recruited staff and set up a governance process. The group held its first annual meeting in 1998, launching a yearly gathering that remains the centerpiece of Funders Network 2 programming. The Network now provides a range of programs and services to more than 50 foundations in its membership.
1 Carmen Barroso, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Edith Eddy, Compton Foundation, Margaret Hempel, Ford Foundation, Shira Saperstein, The Moriah Fund, Steven Sinding, the Rockefeller Foundation, James Sheldon, Weeden Foundation, and J. Jospeh Speidel, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
2 In 2001, the name of the group officially changed from the"Affinity Group on Population, Reproductive Health and Rights" to the "Funders Network on Population, Reproductive Health and Rights."