When Phoebe Valentine’s father died in 1974, she inherited a fortune. Uncomfortable with this recently acquired wealth and at the recommendation of her husband and advisors, she placed most of it in an irrevocable trust. In 1983, at just age 40, Phoebe was diagnosed with cancer. Faced with a grim prognosis, she decided to start using her wealth to better the world around her, and ensure that betterment continued even after her death. In 1985 part of her inheritance was reborn as The Valentine Foundation, an organization whose mission is the empowerment of women and girls. She selected five women to be the first trustees, only one of whom had philanthropic experience, and together these pioneers charted the Foundation’s initial mission and course, propelled by the spirit of Phoebe’s unwavering generosity as well as her financial support.
The first Valentine Foundation grants were made to “organizations or programs which empower women and girls to recognize and develop their full potential, or … work to change established attitudes that discourage or prevent them from recognizing that potential.” Grants were also given “for endeavors to effect fundamental change—to change attitudes, policies, or social patterns.” The mission of the Foundation has evolved over the years to focus on social change for women and girls.
In addition to its primary work of grantmaking, the Valentine Foundation has been engaged in education and advocacy as an institution within the philanthropic arena. As a member of the Philanthropy Network the Foundation has a voice in discussions pertaining to charitable giving to women and girls. In these settings the trustees advocate for the needs of women and girls, and work to increase female-focused grantmaking by other foundations.
The Valentine Foundation celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2015. It’s mission has been refined over the years to respond to the changing circumstances of women and girls, but remains true to the vision of Phoebe Valentine and the original five trustees to empower and enable women and girls to become fully who they are.