Lee Roper-Batker is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. Under her leadership since 2001, the Foundation has increased its grantmaking from $319,000 to $3 million a year (840% increase) and endowment from $8 million to $26 million (213% increase); established girlsBEST (girls Building Economic Success Together) in 2002, and also created the first permanently endowed fund just for girls at any women’s foundation in the world; and launched MN Girls Are Not For Sale in 2011, a $7.5 million cross-sector campaign to end sex trafficking, which has resulted in a sea change in Minnesota’s response to this issue and leveraged a $27 million state investment.
In October 2016, the Foundation announced the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota, a seven year, $9 million public-private partnership with the Governor’s Office of the State of Minnesota. The YWI MN centers young women of color and other young women who experience the greatest disparities in outcomes in designing solutions for equity. Lee believes that problems and solutions are found in the same place and is honored to help fund communities’ innovation to ensure that every Minnesota woman and girl has the power to create and lead a safe, prosperous life.
As a leader, Lee is recognized for her thought-leadership, building the women’s funding movement, and use of research as the basis for grantmaking and policy priorities. Says Lee, “Research without action is pointless.”
Well-respected among women’s foundations around the world, Lee founded and serves on the Executive Committee of Prosperity Together, a nonpartisan coalition of public women’s foundations who at the White House in November 2015 publicly committed $100 million to improve the economic security of low-income women and their families in America.
Lee is a trustee of CaringBridge, a global nonprofit whose mission is to amplify the love, hope, and compassion in the world to make each health journey easier. And, Lee is former board chair of the Women’s Funding Network, the world’s largest philanthropic network of over 100 women’s funds and foundations devoted to the well-being of women and girls.
Lee has received dozens of distinguished awards over the years. The Women’s Foundation, along with seven other women’s foundations across the country, received a 2017 Leadership in Equity and Diversity (LEAD) award from the Women’s Funding Network for launching the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota and demonstrating determination, leadership, and innovation within the philanthropic community to in promote gender and racial equity. Lee received American Family Insurance’s 2016 Women of Purpose Protection Award, given each year to one outstanding leader who exemplifies company’s mission to “Protect” and who demonstrates physical, emotional, and environmental assistance in their communities, ensuring a brighter future for all. Also in 2016, Lee received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Augsburg College, in recognition of significant achievement in vocation, for outstanding contribution to church and community, and for a life that exemplifies the ideals and mission of Augsburg College.
Lee has been published in state and national media and in journals about her leadership to drive gender and racial equity, the role of women’s foundations to drive systems change, and the world of philanthropy.
Prior to joining the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, Lee held leadership positions in the anti-poverty, social justice and disabilities communities, and she owned her own business. Lee graduated summa cum laude from Augsburg College and studied at the Higher Trade Union College (Soviet Union) and Program in Global Community (Central America).
Lee loves the depth and breadth of life and is an avid reader, traveler, swimmer, and competitive games enthusiast.
- Follow Lee on Twitter at @LeeRoperBatker.
- Read Lee’s blog, “ENOUGH. Time is Now to End Sexual Harassment and Violence“
- Read profile on Lee in Philanthropy Women, “Scaling the Mount Everest of Gender Equality in Minnesota”
- Read Lee’s article, “Rethinking Spending Rates,” at Stanford Social Innovation Review