Lee Roper-Batker is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota (WFMN). On March 25, 2019, the Lee and WFMN publicly announced her retirement, effective January 3, 2020. Upon her retirement, Lee will leave WFMN with a legacy of leadership, innovation, and impact to drive gender and racial equity in Minnesota.
Lee has served as President and CEO since 2001. In 2000, she joined the Board of Trustees and transitioned to WFMN Vice President that same year. Over the course of her 18-year tenure, WFMN has experienced its most prolific periods of organizational growth and impact since its launch in 1983.
Under her leadership, WFMN 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 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 resulted in a sea change in Minnesota’s response to this issue and leveraged a $27 million state investment. In 2016, WFMN launched the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota, a seven-year, $9 million statewide public-private partnership with the Governor’s Office of the State of Minnesota to ensure equity in outcomes and center the leadership and solutions of young women of color, American Indian young women, young women from Greater Minnesota, LGBTQ+ youth, and young women with disabilities.
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. She founded and served 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 on the board of directors of AAUW, the national organization dedicated to advancing equity for women and girls. 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, and a past 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.
Lee has received dozens of distinguished awards over the years. In 2017, WFMN and seven other women’s foundations received the Leadership in Equity and Diversity 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. In 2016, Lee received American Family Insurance’s 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. That same year, Lee received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Augsburg University (Minneapolis) 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 University.
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. Upon retirement, Lee and her husband John will reside in Sarasota, Fla.
- 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