Shante K. Avant is a dedicated leader committed to advancing the economic security and well-being of women and families in the Greater Memphis Area. Serving as the President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis (WFGM), she has been instrumental in directing the organization's mission and making a difference in the lives of others since joining the organization in 2007.
Under her collaborative leadership, WFGM has reached milestone achievements awarding over $35 million to 594 programs across 185 Memphis-based nonprofits since 1996, positively affecting the lives of 8,000 individuals and low-income families annually.
A native Memphian with an impressive 27-year track record in the nonprofit sector, Avant's leadership extends beyond WFGM. In 2022, she paved the way as the first Black woman elected to a newly formed district of the Shelby County Commission, representing District 5, further amplifying her impact. Her service on the Memphis-Shelby County School Board from 2014 to 2022, including a term as School Board Chair from 2017 to 2019, exemplifies her commitment to education, community, and economic development.
Avant's influence extends to various civic and advisory boards, including the Agricenter Commission, Shelby County Agricultural Extension Committee, Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, and advisory roles for the University of Memphis College of Social Work and New Memphis. She also serves on the New Memphis Board of Governors and the Ford Mobility Steering Committee. Nationally, she has been actively involved in the Partnership for Women’s Prosperity, Prosperity Together, the Women’s Funding Network International Leadership Cohort, and the Ford Foundation Fellowship.
Recognized for her outstanding contributions, Avant has received prestigious awards, including the 2023 Memphis Business Journal Superwoman in Business Award, the 2023 Tennessee State Democratic Caucus History Maker Award, and the 2021 CUBE School Board of the Year. Other accolades include The New Tri-State Defender’s Woman of Excellence Award, Immaculate Conception High School Alumni of the Year Award, and the Council of Urban Education Excellence Award.
Avant earned her BA in Psychology and a Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Tennessee, showcasing her academic prowess in understanding human behavior and social dynamics. A proud mother of one daughter, Peyton, Shante K. Avant continues to be a beacon of leadership, advocating for positive change and empowerment in her community. Her participation in leadership programs, such as the New Memphis Leadership Development Intensive and Fellows Program and the Leadership Memphis Executive Program, underscores her commitment to continuous growth and excellence in her endeavors. Her affiliation with the Mid-Philanthropy Network further solidifies her dedication to creating a positive impact through philanthropy, leadership and collaboration.
Through Shante K. Avant's leadership, WFGM remains at the forefront of positive change, making a lasting impact on the lives of women and families in the Greater Memphis area by spearheading the mission to encourage philanthropy, foster leadership among women and support programs that enable women and children to reach their full potential.
WFGM has played a major role as a backbone organization aligning people and resources, coordinating community-based services through a Two-Generation Approach to reduce poverty by providing programs for multiple generations through a family-centered approach that improves economic and social mobility.
Together with grantee and community partners, the Foundation’s success to date includes:
$8.6 Million allocated in grants to provide direct services in zip code 38126 and expanding to 38106; 2,240 individuals benefiting from job training and placement; 167 individuals initiating businesses or micro-enterprises; and 1,282 children and their parents participating in early childhood development programs.
Looking forward, WFGM envisions a transformative impact through its Vision 2025 Strategic Plan. This ambitious plan aims to increase investment and reduce poverty in five Memphis zip codes by the year 2025. Key elements of the plan include enhancing social and economic mobility, expanding partnerships, leveraging impact, and replicating successful place-based models in additional neighborhoods.
The foundation's dedication is evident in its place-based work in South City (zip code 38126), a driving force behind the Vision 2025 strategic plan. Expanding its reach, WFGM has extended funding to grantee partners serving communities in four additional zip codes – 38106, 38108, 38107, and 38109.