On October 17th, 2019, the Women’s Foundation of California (WFoC) celebrated its fortieth anniversary with a major announcement: the organization pledged $40 million to gender justice, and began its groundbreaking campaign to raise the funds to facilitate another forty years of gender justice grantmaking.
Less than a month later, the WFoC is more than halfway to its goal of $40 million. This stunning fundraising effort is the result of a steadfast community of donors, supporters, and activists, which the Foundation has built over forty years of campaigning for social change.
Editor’s Note: The following piece is co-authored by Laura Midgley and Bo Lee, board members of Catalist and co-chairs of the Catalist’s upcoming conference. Catalist is an innovative organization working to enhance collective giving by and for women.
For the past decade, Catalist has supported the creation, development, and expansion of women’s collective giving groups, sometimes referred to as giving circles. Open to all women’s collective grantmaking organizations, the network connects and inspires a fast-growing movement of community-minded women who recognize the exponential power of collectively sharing of the experience of giving for social change. The network currently has over 75 affiliates nationwide. Globally, with the addition of groups in Melbourne and London, the movement’s combined giving is over $125 million and has involved more than 17,000 women since 1995.
Tracy Gray has something important to tell women about their philanthropy: do less of it. It’s not the usual message that donors get from the world, and it’s not the usual message here at Philanthropy Women, either. But the context of this message comes from Gray’s conviction that the quicker we grow women’s wealth, the quicker we will move toward a better society.
“Take some of your money out of charity and put it into women-owned or women-led businesses,” Gray advised women donors, in a recent phone chat with Philanthropy Women.
On October 31, Rachel’s Network announced the inaugural winners of the first-ever Catalyst Award. Designed to provide women leaders of color support and recognition, the Catalyst Award highlights winners’ commitment to a healthy planet.
Each award winner will receive $10,000, extensive networking opportunities, and national recognition for their outstanding work. In addition, the award winners will be recognized at an invitation-only ceremony held in March 2020 in Washington, DC.
Chosen from a massive application pool, the winners reflect some of the top talent and dedication in the fields of conservation, environmental law, public policy, and water access.
Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Swatee Deepak, director of With and For Girls (WFG), a collective that gives financial support to girl-led and -centered groups around the world and engages young women in participatory grantmaking panels.
What is your current greatest professional challenge?
How to best support mergers in the philanthropic sector adhering to the same values and care we place across our work.
With and For Girls was initially incubated within a private foundation, Stars Foundation. In 2018, as a collective, we worked together with adolescent girls to identify a new home and chose Purposeful. What followed was a merger of WFG from Stars to Purposeful. Progressive philanthropy is filled with discussions about shifting power. Here we are, a funder collaborative, working globally across the global north and south and made up of established funders now being held by a grassroots-based organization with headquarters in Sierra Leone.
This week’s essential reading for feminist givers comes from the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) with their report, Toward a Feminist Funding Ecosystem. The report helps to more clearly define the different types of funding that impact feminist movement-building, and makes recommendations for how to increase the most effective forms of funding.
The report cites evidence that, “A remarkable – and disturbing – 99% of gender-related international aid fails to reach women’s rights and feminist organizations directly.” Instead, these funds end up being used by the development agencies that receive them, or get redistributed to mainstream organizations that are not associated with feminist movement builders.
Looking for ways to buy gifts and support gender equality at the same time? The Body Shop US is donating one dollar to Plan International USA for every holiday pre-packaged gift box and bag sold between November 1 and the end of the year. The money raised, up to a total of $50,000, will contribute to Plan USA’s work to empower girls globally. The program will enable 1,200 youth, through national leadership and advocacy programs, to transform gender norms by creating new narratives about girls focused on power, intelligence and capability.
The impetus for the Body Shop’s “Empower Our Girls” donation are the results of a Plan International USA study on gender equality. Some stats from the survey:
Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Loreen Arbus, producer, writer, author, and disability rights activist. She is the Founder of the Loreen Arbus Foundation, President of the Goldenson-Arbus Foundation, and sponsor of the WMC Loreen Arbus Journalism Program, among other projects. On October 21st, Loreen received the Eagle Award at the Disability Rights Advocates’ 2019 Gala at the American Museum of Natural History. Her work as an advocate for people with disabilities, including her commitment to inclusion and integration of differently-abled people and minorities, spans a lifetime of exemplary philanthropic efforts.
“The collective giving movement has grown slowly but steadily over 25 years,” says Paula Liang, chair of Catalist, a national network of 75 women’s giving circles that represent 20,000 donors, “and now has reached what lots of us believe is a tipping point.”
As the article reminds us, giving circles have quadrupled over the last decade, and the majority of the activity in the movement is women-led. Much of it is also focused on giving to women and girls, such as Project W, the giving circle featured in the Philly Inquirer article.
Oxfam did the world another service recently by producing a report called A Leap of Faith: Conversations with Funders of Women’s Organizations. The report, which was written by I.G. Advisors, tells the story of how the funding landscape for women and girls feels close up — the ways that these funders struggle with trusting their grantees while also finding useful metrics to measure their work.
Dr. Fenella Porter of Oxfam introduces the report by examining the profound power imbalances that exist between grantees and grantmakers across the board. She suggests that one form of power that grantees have is the power inherent in being the information collectors — the bringers of knowledge. “Knowledge is certainly power,” Porter continues, “but we must also recognize the many other power imbalances” that exist in philanthropy.