When you meet Ana Morales you are immediately struck by her charm. She is warm, funny, approachable, accessible.
But if you stop there, you’d be missing out on the full picture. Morales is also a philanthropist who is constantly working to understand the world and give back. And given how fearlessly she approaches this mission, she is a great study in how women are changing the face of global philanthropy.
Born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, Morales credits her interest in community and social change to her grandfather, Roberto, a man who epitomized giving back.
“My grandfather was an entrepreneur. Starting at the age of five he shined shoes and sold vegetables,” said Morales, in a recent interview with Philanthropy Women. “He believed in business as a force for change and he believed in community.”
This work ethic and belief in community would propel Roberto forward in the world of business. Financial success would come in the form of tortillas, a commodity in demand throughout the globe that he transformed into a thriving business. His enterprising spirit would bring financial prosperity to the Gonzalez family who would spend two decades contributing growing their business and giving back to the community in which they lived.
“My grandfather launched an organization. It was small, run by a few people. It was in the community. We all knew each other.”
The organization focused on three core areas: community health, education and sports, and with they work, they sparked a culture of change in the community, particularly in the schools. “Excelling became part of the culture and was led by both teachers and students,” said Morales. She told the story of a young boy who participated in the program and got an award in kindergarten from the organization. “You saw him become more and more confident. He continued to grow. In high school, he was accepted into Harvard University. He couldn’t afford it. My grandfather gave him a scholarship. He attended and graduated from Harvard.”
The time Ana spent with her grandfather’s organization would leave a strong impression on her, evidenced by who she funds today and what she looks for in her giving. In this, she strives for a balance that can often take years for philanthropists to achieve: measuring impact while trusting her intuition.
“We’re a little too obsessed with measurements,” said Morales. “We want to see our efforts are working. Sometimes it’s about faith. Faith in the leaders. Faith in the mission. Everything can’t be measured, it has to be experienced and felt.”
In this era of philanthropy when business terms can take precedence over human terms, Morales connects to the the power of relationships and community. “The organizations I support are about people. The people who lead and the people we serve. They’re not numbers, they’re not statistics.” Morales is a big proponent of hands-on philanthropy and staying connected, not only the people being served but also the professionals doing the work, seeing it as central to maximizing philanthropy dollar impacts.
At the age of thirty-eight, Morales has spent the last few years leaving her comfort zone, refining her approach and mapping what kind of change she wants to help unleash. This philanthropic focus and confidence didn’t come overnight. It involved risk-taking and networking in unfamiliar territory. “I sat myself at dinners that scared the shit out of me and I started asking questions,” said Morales. At times, she admits she felt out of her league, but she kept asking, kept learning.
“I am a completely different person than two years ago,” said Morales of her philanthropy journey. “I am more confident. I will call people and get the education I need. I try every day to learn and grow.”
And like her grandfather, Morales wants to bring others along with her, to share in making change, not just in their own backyard but in transformational work around the globe. “There’s lots of opportunity for Mexican philanthropy. It’s an undiscovered philanthropic country. I’m working on building up my giving portfolio and my impact to share with Mexican philanthropists,” she said.
“There’s a culture of giving in Mexico,” said Morales, citing the widespread giving to the church, as well as local giving for community enrichment. “I want to cultivate that and make it stronger and better. I want Mexican philanthropy to make its mark not just in Mexico but to bring our good will and resources to the world.”
Morales has made significant gifts to a program in Latin America that supports women and girls and that includes men and boys, but her belief in involving the whole community and not just funding women and girls is powerful. Ask her about it and you will see her passion for inclusion. She is committed to bringing voice to men and boys as community change agents. “My calling is involving the community and involving men and boys. They are a core part of the solution. They must be included,” said Morales.” For more on how Morales sees the need for culture change for both men and women, see Turns Out, Girls and Women Aren’t the Answer.
Morales also admits she likes to buck the trends, and takes pride in a stubbornness that feeds her ability to reach beyond the current trends. “What drives me is going against the currents. I’m going to do what isn’t happening in the mainstream.”
Morales funds this critical work and at the same time she is a social change matchmaker. “I love that I’m meeting interesting people and then I get to introduce these people to one another so that they can do something incredible together. I don’t need to be involved with what happen next. I just get to watch something big come out of it.”
Morales has a Masters degree in art therapy and once taught art to vulnerable youth, giving her a disciplined approach to listening that helps her connect to the right people at the right time. She knows the power of values-based relationships and emphasizes trusting your philanthropic intuition. As she navigates the rapidly evolving global world of philanthropy, she frequently circles back to the story of her grandfather as a role model who has served her well. “When he passed away, we had a ceremony for him in my hometown. Lines of people came to honor him. That’s the day I realized how generous he was to the community: Listening to how people talked about him.”
She is her grandfather’s granddaughter. And she’s only just begun.
Philanthropists and for-profit investors are increasingly using a gender lens to screen opportunities for funding social change as awareness of the need continues to grow. Funders now take it for granted that empowering women is a linchpin of global advancement. Yet report cards marking the 20th anniversary of the passage of the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995—a blueprint created by 189 governments for advancing women’s rights in 12 areas—show that progress toward gender equality has been painfully slow.
The most shocking indicator revealed that global rates of gender based violence—which the World Health Organization estimates affects about one in three women—have remained unchanged over the past 20 years despite billions of dollars in private and public investment to combat it. Gender-based violence is just one indicator, but it is both a proxy for stalled progress on multiple fronts and testimony to one of the most stubborn obstacles to bettering women’s lives: the persistence of both conscious and subconscious beliefs and norms that sanction an imbalance of power between men and women and foster conditions that inflame violence.
It is harder to change what happens behind the closed doors of huts and homes than it is to help a woman open a savings account or apply for a microfinance loan. This suggests that funders must begin looking beyond efforts at redress, mitigation, or even women’s empowerment—though these are still sorely needed—to more directly fund efforts to reexamine and transform the underlying norms and beliefs that disempower females.
Norms and Beliefs—the Elephant in the Room
Despite variety across cultures, social norms and beliefs that justify the subjugation of women and girls are remarkably similar across the globe. A 2001-2007 UNICEF survey of household attitudes toward domestic violence in 67 countries found that roughly half of female respondents believed that violence is justified to enforce a husband’s “authority” in the household. In India, 47 percent of the women surveyed expressed such a belief. Among boys and men in India, 42 percent consider a husband to be justified in hitting or beating his wife for, among other things, burning the food, arguing with him, or going out without telling him.
How can empowerment programs help someone whose culture and religion deny her the right or even the basic human capacity to participate equally in her family, her community, and other aspects of society? This is the “elephant in the room” that philanthropists must address to improve the world’s truly dismal record on gender-based violence, discrimination, and disempowerment.
Taking on the elephant in the room does not simply mean providing the same programs and opportunities for women and men—gender neutrality. Rather, gender equity is about creating transformative opportunities targeted at the specific, and sometimes different, needs of men and women. This approach requires changing norms and beliefs by supporting grassroots change agents working toward equity from within their own cultural and religious contexts.
Bringing Men into the Gender Lens
As difficult as this task is, more and more philanthropists and NGOs are trying to find culturally appropriate, transformative ways to address the gender-based beliefs and social norms that are undermining humanitarian progress. Some global development organizations, like Tostan, Beyond Borders, and World Vision International, are finding paths to change these harmful gender norms. Importantly, their work includes reaching out to men as well as women to identify and foster solutions.
World Vision’s Channels of Hope for Gender program, for example, explores gender identities, norms, and values from a faith perspective in countries around the globe. The program challenges faith leaders to acknowledge and act upon gender injustices in their communities. One man newly participating in Channels of Hope asked: “But if I love my wife and my children, isn’t it my role to discipline them?” He was participating in an open-minded conversation that constitutes the first step of the program, designed to create a safe space for men and women to open their minds and hearts to how they treat each other.
Meanwhile, a participant in Beyond Borders’ Rethinking Power program in Haiti says that as a result of community-based dialogue around gender roles and norms, he no longer sees men publicly hitting their wives in his community, and that people have started to intervene when they hear things that sound like domestic violence behind closed doors.
As these examples show, applying a gender lens to grantmaking means taking the needs of women and men into account. Think of a gender lens as putting on spectacles. Out of one lens you see the participation, needs, and realities of women. Out of the other lens, you see the participation, needs, and realities of men. Your vision is optimal only when it combines the two. “If we don’t start to work with men, we might still be here in another 25 years,” says Will Muir, cofounder and director of the India-based Equal Community Foundation.
A recent white paper on gender equality in India, Ladies and Gentle Men, concurs, noting that if gender norms are at the root of unequal treatment of women, then men—who in most traditional societies are the gatekeepers of these norms—must be enlisted as role models of change and advocates of gender equality. This means that men (and boys) must be approached as partners rather than as perpetrators, an approach that has the advantage not only of being strategically smart but also of recognizing the ways in which men as well as women are prevented from realizing their full human and social potential by the strictures of patriarchal cultures.
Taking on the Norms
How exactly can funders go about addressing the norms and beliefs that are the root causes of gender-based violence, discrimination, and oppression in so many places in the world? The first step is to be clear about what a strategy that aims to change norms and beliefs actually entails.
Consider a hypothetical example described in Insight: Why Grant-Making in India Needs a Gender Lens, a paper published by Dasra, an Indian strategic philanthropy foundation. A funder decides to pay for the renovation of a secondary school building in India to help restart a defunct coeducation program in a region where student attendance is low. The renovation transforms what had been a typically dreary and uninviting government school building into a well-built and colorful structure with a playground and well-lit classrooms filled with pictures, maps, and books. As a result, overall student attendance increases. Yet the attendance data show that far fewer girls than boys are attending. A gender-lens analysis of school attendance reveals several reasons for this disparity:
A majority of the girls in the target region perform household chores in the morning, which makes the school hours of 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. unsuitable for them.
The absence of a separate toilet for girls (with access to sanitary materials) in the school building makes it challenging for menstruating girls to manage their periods, forcing them to remain absent for some part of each month.
Lack of a safe mode of transportation to and from the school makes families hesitant to send girls there.
While the gender bias inherent in the renovation program is obvious, what may not be so clear is how the situation should be remedied. Here it is useful to consider the Gender Continuum framework developed by the Interagency Gender Working Group, for use in applying a gender lens to development projects. The continuum of possible responses revealed by a gender aware framing ranges from actively reinforcing gender imbalances (“exploitative”) to merely accommodating them (“accommodating”) to attempting to transform them (“transformative”).
The difference between the accommodating and the transformative approaches is that the first accepts and works around gender inequalities, while the second seeks to examine and change the norms and beliefs underlying them.
To return to our example of the school renovation, an accommodating approach to improving attendance among girls might mean changing the school’s hours from morning to afternoon to work around the expectation that girls stay home to help with household chores earlier in the day. While this might help get girls to school, it would not challenge the norm by which girls, but not boys, bear responsibility for household chores. The transformative solution lies in changing the norms and beliefs that demean and disempower girls and women in the first place.
It is not our place as outsiders to come in and try to change someone else’s cultural beliefs. But if that’s the case, what role could philanthropists play in freeing women and girls (and men and boys) from oppressive gender norms and beliefs? Grantmakers certainly need to tread lightly onto the culturally and religiously sensitive terrain of changing social norms. Yet it is also possible to respect the sovereignty of other cultures and religions while finding ways to fund and empower grassroots change agents working from within their own cultural and religious contexts to transform gender beliefs and norms. As difficult as this balance is, more and more philanthropists and NGOs are trying to find culturally appropriate, transformative ways to address the beliefs and social norms that are undermining humanitarian progress.
Funding Indigenous Gender-Norm Entrepreneurs
Macro-change happens within the microcosm of myriad individual hearts and minds. There is no way to artificially speed up this slow, very human process of change. That’s why it can be extremely challenging to fund this type of social transformation. Nonetheless, our work, and our observations of the experiences of NGOs that are engaging in this work, suggest three clear ways in which grantmakers can support like-minded organizations.
Fund “bell ringers,” the grassroots women’s rights organizations that are today’s pioneers. Every social movement has its “bell ringers” who wake people up to the existence of a problem. Think of 19th-century American reformers such as Sojourner Truth, who campaigned for the abolition of slavery and equality for women, or Susan B. Anthony, who fought for women’s suffrage. Even in the most patriarchal societies, there are grassroots women’s organizations leading their own women’s movements. Many are fledgling entities run by passionate and brave women who put their own lives on the line to advocate for equality and safety for girls and women.
One such organization in India is Jagori, which means “Awaken, women!” in Hindi. Jagori is a women’s training and resource center whose mission is “to deepen feminist consciousness with diverse partners at local and national levels.” The organization offers a variety of services, including training programs that provide young women and young men with analytical tools and handson support for working to end violence against women. Jagori’s other activities include violence intervention programs; a Safe Cities Initiative to make Indian urban areas safer for women and more gender inclusive; support for women’s leadership in local communities; and work with men and adolescent boys to redefine “dominant masculinities” and support ending violence against women and girls.
It is not easy to find and fund such grassroots organizations, but one alternative is to donate to women’s funding organizations, such as the Global Fund for Women, that make grants and offer technical assistance to a web of women’s rights groups around the world.
Fund gender equality “mainstreamers”— reflective, dialogue- based programs that engage community and religious leaders in community-driven change around gender practices. If you can’t talk about the way things are, you can’t fix them. Women and men alike need safe spaces—for their own genders and for dialogue between the genders—to open their minds and hearts to one another about how their society’s rules affect them and their relationships.
Religion often serves as the social sanction for gender practices that subjugate women and girls. Yet faith also has the capacity to support human equality and a commitment to shared human rights for all, which means that in some societies and communities religious leaders can play an important role in supporting necessary dialogue. The Indian NGO Action against Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children (ATSEC) runs a program called the Inter-Religious Priests’ Forum that brings clergy from Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity together to take action against human trafficking.
Forum members have now moved on from advocacy to intervention. For example, one maulana (a term used in South Asia to address or refer to a Muslim religious scholar) in Kishanganj, Bihar, began speaking out against trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation before Friday prayers in his mosque. Since then he has prohibited child marriages in Kishanganj, urged people to be alert to fake marriages and other means of providing cover for traffickers, and persuaded families to take back children rescued from trafficking.
In most of rural India, community leaders have more sway than religious ones. Members of the panchayats, or village councils, for example, are elected by their communities and make important decisions about a range of issues, such as school construction and sanitation, that can effect gender equality. These people are enormously influential in setting local norms. An effort that taps this influence is a partnership between the Grammen Vikas Jan Sahbhagita Trust, Jaunpur, and the Ujala Welfare Society that engages local leaders to increase awareness among men and boys about gender norms. The partnership offers workshops on topics ranging from the role of men in caregiving to violence against women.4
Fund “institutional disrupters”—indigenous social entrepreneurs who are starting new kinds of enterprises or infusing existing organizations with an ethic of shared leadership between men and women.
These change agents—individuals and organizations— are responding to the degradation of women with a passionate determination not just to alleviate suffering but also to transform the beliefs and ideology that sanction and normalize an imbalance of power between men and women. They are doing what entities such as the World Bank and the UN cannot do: disrupting norms from the inside out, creating the ripples of change at the micro level that are foundational to any macro-level change.
One such institutional disrupter is the Indian NGO Prajwala (a common girl’s name in Hindi meaning “eternal flame”), which combats sex trafficking and provides rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration into society for girls and women forced into prostitution. Prajwala was founded in 1996 by Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, a lifelong social activist as well as a survivor of gang rape at age 15, and Brother Jose Vetticatil, a Catholic missionary. The city of Hyderabad, where they launched the organization, is the capital of the coastal Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, one of the largest suppliers of women and children for the global sex trade. (In India alone, more than 200,000 women and children are forced into the sex trade every year.)
One of the most remarkable things about Prajwala is the way in which it disrupts gender norms in its own organization. For example, nearly 70 percent of Prajwala’s team of 200 staff are sex trafficking survivors—meaning that its workforce is predominantly female. Another thing that stands out is the way in which the organization encourages women to lead alongside men and enter domains where they had previously been excluded. Prajwala’s Employability Training Unit works with survivors to identify employment options that are critical for their long-term rehabilitation. It has learned through experience that many female trafficking survivors excel in occupations that are traditionally male bastions, such as cab driving, security, welding, carpentry, and masonry. And if a woman shows an aptitude for entrepreneurship she can be trained in the management of microenterprises.
Prajwala also owns Prajwala Enterprises, a company that makes notebooks, file folders, and pens and pencils, providing trainees with their initial experience in manufacturing. By training and placing women in such jobs, Prajwala not only helps them to become economically independent but also smashes stereotypes about gender and employment.
Tread Carefully Yet Bravely
Philanthropists still need to fund basic aid and relief to girls and women victimized by gender-based crime. We also need to keep funding empowerment programs to give them a hand up. Yet even with the most effective aid and empowerment programs, girls and women can’t win if the rules don’t change.
Private philanthropy has an important role to play in this process. And small foundations may find opportunities to work in tandem with larger players such as the World Bank, the UN, and the Global Fund for Women to support the capacity of the networks of bell-ringers, mainstreamers, and institutional disrupters working to uproot entrenched patriarchal norms. But engaging in this sort of support requires patient capital and a knack for connecting the dots between invisible ideas and more visible problems.
Thankfully, there are an increasing number of social innovators out there to support. And for those organizations slow to recognize the need for a gender lens, funders can ask good questions that encourage grantees to recognize the need for a gender lens in their programming.
As we head into the future, let’s find new inspiration and enlist the assets of philanthropy to invest in the transformation of stubborn—yet mutable—beliefs and norms that impede global progress for women and men alike. Let’s each do our part to make gender equality a lived reality.
I’m excited to announce that Kathy LeMay, author and fundraising expert, has joined our team of writers here at Philanthropy Women. Her first article, a profile of Ana Morales, an up-and-coming leader in the Latina philanthropy sphere, is on deck for tomorrow.
For now, allow me to direct you to an insightful column LeMay recently posted on LinkedIn. In it, she provides some good guidance for how philanthropists can step up in these difficult times, offering both sage advice (do the important work of listening within) and practical tips (make your multi-year pledge in one payment), in order to make the most of their role in civil society.
I understand that this article could be read as: Please make my job easier. In better times perhaps I’d have the gall or arrogance to make such a statement. These though are not better times. I’m not sure I can fully characterize the times in which we live. What I can state with near certainty is this: We are in the times we have designed. Be it intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or unconsciously, we have shaped our world. And while for many this may seem deflating, for me- maybe because I am lucky enough to work in social change- I know that hope is not yet lost. I have seen first-hand mission makers and philanthropists coming together creatively and swiftly to turn the seemingly irreparable into the beautifully possible. And if ever there were a time for this coming together to reach historic level heights this time is now.
Today and in the coming days, human and environmental rights will face unprecedented challenges. The regressive policies being put forth by the current U.S. administration are not piecemeal nor are they narrow in scope and reach; they are sweeping, extensive, and for the most marginalized people in the world and the most precious natural resources, grim. Author, essayist and social critic James Baldwin said, “We’ve made the world we’re living in, and we have to make it over.”
Talking to Gloria Feldt is like talking to someone who has been through just about everything as a feminist leader, and yet somehow still finds the strength to tackle ongoing social and political challenges. The word unstoppable comes to mind.
In 1996, People Magazine captured her phenomenal early career in a story called The Voice of Experience. Indeed. And Feldt has just the kind of experience we like to talk about here at Philanthropy Women: experience that mobilizes funding for big visions.
Feldt married her high school sweetheart at age 15 and had 3 children by the time she was 20. She began her professional career as a Head Start teacher for five years, and went back to school as a young mother. In the process of writing a paper for a science class, Feldt chose to profile the local Planned Parenthood affiliate in West Texas, interviewing the local President, nurse practitioners, and board members.
Two weeks later she got a call from the President who said, “I’m leaving. I think you should submit a resume.” Feldt figured she would interview just for the learning experience. She had no background in organizational leadership, so she thought of the interview mostly as an opportunity to learn about the job search process.
“I went for an interview, got called back for a second, was offered the job on the spot. I accepted on the spot.”
After breaking out in hives every day for the first month from the stress, Feldt realized that she had found her calling. She remembers thinking clearly: “This is something I like to do.” As a young mother, she had already experienced taking on a lot of responsibility with little resources, and leading Planned Parenthood seemed like a similar challenge in some ways.
Mobilizing the Resources to Make Your Ideas Happen
The ability to articulate your ideas and then mobilize the resources to bring them to fruition is the secret sauce of leadership that many in the philanthropy world seek. Feldt discovered early how much she enjoyed this formula for effective leadership, and found that she had a knack for it. “I liked being able to see the big picture, have an idea, and then mobilize the resources necessary to make that idea happen.”
At the West Texas Planned Parenthood, Feldt realized she had the skills to make big things happen, growing the number of clinics quickly in her time there. She then took that formula and practiced it on the state scale, becoming CEO of the Arizona affiliate for 17 years, and ultimately she became the national CEO for Planned Parenthood from 1996 to 2005. Over the course of her career and on increasingly larger stages, Feldt continuously evaluated the big picture and mobilized resources for big action.
“It was exciting. I later came to call it ‘having a CEO brain’ and I believe much of it is learnable, but there are some who have more of it than others,” said Feldt. She described an essential feature of the CEO brain as a willingness to take on any level of responsibility in order to have the ability to make a difference.
“It involves risk-taking,” said Feldt, and emphasized that she was fortunate to be able to start with a small affiliate for Planned Parenthood, so that she was able to start taking risks at a level she could handle. “The more you do it, the more you gather your strength.”
Feldt found success is envisioning and carrying out plans to grow Planned Parenthood’s services. In the 4 years that she headed he small affiliate in West Texas, it grew from 5 to 11 clinics.
That success led to her being recruited to run the Arizona state affiliate. “If I were to tell you the best job I ever had, that was it,” she said.
In Arizona, the Planned Parenthood affiliate had adopted a very ambitious strategic plan. Feldt credits her naiveté for buying into the plan before realizing “they had no money to do it,” but once she got started there, they were able to raise the money to carry out the plan.
In Arizona as CEO of the state affiliate for Planned Parenthood, Feldt oversaw the growth of services from 3 to 16 clinics.
Networking was an important springboard for Feldt from the state level to the national level. “As I grew the affiliate, I became involved in national level committees. I chaired the Affiliate Chief Executive council, and served on the national board, and that’s how people got to know me. In every community, there’s only one Planned Parenthood CEO. It can be very lonely. That’s why it’s important to have those networks.”
In terms of Feldt choosing to pursue the role of CEO of the national federation, it seems that this was more a case of the role choosing her. “I did not actively seek the national presidency. I frankly had a very nice life in Arizona. But in 1995, I started being heavily recruited.”
“Planned Parenthood had 4 leadership changes in 5 years, and it was bleeding red ink,” said Feldt. “It was the classic best-of-times-worst-of- times scenario. There was a supportive administration in Washington, but at the same time, the organization was not taking advantage of that because of internal issues.”
Feldt said those frequent leadership changes were very disorienting for Planned Parenthood and that funders had begun to lose confidence. “We had lost some big funders. It was also the time when there was the most violence on the local level. There were fire bombs, murders, all kinds of horrible harassments. People were really under siege.” Yet Feldt was able to carry on in the midst of it all. “I learned to deal with that pretty effectively,” she said.
In 2000, Feldt was at the helm of Planned Parenthood when it filed a class action lawsuit in order to force insurers to pay for contraceptives for women. This Chicago Tribune article from 2000 explains how Feldt and became known as one of the chief architects of contraceptive coverage by insurance.
How did she arrive at the decision to take on this monumental role in the history and well-being of the nation’s women, and, by extension, everyone? “At some point, you have to make a decision to rise to the occasion,” said Feldt. “There was a moment on a suspension bridge in New Zealand when I realized I had to take the leap. It was the right moment. It was the right time.”
“The Bigger the Vision, the More Likely that Vision Will Attract Philanthropic Funds.”
Feldt talked about the importance of leaders, and particularly women leaders in philanthropy, being willing to take risks in order to carry out big plans. “I really want to encourage women to be more open to taking that kind of risk, of putting a big plan out there.”
Feldt said she has observed that, “In many instances, it’s women who will shoot down an idea, because they’re so afraid it’s going to fail. Women would benefit from growing their risk-taking levels and their risk-taking strength.”
But Feldt was also quick to point out that this does not mean every woman with ambition should run out and try to start their own nonprofit. She thinks it’s important for women to do their research and understand the landscape of any kind of business or philanthropy plan they want to pursue.
“Do a good survey of what already exists in terms of ideas to solve problems. There is an abundance of nonprofits. It’s very wise to make sure that your idea is filling a need that isn’t being filled, or doing something unique. If it is, then you’ll be more likely to raise the money,” said Feldt.
Feldt is excited about what the future holds for the intersection of women’s growing power in the world, and women’s growing power in philanthropy. “As more women own or run businesses, or are in companies that have philanthropic arms, they are in a great position to be able to move resources into organizations that help to advance women and girls,” said Feldt. “As there is more transfer of wealth to women and women are generating their own wealth, philanthropy is becoming increasingly critical.”
Philanthropy Women covers the growing world of women’s giving for all areas of philanthropy, from feminist foundations to women’s funds to giving circles, and just about anything in between. We also cover research on women in philanthropy such as changing patterns of giving, as well as the funding for research on the status of gender equality worldwide.
Writers for Philanthropy Women should know who they are primarily writing for: women in philanthropy at all levels, meaning women who give through dollars, women who give through strategy, and women who give through labor, primarily in the nonprofit world. Generally, we hire freelance writers who have extensive experience both as writers and in some area of philanthropy, such as nonprofit fundraising, social policy, or funding strategy.
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Curiosity is what makes writing interesting. We want to experience the author’s curiosity as well as our own as we read. Keep that in mind as you write.
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Don’t Judge. Criticize with the utmost of care and with an eye toward constructive change. You can call it soft journalism all you want. I call it transformative, responsible journalism. When you have a criticism, you must be armed with the evidence to support it.
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You’d probably never guess it, but I’m a numbers gal. I like to hear the numbers. I like to think about the numbers. Include the numbers, to the best of your ability. Look up the net assets of any foundation you write about, and the amount of grantmaking they do per year. Make sure to include it in the article. If you are profiling a nonprofit agency, look up its annual report and examine its budget. Share some of this information with our readers and make it relevant to your story.
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At the roundtable, President Shalala said that the level of future involvement for Mrs. Clinton at the foundation is unclear, but that former President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton have both re-upped their commitment and are ready to take the foundation in some new directions.
“Stage one is the letter from President Clinton,” said Shalala, and that they are now planning to follow up with a fundraising effort. What exactly that fundraising effort will look like is not yet entirely clear, but Shalala said it would likely involve both direct mailing to increase the base of support and reaching out for new partnerships with other foundations and nonprofits.
Regarding the process of spinning off the Clinton Global Initiative, a process that began in the fall of 2016, Shalala said, “We lost about 100 people in the downsizing. Almost all of it is related to CGI. We announced 80 early in the fall, and then another dozen or so, maybe more than that, recently. We don’t have any more plans for downsizing of that scale.”
Megan O’Neil asked about the future for President Shalala at the Clinton Foundation, noting that Shalala is now 75 years old and also works part-time as a college professor in Miami.
Shalala responded that she expects to stay on staff for the foreseeable future. “I am teaching in Miami, but I also taught all of last year, so that’s not unusual. I haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk to the Presdient, Chelsea and the board, but it’s pretty exciting now,” she added.
She regarded the last year at the foundation as a “really painful year,” but said that, like Michelle Obama, they take the approach of “When they go low, we go high.” She said the foundation remained focused on their work and did some of the most effective collaborating and partnering to date, such as establishing the $70 million dollar commitment from nonprofits and businesses to address gender equality.
Shalala also spoke confidently about the coming year. “I have been talking with staff. It was difficult to eliminate CGI, one of our most exciting programs, but I believe this year, the best is yet to come, because we do see a clear path ahead, even though there are going to be challenges in international, global work for everyone that isn’t related to the Clinton Foundation but more related to the world economy and the refugee crisis going on all over the place.”
Shalala described the past 18 months at The Clinton Foundation as “intense” and added, “I’m used to being pounded on, but everybody else is not, so I think the challenge of the last 18 months was to keep the organization together and focused. That’s not easy when you don’t have control over the political environment or the environment in which you’re working. And I don’t think we really missed a beat.”
Shalala talked about how finding partners in other foundations and nonprofits is a big part of the Clinton Foundation’s strategy going forward. “We’re always looking for expertise. We see ourselves as an incubator. One of the amazing things over the past year has been the support from other foundations who urged us to continue to do our good work. But I think diversifying your funding base is always a good thing.”
Where else is the Clinton Foundation looking make contributions? Shalala said the foundation will be “looking at our programs to see where they could be refocused.”
“Too Small to Fail can have a dramatic impact and it could use more resources. We want to be able to do that.” Shalala also said the foundation wants to remain nimble, so that if there is a medical crisis like the Ebola crisis, “if the President wants to bring together partnerships,” they are able to do that.
“We can play a convening role and the president is anxious to do that on specific subjects,” said Shalala. She referenced the opioid epidemic in the country and said that that specific subjects “needs some attention,” due to the lack of systematic response in this country.
Shalala quickly defended the foundation’s intent to remain involved in global affairs, saying that she expects the foundation to continue in Africa and the Caribbean Islands, as well as addressing global issues like climate and energy. “Just because we’re spinning one of our mature international programs off, doesn’t mean we won’t continue to be interested, particularly in Africa and Latin America.”
Shalala said the foundation is definitely thinking of starting another international program, but they are looking carefully to make sure they are filling a niche that no else is filling. “We have a combination of fundraising and we work with other foundations, so it’s not just individual. We also put together an endowment that will help us in the long run and we haven’t touched that endowment yet. We made a deliberate decision over the last two years not to touch the endowment.”
“I don’t anticipate fundraising to slack off,” said Shalala. “Private donations will continue to play a very significant role to help people around the world.”
With regard to the work of No Ceilings, Clinton Foundation staff noted that the program will continue. The Full Participation Report, created in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will also continue to serve as a resource on the global progress of women and girls. In addition, the Clinton Foundation will provide technical assistance to support the Girls, Women, and Global Goals CGI commitments made at last year’s CGI meeting, as well as the CHARGE commitment announced in 2014.
Clinton Foundation President Donna Shalala headlined the phone conference roundtable with this quote from Mark Twain: “Rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated.”
In fact, said Shalala, “We’re alive and well and thriving.”
Shalala said former President Bill Clinton’s letter, which charts the Foundation’s path forward, depicts a “re-energized foundation, better positioned for the brave new world we’re going into.”
The plan going forward, in broad terms, said Shalala is to “build on what we know works,” while also “spinning off some of the programs that have grown to maturity.”
After reading over the President’s letter, I asked Shalala about the foundation’s future priority of empowering girls and women “across all of our programs.” I asked Shalala what that was going to look like for The Clinton Foundation going forward.
“We’ve been working it already,” she said, and described how programs across the foundation, from the Haiti work to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation all have special sessions and strategies for women and girls. “Too Small to Fail is particularly focused on women because they are the major caregivers for children,” said Shalala.
With regard to the foundation’s work on empowerment for women and girls going forward, Shalala stated, “We want to go places where others don’t go in recognizing and empowering women’s lives.”
Shalala described some of the changes coming down the pike for The Clinton Foundation’s programs that are focused on women and girls. “The No Ceilings program is going to partner with Brookings and Vital Voices,” said Shalala. The letter from President Clinton provides background on what these partnerships are doing already:
“No Ceilings continued its work to advance the full participation of girls and women. This year, with Vital Voices Global Partnership and WEConnect International, No Ceilings launched a new coalition of 30 partners from the public and private sectors that seeks to increase women’s economic participation, address violence against girls and women, and promote women’s leadership. The group announced 24 new Commitments to Action at the 2016 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. The projects will invest more than $70 million to help nearly 900,000 people across six continents, promoting gender equality which is key to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”
Next up, Megan O’Neil of the Chronicle of Philanthropy asked Shalala what the plans were for the three Clinton family members involved with the Foundation. Shalala described how both President Clinton and Chelsea remain involved and helped to prepare the transition plan with the foundation’s board. But with regard to the Clinton family member last seen running for President?
“I don’t have an answer on Mrs. Clinton,” said Shalala. “She has not made any kind of announcement other than her announcement about the book she is going to work on.”
Megan O’Neil then asked Shalala about how fundraising went for The Clinton Foundation in 2016.
“As you would expect, we didn’t have the participation of the Clintons for fundraising,” due to the election, said Shalala, but she stated that the foundation did meet its goals in terms of bringing in $20 million. “We exceeded that,” she said, and mentioned that there were several donations received on December 31 from donors previously unknown to the foundation.
Regarding fundraising for the coming year, Shalala said, “I think we’ll be fine in 2017. Both Chelsea and the President are back, and the President has been in at least twice. They are certainly re-engaged with the Foundation. And we’re thinking of different strategies for fundraising. The President has a lot of friends out there, and people want to support the foundation.”
One Monday: More from the Clinton Foundation’s Media Roundtable, including plans for new initiatives, the scoop on how they didn’t touch their endowment for the past two years, and whether President Shalala sees herself continuing on with the Foundation.
Here is a recap of the Clinton Foundation’s goals spelled out in President Clinton’s letter:
Continue our efforts to combat childhood obesity and improve health across the country. This includes continued support for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, our partnership with the American Heart Association, and increased efforts by the Clinton Health Matters Initiative that includes launching new community health work in San Diego and expanding our work to fight the opioid epidemic.
Expand our work to improve early learning through Too Small to Fail, launching a new effort to engage dads and grandparents in early learning. Increase our focus on leadership development and public service through programs like the Presidential Leadership Scholars and CGI University (CGI U).
Continue our successful economic development work in Rwanda and Malawi and our efforts to improve the lives of smallholder farmers through the Clinton Development Initiative (CDI). As part of a routine review of the efficiency of our programs, we found that we could maximize our impact in Tanzania by refocusing our programmatic efforts on those farmers closest to our commercial farm who will continue to receive support including fertilizer, pesticides, and training.
Do more to support communities on the front lines of climate change through the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI).
Keep empowering girls and women a priority across all of our programs.
And maintain The Clinton Presidential Center and Library’s ability to provide educational and cultural opportunities to Arkansas and beyond, and manifest our belief in the value of service – whether by private citizens or public figures.