How This Nonprofit is Using the SDG’s to Help Women Thrive Globally

Emily Bove, Executive Director of the Women Thrive Alliance, which supports grassroots organizations in gender justice work globally.

“We see our members—grass roots organizations—as the experts,” says Emily Bove, Executive Director of the Women Thrive Alliance.

Women Thrive comprises 285 organizations in 53 developing countries. Based in Washington, D.C., Women Thrive supports its member groups in advancing women’s rights globally. “We only work with groups that are engaged in advocacy,” says Bove, citing Women Thrive’s expertise in this area. The other criteria for Women Thrive membership is that the participant organization have female decision-makers at the helm. Given its expansive membership roster and skeleton staff, much of Women Thrive’s work is virtual, including online courses aimed at helping member groups organize around gender and poverty issues.
While Women Thrive prioritizes women’s rights and equal access to education, Bove stresses that all aspects of development are interconnected, and breaking them up into discrete parts is somewhat arbitrary. “Women don’t wake up and say, ‘today my focus is on my child’s education and tomorrow it’s on clean water.’” The goals of women holding political power, controlling their own bodies, receiving fair pay and having access to education are interrelated, and all are key in furthering development.

Women Thrive was founded in 1998; Bove joined the organization in 2014, and has been leading it since 2016. When I spoke to her by phone in late August, she had just returned from a long-delayed visit to her native France. Bove grew up the town of Annecy in the French Alps, attended university in Lyon, obtained a master’s degree in Migration Studies from the U.K.’s University of Sussex, and subsequently came to the U.S. for a graduate exchange program at Georgetown. Along the way, she has worked in Cameroon, the Caribbean, and the Indonesian province of Acheh. “I’ve always been interested in development, but over time found I was increasingly drawn to its connections to women’s rights,” says Bove. Prior to joining the Women Thrive Alliance, Bove worked for the World Bank on climate change issues.

Women Thrive is an umbrella organization, and prospective members typically learn of it from the internet, conferences, and—“most exciting to me,” says Bove—being recruited by current members. While Women Thrive does not engage in direct service or distribute grants, it has provided tailored support to groups in Sierra Leone, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nigeria. A team from Women Thrive recently returned from the small west African nation of Sierra Leone where it delivered a “Raise Your Voice Workshop” on female genital mutilation. Helping local groups eliminate such practices is a key focus of Women Thrive. The UN has long campaigned against what it has termed “harmful practices” toward women and girls (which, in addition to body mutilation, include early and forced marriages, and “honor” crimes directed at females).

Bove says that one way of pushing governments on issues such as female genital mutilation is to leverage the United Nations’ “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) which were adopted by 193 countries (including Sierra Leone) in 2015. Of the 17 goals, Women Thrive and its membership are particularly focused on number four (Quality Education) and number five (Gender Equality). Bove argues that “the UN goals can be mechanisms for outlawing genital mutilation.” She notes that advocates in Sierra Leone are increasingly demanding that their leaders fulfill promises they have made regarding outlawing such practices (which were banned in 2014, although enforcement has been lackluster). The workshops that Women Thrive conducted in Sierra Leone aimed to improve female advocacy groups’ messaging, enabling the organizations to better pressure key actors in government and civil society to change attitudes and practices surrounding women’s bodies.

Another aspect of the UN SDGs (which, in addition to education and women’s equality, include goals devoted to reducing poverty, global co-operation, and environmental protection) is their time frame. The goals are to be accomplished by 2030, which, says Bove, goes well beyond the 2 to 3-year periods of many grants and programs. “Long-term processes need to be supported,” she says. “Our development model has failed to do that.” Moreover, one can’t assume that gains in female rights will be maintained over time. Bove cites her experience working in Aceh, the northern Indonesian province devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. “It’s a Sharia-dominated province where women actually had a lot of rights following the tsunami,” she says, “but 10 years later those rights have decreased.”

Women Thrive has never received funding from the U.S. government, counting instead on support from organizations including NoVo Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, New Field Foundation, Imago Dei Fund, and S. Albert Fund at the Philadelphia Foundation, among others. Women Thrive also depends upon “Thrive Ambassadors,” individual donors who leverage their own networks to promote the alliance and its mission.

While Women Thrive is not government-funded, Bove says the U.S. has typically supported empowering women globally. “In the past eight years [prior to the 2016 election], as a U.S.-based organization we could rely on U.S. leadership on these issues.” However, under the current administration, Bove says that “common understanding” has changed, and Women Thrive and like-minded organizations are “back to basics in explaining why supporting women and girls globally is important.” Bove cites a particular example: the latest U.S. delegation to the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women included an explicitly anti-LGBTQI organization (The Center for Family and Human Rights) that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

A further area of serious concern is the U.S. 2018 fiscal year budget, which proposes reducing the International Affairs Budget by 32 percent, including deletion of the “International Organizations and Programs” line item. Naturally, this would undermine the U.S. commitment to UN Sustainable Development Goals, and other support for women’s rights and development globally. “We are working to find champions to maintain development aid,” says Bove, noting that Women Thrive has been informing members of the Senate and House about how damaging the budget cuts will be to women’s lives. To this end, Women Thrive is putting member organizations directly in touch with lawmakers, and Bove notes that “Members of Congress always seem surprised to hear from women and girls on the ground.”

While the current administration poses a significant threat to women’s rights globally, Bove notes that in the last two decades women have increasingly been acknowledged as central to development efforts. “The agenda of the global women’s movement is being mainstreamed into the fight against poverty,” she says. Finally, female-led grass roots organizations and social movements from around the world are demanding more of their political and institutional leaders, and such increased momentum will likely continue, regardless who occupies the White House.

Editor’s Note: Women Thrive is one of three spotlight organizations for Philanthropy Women. These organizations have been designated by our sponsors for media amplification.

The Past, Present, and Future of Historic Preservation is Female

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy led the effort to preserve the White House as a national historic treasure.

Visit any historic property in the United States, and more than likely you’ll discover that women were responsible for its preservation. Though Americans often argue over what to preserve from our nation’s history, one thing remains clear: historic preservation is vital to understanding our nation’s past and forming our national identity. American women have played the main role in securing valuable historic properties to tell the story of the American past, and used political activism, philanthropy, and social networking to do so.

Let’s take a brief survey of just a few of the women’s groups and individual women involved in historic preservation.

Ann Pamela Cunningham: Historian Jill Teehan wrote that “historic preservationists universally credit Ann Pamela Cunningham, the woman who saved George Washington’s Mount Vernon home, as the chief architect of the historic preservation movement in the United States.” Cunningham heard about the dismal state of Mount Vernon in an 1853 letter from her mother, who wrote, “If the men of America have seen fit to allow the home of its most respected hero to go to ruin, why can’t the women of America band together to save it?” Cunningham then raised funds for its purchase and preservation through fairly new techniques such as newspaper appeals. She founded the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, the first national women’s group, and the association that still manages Mount Vernon. Today, it is today the oldest private preservation organization in the United States.

Twenty Boston Women: The Old South Meeting House was the largest building in colonial Boston and was slated for demolition in 1876, until a now-anonymous group of women rallied to save it. Once a center of protest meetings during the Revolutionary era, the Meeting House had survived the Great Boston Fire of 1872 that destroyed 40 acres of the city’s downtown. It had fallen out of use as a church, but Boston women, convinced of the building’s historical value, rallied to preserve the building. The women enlisted such venerable Americans as abolitionist Wendell Phillips, philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and beloved author Louisa May Alcott. They raised $400,000 to preserve the building and opened it as one of the first history museums in the United States. According to the Old South Meeting House website, the efforts of these women resulted in “the first successful preservation effort in New England.”

Daughters of the American Revolution: Founded in 1890, the D.A.R. has had its share of controversy in the past, but is significant for its commitment to historic preservation. In fact, the D.A.R. is so famous for this work it’s even mentioned in the 1957 Broadway hit (and later film)  The Music Man. This organization raises money for the preservation of important historical sites in the United States, including the U.S. Capitol Building, the World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial. It has also provided funding for monuments and statues across the country, and members often volunteer at historic sites. The organization promotes and encourages historic preservation by awarding the Historic Preservation Medal and Historic Preservation Recognition Award, which both recognize individuals engaged in significant preservation projects.

National Society of the Colonial Dames: For 125 years, the Colonial Dames have worked to preserve and restore artifacts from the colonial era, including historic homes, paintings, portraits, and rare examples of women’s needlework from the colonial era. One of its most famous contributions to historic preservation is the granite canopy that protects Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts, which is visited by thousands of tourists every year.

Helen Pitts Douglass: A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, longtime abolitionist Douglass was the second wife of Frederick Douglass, an advocate for women’s rights, and one of the first to recognize the importance of African American history. Their interracial marriage caused controversy across the United States and this resulted in her multi-year struggle with his children to gain control of Cedar Hill, the Washington, D.C. home they lived in. In 1900 she established the home as a memorial to Douglass’s life and work as a former slave and prominent abolitionist. She founded and supported the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association with lecture fees, and when she died the National Association of Colored Women raised funds to buy Cedar Hill. Today, the re-named Frederick Douglass National Historic Site is managed by the National Park Service.

Caroline Emmerton: Born into the richest family in Salem, Massachusetts, Emmerton learned the value of community service from her mother and was a lifelong philanthropist. In addition to the creation of the Seaman’s Association for Widows and Orphans, Emmerton was committed to historic preservation, and was almost solely responsible for the preservation of many properties in Salem, Massachusetts in the early 20th century, including the House of the Seven Gables. She was also a founding member for the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA), which later became Historic New England. Like many philanthropists, she not only raised money to fund these efforts but also donated large amounts of her own fortune to further public interest in America’s past.

Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy: The cultured and sophisticated wife of President John F. Kennedy overcame her natural shyness in order to take the White House from being a dowdy old government building to the impressive and historic home to presidents that we know today. With Winterthur Museum’s founder Henry Francis du Pont, she formed the White House Fine Arts Committee and raised awareness of the need for the White House’s renovation and preservation through carefully-designed media efforts, including a spread in Life Magazine and a televised tour of the White House. She relied heavily on historical scholarship and told Life reporter Hugh Sidey, “Everything in the White House must have a reason for being there. It would be sacrilege merely to redecorate it—a word I hate. It must be restored, and that has nothing to do with decoration. That is a question of scholarship.”

Hillary Clinton: The former First Lady, Senator, and first female presidential candidate from a major party has led successful efforts to preserve parts of America’s past. In 1998, while she was first lady, Clinton founded Honoring Eleanor Roosevelt, the first project of Save America’s Treasures and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in order to secure Val-Kill Cottage, the home of Eleanor Roosevelt, as a National Historic Site. She also secured a $10 million dollar donation from designer Ralph Lauren to pay for the preservation of the original Star-Spangled Banner, the nearly three-story flag that survived the attack on Fort Henry and inspired Francis Scott Key to write what is now our national anthem. At the time, it was the largest single corporate donation the Smithsonian had ever received. But Clinton also had a long-term vision for public collaboration in preserving American history. She stated, “We are not talking about just generous gifts, but also encouraging kindergartners to collect pennies to clean up the monument in the town square.”

This brief survey of the individual women and women’s groups that created the framework of historic preservation in the United States, including their efforts to raise necessary funds, demonstrates how vital the philanthropic work of American women has been to shaping our understanding of our nation’s history. This work continues, led by women such as Stephanie Meeks, the first woman president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. As the current President and CEO of the National Trust, Meeks is especially committed to preserving sites important to the history of American women.

Today, women still participate in and lead preservation efforts in their own communities. Fundraising for such efforts is a great opportunity for girls and women’s groups, and helps increase society’s awareness of the role of women in our historical development.


Discovering America’s History of Black Female Philanthropy: Madam C. J. Walker

This Changes Everything: Early American Feminists Were Deeply Religious, Relational, and Race-Conscious

I am Jane Doe: The Funding Behind Child Sex Trafficking in America

Funders for the Center for Democracy and Technology, which filed Amicus Briefs supporting Backpage in the case of Jane Doe vs. Backpage, include Google, Facebook, Open Society Institute, Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and others.

Last night I watched I am Jane Doe on Netflix. Narrated by actress and social justice advocate Jessica Chastain, the documentary reveals the money and power behind sex trafficking of children, primarily girls, in America.

It’s a horrifying story, but one that is important to know if you are a gender justice advocate, since it gets at the reasons why child sex trafficking, aided by internet hubs like Backpage, is a large and growing business in America.

The inability to end the practice of websites like advertising child prostitutes revolves around the 1996 Communications Decency Act, Section 230, which protects internet providers who publish information provided by another source. has been able to effectively use Section 230 to shield itself from legal challenges brought by the mothers of children who have been sex trafficked.

This screenshot from I am Jane Doe shows the growing profits of from 2012 to mid-year of 2015.

The biggest defenders of Section 230 are the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, both of which have filed Amicus Briefs in support of Backpage, helping that corporation continue to make millions in profits off child prostitution.

The documentary tracks the progress that advocates for ending child sex trafficking have made in the past decade, but this fight is far from over. Particularly in light of today’s political landscape, where conservatives are gaining power, it is an uphill battle for gender justice advocates who want to find a way to protect free speech while also protecting children, primarily girls, from being irreparably harmed by exploitation and sex trafficking.

The film contains interviews with both the mothers who have filed lawsuits against, and the middle-school daughters who suffered exploitation, partially due to allowing sex traffickers to use code words in order to advertise the girls. Although claimed they were trying to prevent child sex trafficking by “moderating” the advertisements, lawyers for the child victims argue that the moderators were coached in how to let through code words and phone numbers that would allow the practice of selling children for sex to continue.

The film is directed by Mary Mazzio, Babson College Filmmaker In Residence, and Founder and CEO of the film’s Producer, 50 Eggs Production. Many important nonprofits working to end child sex trafficking are featured in the film, including Polaris Project and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Supporters of the film include the Jeb Charitable Fund, the Lovelight Foundation, the Angel Foundation, John H. Carlson, and Babson College.

More about I am Jane Doe here.


Gender Justice Uncovered — Help Promote Sound Judicial Decisions for Gender Equality

The Free A Girl Movement: How Funders are Helping Women Go From Prostitution to Prosecution

With 30 Years of Activism, this Mobile Company Continues the Fight for Gender Equality

Ray Morris, CEO of CREDO, which has given more than $9.9 million to gender equality and is the largest corporate funder of Planned Parenthood.

As I continue to survey the landscape of gender equality giving, I am occasionally struck by a particularly effective corporate model for supporting this work. One of the most stunning examples of how corporations can turn their dollars around for the cause of women’s rights is CREDO Mobile, which has been funding gender equality movements for the past three decades.

CREDO Mobile grew out of Working Assets, one of the early corporations to grasp the idea of the potential for funding nonprofits via business. The company started as a long distance provider, and then went into credit cards. One of the company’s first credit card products was a card that generated donations to progressive nonprofits with every use.

Today, CREDO Mobile is led by Ray Morris, who spoke to me from his San Francisco office. Morris has only been CEO of CREDO for a year and a half, but his voice swells with pride and awe at the work CREDO has done, and will continue to do, to fund progressive movements with their business model.

In fact, gender equality accounts for about 11.7% of CREDO’s funding for progressive causes, since the company estimates making a total of $84 million in contributions since its founding, with an estimated $9.9 million of that going to women’s issues.  This means CREDO is beating out philanthropy as a whole in its funding of gender equality, since estimates of the percentage of foundation funding going for women and girls range from 5-7%.

How does CREDO do it? “Every month we give $150,000 to 3 groups that are chosen by an internal committee that represents every working department of our company,” said Morris, in a recent interview with Philanthropy Women. These funds go for a wide range of progressive causes, including gender equality nonprofits like Women for Afghan Women, NARAL, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

In this way, employees of CREDO are actively engaged in decision-making around the company’s giving, and the company’s gender equality giving goes to support a wide range of gender equality nonprofits. CREDO is the largest corporate funder of Planned Parenthood and a significant funder for the Ms. Foundation, the Global Fund for Women, and the Feminist Majority, but it also funds groups doing grassroots work like the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, which takes a multi-dimensional approach to helping women get empowered, from health to education to political involvement. When the National Latina Institute recently presented at CREDO Mobile, Morris said it was a profound experience for him, realizing the power of their work. “It made such an impact on me that I was crying in the background,” he said.

The list goes on, and on! CREDO Mobile has funded a wide array of women’s rights organizations. (See full document below.)

“So from very large to very small, we’re doing everything we can to push into these areas and support women’s empowerment,” he said, which goes beyond reproductive rights and into addressing issues like the wage gap and women in political leadership.

Morris emphasized the value of CREDO’s funding of voter registration and other grassroots activism that impacts political representation, coming back to the point that until we have more women in political leadership, it will be an uphill battle to fund gender equality efforts.

But Morris sees hope for more growth in gender equality funding. “What I find is that everyone is starting to piece it together. Everyone is starting to connect the dots that gender equality in healthcare, pay equality, involvement in the legislative process, is all part of the same story of women’s empowerment.”

“The only way it changes is with more women in the legislative process,” said Morris. “If there were more women involved, would there be having an all-out war on women’s reproductive rights? Probably not.”

So how is CREDO working to get more women into government? By funding nonprofits that take a multidimensional approach.

Morris said that due diligence on that funding is key to the process of closing the political leadership gap. “We ask nonprofits, ‘What are you doing with this money?’ and ‘How have our past grants helped you?” We analyze the data, so that when you see the nonprofits we fund year after year, it’s groups that are highly effective, and groups that are highly effective are generally working in a multidimensional way.”

I thought I’d try picking Morris’s executive brain, so I asked him what he would do if he was the CEO of a foundation that was worth $50 million and made $5 million a year in grants for gender equality. How would he portion out the grants, and would he give more weight to getting women into office?

“I would never pretend to be a high level executive woman. My IQ would likely go up by about 100 points,” he quipped. “But we know for a fact that there are national groups that are good at getting headlines, but are not able to point to real social accomplishments. At the same time, we can point to certain groups and say ‘these people move the ball.’ We’re going to look at organizations that are measurably effective at pushing their agenda.”

Morris gave the question a bit more thought and then added, “My guess is, if I were a high level executive woman at a foundation, I would know that my approach needed to be multidimensional, and so that would include opening clinics in underserved areas, it would include people on the ground knocking on doors to get women voting and running for office. And it would also include finding like-minded people, both men and women in the House and Senate, and helping those people campaign effectively so that we can make those changes in the long term.”

In the age of Trump, let’s hope more corporations take a page from CREDO’s playbook and figure out how to be part of the solution, particularly for gender equality. “We know that no one in the world has enough money to solve these problems,” said Morris. “So we know we’re going to need to influence the larger players of business and government.”

Check out this list of CREDO Mobile’s funding for gender equality to get a full picture of how CREDO is working this terrain.

Ray Morris in December, 2016:

6 Ways Progressives can Fight Back Against Trump

At CREDO, where I serve as CEO, we are executing an aggressive response to Trump that focuses on protecting vulnerable communities at risk, delegitimizing an unqualified candidate who was opposed by a majority of voters, obstructing Trump’s hateful and aggressive agenda and going on the counterattack wherever possible. Our community of more than 4.7 million CREDO activists is mobilized and already fighting Trump. We know firsthand that individual actions can avalanche into large-scale transformation.

We also contribute more than $150,000 every month to progressive nonprofits from revenue generated by CREDO Mobile, our progressive phone company. That adds up to more than $1.6 million this year and over $81 million over our 30+ years in business.

My top priority is to protect America’s least-privileged and most-vulnerable people. In many ways, I feel like I’ve lived the American dream. I grew up poor with a single mother of four kids. She fought every day to put food on the table and build a better life for us. Thanks to her, I was able to achieve success in engineering and the telecom industry.

That path allowed me to see my own privilege and understand how doors that I walked through in the past were less open for those of different races and ethnicities. I am afraid that even those small openings are slamming shut.

Read More on the Credo Blog.

Hala Ayala: Taking On The Challenge Of Legislating In A World Of Men

Hala Ayala, Candidate for 51st House District in Virginia and President of the Prince William Chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Women in philanthropy: Check out Hala Ayala in Virginia, as part of an inspiring wave of women running for office in the state, which is having its elections this year. Hala Ayala is doing the very important work of standing up for what is right in an environment increasingly hostile to women and immigrants.

From Shareblue:

In Prince William County, Hala Ayala is hoping to bring her values of empowerment for women and equality for all to Richmond, and at the same time, send home one of Virginia’s leading anti-choice, anti-immigrant delegates.

Ayala has long been involved in local politics. She volunteered for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012. And in 2014, she helped revive the National Organization for Women (NOW) chapter in her community, becoming its president.

While Ayala has been speaking up for equality, Republican Richard Anderson spent that time kowtowing to the fringe elements of the GOP by fighting against basic rights for women and girls across Virginia.

The election in Virginia provides an opportunity for women to come together and support a candidate who shares our values and is ready to take on the battles of legislating for reproductive justice and a civil, inclusive America. It’s time to support such brave and competent leadership.


Trending: Kate Coyne-McCoy and the Rise of Activism for Women in Politics

Women, Hide Your Wallets: The GOP Wants to Defund Your Health Care

What’s Stronger California Doing for Gender Equality?

Mother’s Milk Funders: What Can Women in Philanthropy Do For International Breastfeeding Week?

Breastfeeding memes are popular on social media, a sign of the public’s ongoing interest in the topic. What if breastfeeding support became more popular among funders?

International Breastfeeding Week is August 1-7, so we’d like to take the opportunity here at Philanthropy Women to emphasize the importance of breastfeeding to human health, and to ask women givers to do more to support breastfeeding initiatives. If you want to know my opinion, breastfeeding should be a celebrated activity. What a different world it would be if, every time a woman breastfed in public, people around her paused and admired what is one of the miracles of human health.

But instead, we shame women who breastfeed in public. We eye them with disgust. If women post pictures of themselves breastfeeding, they get trolled online. Recently, Aliya Shagieva, the youngest daughter of the president of Kyrgyztan, posted a picture of herself breastfeeding her baby on Instagram, with the caption, “I will feed my child whenever and wherever he needs to be fed.”  She was accused of immoral behavior, and trolled until she took the picture down.

So what is philanthropy doing about this problem? Right now, some big funders are on the scene like the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but philanthropy could definitely do more to support breastfeeding.

Where Does Breastfeeding Support Come From?

The U.S. government does some of the most comprehensive grantmaking for breastfeeding. In 2016, the U.S. Government granted the CDC  $8,000,000 for the purpose of supporting hospitals in promoting breastfeeding.

In the realm of private foundation funding for initiatives in the U.S., W.K. Kellogg is probably the reigning champion of grantmaking for lactation support and education. According to the foundation’s grants database, they have made 148 grants since 2008 that in some way involve supporting breastfeeding.

Globally, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has continually provided large grants to developing countries to support breastfeeding. Most recently, the Gates Foundation awarded $41,271,935 to FHI Solutions to support policies and interventions that improve breastfeeding and maternal nutrition in all of the global locations where the foundation does work.

But philanthropy could do more. Far too many women still do not breastfeed, due to a whole range of social and gender norm deterrants.

That’s why, during Breastfeeding Awareness week, we agree with the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights which recently made this statement: “States should do more to support and protect breastfeeding, and end inappropriate marketing of breast-milk substitutes.”

Born to Breastfeed

The science on breastfeeding is crystal clear: breastfeeding helps infants and young children thrive. Breast milk provides antibodies that protect against common illnesses, and estimates suggest that if breastfeeding was more prevalent, hundreds of thousands of lives would be saved each year. From the UN statement:

Studies have indicated that breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be obese or overweight, and are less prone to diabetes later in life. In addition, increasing breastfeeding globally would prevent an additional 20,000 cases of breast cancer in women annually.

Nevertheless, in spite of the many benefits of breastfeeding, for both the mother and child, only an estimated 1 in 3 infants under 6 months are exclusively breastfed globally. This rate has seen no improvement in the last two decades.

Here is where philanthropy could step in and do more. Important work needs to be done to reduce the gender stereotypes that keep women from practicing breastfeeding. More public health campaigns, both in the U.S. and abroad, to reduce the stigma of breastfeeding in public spaces would be a good place to start. More access to breastfeeding support for low-income women in the U.S. would also go a long way to improve the long-term health of many children.

Women Givers: This New Platform Will Help You Empty Your Closets for Your Favorite Cause

Christena Reinhard is Co-Founder of Union & Fifth, which makes it easy to sell designer clothes for a cause, and has a specialty campaign around gender equality with Eileen Fisher Foundation.

One thing that repeatedly intrigues me in philanthropy is the way that women leaders put together the components of giving and social progress in new and creative ways, in order to maximize deployment of funds to important causes. Nearly every week, I come across a new combination of philanthropy and social action that a woman is pioneering.

This week’s amazing tale of women doing good in the world comes from the online retail sector and a new hub for online shopping called Union & Fifth. This nonprofit online store makes it easy for you to donate women’s designer clothing, shoes, and handbags, and choose a cause for where the money will be donated.

I have to admit: like a lot of women, I have a few (okay, more than a few) things in my closet that I don’t wear much. That’s where Union & Fifth comes in handy. They will take your flaw-free designer goods and wring the donation dollars out of them for a good cause. They keep a list of all the brand-name designers they accept, so you can check the list before you pack your stuff off to them.

And they make it very easy to pack your stuff off to them. You can either print out your own shipping label or request a prepaid bag that will arrive at your door in 4-6 days and holds 20-30 items. If you print out your own pre-paid label, you can stick it on any size box you want.

“Women like to connect,” said Christena Reinhard, one of the two co-founders of Union & Fifth, and veteran of the nonprofit development sector. “They like to give in a way that’s meaningful and that they can involve their network in.”

“It’s a lot easier for women to ask their friends, to say, hey, let’s do this fun closet clean-out,” said Reinhard, whose organization was born out of a dare that one woman took to raise money by selling her designer goods. She ended up netting $40,000 for her charity, said Reinhard.

Reinhard has a message for women givers who want to tap a new resources for giving: throw a “Party with a Purpose.”

“It’s like a tupperware party for philanthropy. It goes back to that connectivity. We have a 90% participation rate when women gather at a woman’s residence, and they officially launch a Union & Fifth campaign over wine and cheese. Everyone is asked to bring a qualified item, so whether they bring one item, or a trunkload, we see the inclination to get involved and engaged socially from women.”

One of the signature campaigns of Union & Fifth is with the Eileen Fisher Foundation. Reinhard shared how that connection developed. “The Eileen Fisher Foundation has been incredible. They ran a campaign where you could bring in an item to a store and get $1 off a new item, so they ended up with over 100,000 items in their warehouse that they wanted to sell.”

That’s when Union & Fifth stepped into the picture. The platform now has hundreds of Eileen Fisher items for sale, and the proceeds go to the designer’s foundation, which helps women start-ups, working to address some of the huge gap in venture capital available to women. “Eileen Fisher is committed not only to being ecofriendly and green, but also addressing gender equality,” said Reinhard.

Reinhard is also a big fan of giving circles and has seen the potential for great collaboration with the Union & Fifth platform. “We are always looking for fundraisers to launch campaigns with. Featured charities get a page on our website and are given a donate or shop link they can distribute. We also build out impact videos for the different charities we collaborate with, because I think it’s important to help people understand how their donation is getting into the charity stream.”

Union & Fifth also works with Ebay, co-listing their items on the widely-used platform. “We also have a brick and mortar store,” said Reinhard, and items are rotated to that store as well. “We are always looking for ways to get the items sold, so that we can get the money over to the charities, so they can keep doing good things.”

“I remember being at a nonprofit and trying to get people to pay attention to what we’re doing,” said Reinhard. So now, with Union & Fifth, she is an active player in that attention-getting for no profits. In fact, Union & Fifth recently collaborated with designer Nicole Miller for an event in Los Angeles, and brought in two celebrities from Dancing with the Stars. For the event, Dancing with the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba launched an exclusive Nicole Miller collection at Union & Fifth, in order to raise money for the Animal Project Foundation. As part of the event, fans were able to stop in at the Nicole Miller store in Los Angeles on May 12 for a consultation from stylist George Brescia.

“We want to give that spotlight to the givers, and to the nonprofits,” said Reinhard. “I don’t succeed if they don’t succeed.”

My shoes will be donated to Union and Fifth, which provides a prepaid shipping label for items. I chose Women Donors Network as the recipient of the proceeds from the sale.

Reinhard got me so interested in Union & Fifth, I decided to test out the system with a donation of my own. I chose a pair of Sam Edelman sandals I picked up last summer, but never wore. The process was pretty straightforward — I chose Women Donors Network as the recipient of the proceeds from the sale, and Union & Fifth will take care of making sure the donation gets there, should the sandals sell.  Union & Fifth also has a searchable database of accepted designers on the site to make sure the designer of your item is one they accept. The process of printing out out the label was also no sweat.

So here’s to my sandals finding a new home through a buyer on Union & Fifth.  And here’s to the process resulting in another few coins of funding for gender equality. If this goes well, I may have found myself a new hobby, and a new way to turn over my resources for women’s empowerment.


Want to Invest with a Gender Lens? Put this Women-Owned Firm On Your Interview List

Millennial Women Beg to Differ: Generational Differences in Women’s Giving

Men Cleaning House, Women in Suits: Corporations Join UN to Fight Sexist Stereotypes

Harvesting Female Empowerment: Florence Reed and the Business of Food