This is How We Do It: Celebrating Some Feminist Victories

Teresa Tanzi,  a state legislator in Rhode Island, recently disclosed about fellow lawmakers’ sexual harassment of her. This led  party Vice Chair Joe DeLorenzo to  make sexist and offensive comments. As the Democratic Women’s Caucus hustled to call an emergency meeting to oust DeLorenzo, he resigned

The news is definitely not all good. But here and there, victories are being won for women and girls. This past week in my home state of Li’l Rhody, we saw a sexual harassment scandal in the state capital blossom into a resignation of an offensive ranking Democratic party official, Joe DeLorenzo. As representative Teresa Tanzi said on Facebook regarding DeLorenzo’s resignation: “This is how we do it. Stand up, speak up and do so relentlessly. And unapologetically.”

And then there is the matter of The New Republic’s thirty-year veteran Literary Editor, Leon Weiseltier, who we now know delighted in sexually humiliating women on a daily basis. Thanks to Laurene Powell Jobs, Mr. Weiseltier will no longer be pioneering a new publication called Ideas, since it appears his sexist and misogynist ideas and behavior are part of the problem.

Neither of these are huge wins, but they signify strength coming from the grassroots of women’s voices being heard, and society deciding to take action. I don’t mean to suggest that feminists are winning the war on women’s bodies, minds, and hearts, but these two episodes represent ways that power can be shifted when women are “woke” to their role in speaking out and supporting each other. I hope we see more of these kinds of wins, and larger ones too, in the future.

Feminist Alert: New Tool for Growing Young Feminists Now Available

Feminism From A to Z by Gayle E. Pitman, PhD, is a treasure trove of ideas and activities you can do with young girls and boys to help build feminist awareness.

When I first received my copy of Feminism from A to Z, I admit I was dubious. How well would a teenager appreciate being given a book whose contents were organized by the first letters of the alphabet?

But I was so wrong. In fact, the book immediately addressed my first concern by explaining its reasons for its organizing format. And as I began reading each of the chapters, it only took me until about letter D to realize I had just discovered a gold mine of ideas for how to work with young women to build feminist awareness into their identity.

The book also contains a section called “Feminist Herstory” for each letter, which ties in historical context to the part of feminism being discussed. For example, the first chapter, A is for Anger, talks about the role that emotional stereotypes play in keeping women from expressing anger, to their own detriment. The Feminist Herstory section then address the historical origins of the “angry feminist” stereotype, complete with an illustration of anti-suffragette cartoon propaganda, caricaturing suffragettes as ugly, angry, and unmarriageable.

As a history buff, I am thrilled to have these historical connections to read about for each of the key concepts explored in the book. But perhaps even more valuable than these historical connections are the book’s suggested activities. Each letter also has a “Try This” section, which gives the reader a concrete activity to undertake, sometimes creative, sometimes analytical, to come to a better understanding of their own connection to the concept. So, for example, under letter Z which is for Zero, the “Try This” exercise suggests making a blackout poem out of a sexist or otherwise hateful piece of writing that made you cringe. The process involves blacking out much of the text of the offending article until all you are left with is a poetic message. Looking forward to trying this activity on the next offending Pro-Trump piece I read.

The author, Gayle E. Pittman, PhD, a professor of psychology and women’s studies at Sacramento City College, offers fascinating ways to frame subjects that one might not normally associate with feminism, including knitting and Easy Bake Ovens. Many of the other concepts highlight key aspects of feminism including awareness about violence against women and discussion of concepts like intersectionality and conformity.

This book could be particularly valuable to program officers and grantees looking for gender equality content to blend into a curriculum of empowerment for all young people. Boys as well as girls would benefit from exploring the concepts introduced in the book, and carrying out the creative and mind-expanding exercises.


Funding Feminism: Unearthing the History of Women’s Philanthropy

Imagining What Is Possible: This Young Feminist Funder is Growing Women’s Media Globally


Funding Feminism: Unearthing the History of Women’s Philanthropy

When I became interested in women’s philanthropy, one of the first questions I wanted to answer was about who started the funding of feminist-strategy giving. It was surprising and disheartening to learn that there were very few accounts of the history of women’s funding for women. So imagine my delight when I heard about the publication of Joan Marie Johnson’s book, Funding Feminism: Monied Women, Philanthropy, and the Women’s Movement, 1870-1967Her work in creating this history performs the desperately-needed public service of raising the profile of historical women who paved the way for gender equality, and a world where feminist leadership would set higher standards for civil society.

Johnson, who is a historian and Faculty Program Coordinator for the office of the Provost at Northwestern University, does a stunning job of bringing to life the many activist and champions of women’s rights throughout this period of history. But the book also has larger aspirations:

By placing wealthy women front and center, this book wrestles with questions of money and power.  It focuses on society’s resentment and discomfort with affluent women, and the very nature of feminism itself as a nonhierarchical movement.

Johnson goes on to contend that “women need to continue to use the power of money to challenge lingering discrimination.” This is the same conclusion I have arrived at, having spent the last three years learning about progressive women’s philanthropy and its power to shape communities and economies worldwide.

Johnson starts out with chronicling the funding for women’s suffrage, and identifies key common themes in the writings and speeches of these women: “a need for political equality for educated and working women honed from a desire for financial independence, and a belief in the equality of the sexes.”

Johnson also discusses the way in the which the writing of the history of suffrage previously marginalized the role of wealthy women, partly because of resentments of movement participants toward the wealthy women donors who made the work possible. Only now are historians beginning to unravel the stories of monied women and their role in shaping the movement. Johnson convincingly argues that without the significant influx of cash from wealthy women donors, Suffrage would not have passed when it did.

Johnson’s history also gives us some of the numbers in terms of the amounts that early feminist philanthropists contributed. The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) raised “an incredible $682,500 (approximately $12.5 million in 2016) for its successful 1917 referendum campaign for the right of women to vote.”

Johnson fills in much more of the details about who these women were, including what kind of educations they had, which varied widely, from women with graduates degrees including an MD and a PhD, to women with little or no formal education. The book also fleshes out the roles that famous women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony played in fundraising, realizing how critical it was to their success, and how the new leadership of Alice Paul fueled the effort with new tactics and strategies.

Many unique heroines of women’s history are surfaced in the book, including Mrs. Frank Leslie (born Miriam Folline), “who donated more money than any other individual to the movement,” and who changed her name to Frank Leslie upon the death of her husband in 1880. She then took over his publishing business and turned it into a “profitable enterprise.”

Other fascinating women profiled in the book include Grace Hoadley Dodge, who founded the Working Girls’ Society and led the YWCA to unite its two separate branches. Dodge was one of the early leaders of women’s philanthropy to emphasize the collaborative nature of women’s relationships, seeing herself as indebted to working girls in society. “Because my father and grandfather worked and because they have accumulated funds, am I not owing more to the busy girls than they owe to me,” wrote Dodge in a column called “Sisterhood and Cooperation” that ran in 42 newspapers.

Funding Feminism’s epilogue brings us up to date with some of the vocal leaders of women’s philanthropy today, and highlights the way that nonprofits and PACs that support more women in political office, most notably Emily’s List, have played an essential role in advancing social change for women. The epilogue also discusses the critical role that the Ms. Foundation has played in funding national awareness and change around reproductive rights, domestic and sexual abuse, and equal employment opportunities for women. It also calls attention to the important role that research on women’s philanthropy is assuming in the academic landscape, with the founding of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University.

Johnson’s book is a strong reminder of the progress that women have made in the past 150 years, and I believe it will fuel awareness about the need for more women to give major gifts for gender equality today. In the words of Swanee Hunt, sister of Helen LaKelly Hunt, and major philanthropist for women’s causes: “When serious women support serious issues with serious money, that’s serious change.”


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




Why Feminist Philanthropy? For All the Relationship Reasons

Catherine Gill, Executive Vice President of Root Capital. 

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Catherine Gill, Executive Vice President at Root Capital, in collaboration with Charlotte Wagner, Principal of the Wagner Foundation. We are publishing it here at Philanthropy Women because we couldn’t agree more with the message. I see the way feminists do philanthropy differently, and to me, it is the critical difference that has the capacity to reshape communities and economies worldwide. From Charlotte Wagner and Catherine Gill: 

Here’s an indisputable fact: The future of philanthropy is female.

A huge amount of wealth is now in women’s hands, and they are ready to invest it where it’s needed most:

  • 73% of donors worldwide are women.
  • Of the impending $41 trillion wealth transfer between generations, 70% will be inherited by women.
  • Women give almost twice as much of their wealth away as men (3.5% vs. 1.8%).

This is good news for women and girls. Only 12 percent of global philanthropy currently goes to gender-related causes—with more women donors we can hope this proportion will grow. And that’s good news for everyone, since supporting women benefits entire communities.

We know this because, for the last seven years, our institutions (the Wagner Foundation and Root Capital) have been working together to build gender inclusion in agricultural businesses across the developing world. We do this not only because it improves the lives of women, but because inclusive businesses create more economic opportunity for all workers and their families.

While the work we’re doing is certainly feminist, we didn’t immediately think about our philanthropic partnership that way. Over time, we’ve come to recognize subtle differences between the traditional donor-grantee relationship and the way that Wagner Foundation and Root Capital work together. Our feminist approach to philanthropy happened organically, built from years of trust, pointed questions, and open minds.

What is feminist philanthropy?

According to Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres, a women’s organization in Nicaragua: “Feminist philanthropy is not a charitable act or an act of power. It is an act of solidarity and mutual empowerment.”

To us, it’s about three things: collaboration, lack of ego, and intersectionality. We’re calling this “feminist” because social science research shows that women tend to be more cooperative and to seek creative, holistic solutions. But—just like feminism itself—this approach isn’t only for women. Feminist philanthropy can help anyone who wants to innovate their giving and maximize their effectiveness.

Here’s what we’ve learned.

It’s about collaboration.

Traditional philanthropy often reinforces unhealthy power dynamics: Donors impose their priorities onto grantees, who then impose their preferred solutions onto beneficiaries. This structure may result in positive outputs—more children vaccinated, more teachers trained—but it can also result in unintended harm.

Feminist philanthropy means flipping this dynamic on its head. Instead of decision-making power trickling down from the top, we stand side-by-side. Donors roll up their sleeves and collaborate with grantees. Grantees welcome more donor participation. While both come to the table with certain preferences and assumptions, our experience proves it’s possible to approach this as partners, open to learning from each other.

Charlotte Wagner, Principal of the Wagner Foundation

In our case, Root Capital benefits from the lessons Charlotte Wagner draws from 10 years of experience partnering with nonprofits that specialize in healthcare in the developing world. And, in turn, the Wagner Foundation applies what it learns from working with Root Capital to other grants in other sectors, replicating what works well and losing what doesn’t. As Charlotte puts it: “We are leveraging knowledge and positive change across philanthropic sectors by working together.”

More importantly, this collaboration must extend to (and indeed, center on) the people and communities with whom we work. They are the only ones who fully understand the problems, opportunities, and possible solutions. At a recent event announcing the Gates Foundation’s $20 million commitment to strengthen women’s groups worldwide, Melinda Gates hit the nail on the head: “They know their community. They know what needs to get done.”

As part of our joint initiative, Root Capital and the Wagner Foundation deploy Gender Equity Grants: small disbursements that help agricultural businesses build inclusion of women. Rather than prescribe an approach, we ask community members to identify where the money is needed most, be it a childcare center, an internal savings group, or something entirely different. “The Gender Equity Grants complement the economic benefits of the agricultural loans Root Capital is making, and our hope is that the combination of the two will catalyze a more holistic social change in each community,” says Charlotte. While it’s early to gauge results, we firmly believe these locally-driven solutions will be more sustainable and impactful than anything we could have planned on our own.

Bottom line: The collaborative approach at the heart of feminist philanthropy allows us to discover new angles and opportunities, and craft better answers to complex problems.

It’s about putting aside ego.

We’re in this together. Our successes are mutual, and so are our failures. It may seem obvious, but too often this truism gets lost in the imbalanced relationship between those who hold the purse-strings and those who need the money.

Feminist philanthropy is about mutual empowerment. In our case, the Wagner Foundation makes a conscious and strategic effort to leverage their connections in order to make Root Capital more effective. That’s because Wagner Foundation deeply believes in Root Capital’s mission of growing prosperity for rural communities. And we both recognize that Root Capital can’t accomplish this mission alone. In fact, we need all the help we can get. So we work together to bring more supporters to the table.

Often, both donors and grantees are too interested in getting credit and acclaim. They want to make sure their logo is prominently placed and their spokesperson gets quoted in the media. We know; we’ve been guilty of this ourselves! But even with the best intentions—more attention can mean more money for your cause—this can get in the way of creating impact. A feminist approach means putting aside ego to focus on bringing in more voices and more ideas. Yes, your logo may get overshadowed; but your cause will be brought into the light.

That doesn’t mean we don’t tout our achievements. We’re proud of our impact and want people to know about it. But it’s in service of the greater goal. Tackling poverty or inequality is something philanthropists—and the organizations they work with—should approach with humility. We need to lift each other up if we have any chance of lifting others.

It’s about intersectionality.

Funding, particularly when it comes to international development, can be myopic. In some cases, interventions are Band-Aids—temporary relief, but without a change to the larger structures and dynamics that perpetuate the problem. To create lasting change, we must think holistically.

Donors can help with this. Since the beginning of our partnership, the Wagner Foundation has pressed Root Capital to look beyond the act of disbursing a loan. In some countries where we work, women aren’t allowed to own land. Most have small children, making it difficult for them to work in formal employment or attend skills trainings.

Feminist philanthropy asks: How do we build better communities? How do we change the power structures that push some people forward while holding others back?

The Wagner Foundation has—gently, but persistently—raised these questions with Root Capital since the early days. Drawing on her past experience, Charlotte encouraged Root Capital to think about public health implications, gender-based violence, and challenges facing indigenous communities in rural areas. “It is often not enough to solely focus on one lever of change—greater impact can be achieved by taking a holistic approach and listening to the community about what is most needed,” says Charlotte. Root Capital believes access to capital is vitally important; but this partnership has pushed us to recognize that we need to consider the political, economic, and social context in order to have a real impact. It’s daunting, but it’s also empowering.

In applying the feminist lens, donors can make space for grantees to both accomplish the work at hand and think through the larger implications. Time for learning, innovation, and risk-taking need to be built into the grant agreement. And donors can push this forward by continuing to ask hard questions about intended and unintended impacts. For Root Capital, these questions have made us more effective and have translated to better services for our clients in rural communities.

What’s next?

We aren’t the only ones getting on board with this approach. Pioneers like Women Moving Millions and Maverick Collective are leading the way on growing the amount that female donors give to women’s causes. Many organizations, donors, and investors carefully monitor the gender impacts of their work.

But we’ll say it again: This isn’t just about women. By confronting and upending power dynamics—both between donor, grantee, and beneficiary and in the broader society—a feminist approach to philanthropy can make us all more effective and impactful. We’ve seen that result firsthand.

And now, in the spirit of collaboration, we want to hear what you think. Tell us in the comments section below: What does feminist philanthropy mean to you?


How Philanthropy Can Strengthen Families And Fuel Gender Equality at the Same Time

Ms. Foundation to Philanthropy: Grow Local Economies by Supporting Low Wage Workers and Childcare Access



#MeToo, and Who is Funding Sexual Assault Prevention?

The NFL supports Raliance, one of the newest organizations in the fight to end sexual harassment and assault. Raliance’s campaign, #itsonus, is helping to educate the public about how to take responsibility for consensual sex.

Yes, me, too. I’ll spare you the details. The larger point for me is that being a survivor of sexual harassment and abuse, I chose to build part of my professional life around helping survivors to heal, and fight for justice. And I have done so. Over the past 20 years, I have treated hundreds of sexual assault survivors and their families. I have helped people achieve justice, and I have also seen many survivors choose not to engage with the justice system for fear of being further traumatized. Sadly, that fear is not unrealistic.

Who are the funders helping us to make progress on ending sexual assault and harassment, and will we see an increase in funding for this sorely neglected area of philanthropy? I would particularly like to see more resources for women who are before the court, to support them in finding a way to safely testify, so we can know more about abuse and figure out better ways to prevent it.

Before we talk about some of the funders, let’s look at some of the larger nonprofits that are working this terrain.

Large Nonprofit Organizations Fighting Sexual Assault

Raliance: One of the newest initiatives on the scene is Raliance, which was created using a $10 million funding commitment from the National Football League. now serves as the central hub for three top organizations in the country working to end sexual violence: the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA)-PreventConnect and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV).

Stop It Now! This organization has received funding from several sources, but one important source of their funding has been Sue Paterno, widow of Penn State football head coach Joe Paterno. (Quick review of the backstory: Joe Paterno was head coach for football at Penn State when assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was committing his crimes against children. Shortly after Sandusky’s arrest in 2011, Paterno wrote in his journal that he hoped something good could come of it all, implying that he hoped the “silver lining” of the crisis would be increased awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse.) 

Since 2012, Sue Paterno and other members of the Paterno family have been working with Stop It Now! to develop Circles of Safety for Higher Education, a program to combat child sexual victimization. With $230,000 in funding from the Paternos, Stop it Now! worked with nearly 150 college staff members from across Pennsylvania’s 14 state university systems, training them in child sexual abuse prevention. These 150 then went on to train another 2,000 staff, creating what the university hopes is a safer environment across the system, where children under 18 are less likely to be abused.

Stop it Now! has been around since 1992 and was founded by Fran Henry, a child sexual abuse survivor. At that time, very few child sexual abuse prevention programs existed. Since then, Stop it Now! has made great strides in identifying, refining and sharing effective ways to prevent child sexual abuse before children are harmed.

Funders for Sexual Assault Prevention and Education

Currently, much of the funding for child sexual abuse prevention comes from state or regional community foundations such as Meyer Memorial Trust in Oregon, the California Endowment, and the New York Community Trust. Women’s Funds in many cities and states also provide support for sexual abuse prevention and education.

Alongside these community foundations and women’s funds, a handful of nationally-focused private foundations also cover this ground. (As a caveat, this list is by no means exhaustive, but focuses on some of the largest and most consistent funders over time.)

NoVo Foundation: One private foundation that has put serious money toward this issue is the NoVo Foundation, which gave a total of $5 million between 2009 and 2012 to the Ms. Foundation for Women to support a project called Child Sexual Abuse: A Social Justice Prevention Model.

One of the largest contributions NoVo has made in recent years on sexual abuse and assault is a $3.3 million grant to Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors in 2015 in project support for Just Beginnings, a child sexual abuse donor collaborative.

In 2015, NoVo also gave the American Bar Association Fund for Justice and Education $75,000 for the purpose of project support for its Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence. Also in 2015, it gave the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault $100,000 to general operating support. NoVo also gave the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Assault two grants in 2015 — one for $75,000 in general operating support and another for $257,500 for project support End Demand Illinois. NoVo also gave $90,000 to City University of New York for its Sexual Violence in War Project, Women’s Political Voices.

NoVo also provided support in 2015 for SOARS (Story of a Rape Survivor), the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition, and several other initiatives in Vermont, California, Florida, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania.

Oak Foundation: The Oak Foundation has been particularly supportive of Stop it Now! Founded in 1983, the Oak Foundation is international, with 64 employees in offices in Belize, Bulgaria, India, the U.K., Switzerland, and the U.S. (To apply for funding with the Oak Foundation, you need to first review the Child Abuse program, and send a letter of inquiry.)

The Oak Foundation began funding Stop It Now! in 2008 with an initial grant of $174,460 for “collaborating to strengthen child sexual abuse prevention efforts in low- and middle-income countries.” Also in 2008, the Oak Foundation provided a second grant for $349,792, for Stop it Now! to take its knowledge and policy experience on child sexual abuse in the U.S. and bring it to a global audience, establishing an active policy presence internationally on the issue.

In 2010, a larger grant from the Oak Foundation to Stop it Now! took aim at both national and global agendas. With $373,573 over 24 months, the goal of this grant was to “improve the Child Sexual Abuse prevention capacity (e.g. knowledge, prevention tools, strategies, professional connections) of family and child- serving professionals in selected low and middle income countries, and at local and state levels in the US.”

In 2013, Stop It Now! received $500,000 from the Oak Foundation “to provide core support to build organisational capacity.” In other words, time to take this program to scale and get this vital information disseminated nationally and globally.

Avon Foundation: While domestic violence and sexual assault can be separate issues, the two often overlap, so it’s important to talk about the Avon Foundation’s contributions in this arena. The Avon Foundation has been particularly instrumental in funding the domestic violence hotlines nationally. In 2015, it partnered with the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) to grant $500,000 to 25 local domestic violence advocacy programs in cities across the U.S., to staff hotlines to respond to domestic violence survivors. 

Through its Speak Out About Domestic Violence program, Avon has been taking aim at domestic violence in important ways for over a decade. This initiative works to build awareness, educate, and improve prevention and direct service programs for domestic violence. As of 2014, the initiative has contributed $40 million to the cause of domestic violence prevention. 

The Avon Foundation also funds the NO MÁS survey, the largest and most comprehensive study to date of domestic violence and sexual assault in the U.S. Latino community. Released in April 2015, this survey found that domestic violence and sexual assault are widespread in the U.S. Latino community, and victims face even more barriers than the general population when trying to escape the cycle of violence.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Another funder in this area is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which gave $500,000 in 2011 to the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center to “support the Network of Treatment Providers Collaborative Project in expanding mental health treatment for victims of child sexual abuse.”

Ms. Foundation for Women: The Ms. Foundation for Women has done some of the cornerstone research on sexual assault and abuse as a grantee of the NoVo Foundation. It also funds community-based organizations fighting this issue, particularly with an intersectional focus that also recognizes race and sexual orientation as part of the picture.

VNA Foundation: On a smaller scale, the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center also received $50,000 from the VNA Foundation in 2014 for the purpose of addressing “the critical need for victims of child sexual abuse and their families to access mental health services in a timely manner.”


How the NFL’s $10 Million Investment in Ending Gender-Based Violence is Activating Youth

CGI Convenes in Boston, Campus Sexual Assault and LGBTQ on the Agenda

What Role Can Funders Play in Ending Sexual Abuse of Aid Workers?


Clinton’s What Happened: A Frank Post-Mortem on the 2016 Election

The title What Happened can be taken two ways: “This is how it went down,” and, “How did this unexpected, horrendous, and still mystifying result obtain? WTF Happened?” Clinton covers both, and is finally able to mention, now that the election is done, the role gender played.

In addition to the female factor, here is the short list of reasons Clinton enumerates that caused her defeat: race, the pseudo scandal of her emails, voter rage and desire for change, the media, fake news, the Russians, Comey, and Bernie. Plus, it is rare for a party which has held the presidency for two consecutive terms to win a third. Moreover, as Clinton points out several times, she won the popular vote—as did Al Gore in 2000—suggesting that the electoral college is a poor mechanism for expressing the national political will. To the above autopsy, add Republican voter suppression and gerrymandering.

I don’t think these are “excuses” as some critics claim, but rather explanations, many of which are mutually reinforcing, and all of which have been advanced by other observers as well. Moreover, because the election was so close, almost any one of them could have been that decisive factor tipping the balance. Naturally, we don’t have to accept all of what Clinton writes as truth, but I find it dispiriting that without having read the book (of course), some bright-lights are shouting, “What happened is that you lost, now shut-up!” But Clinton has good reason to speak:

The lessons we draw from 2016 could help determine whether we can heal our democracy and protect it in the future, and whether we as citizens can begin to bridge our divides. I want my grandchildren and all future generations to know what really happened. We have a responsibility to history—and to a concerned world—to set the record straight.

One area Clinton won’t go is the actual workings of her campaign, and how ultimately it failed to put her in the White House. If you are reading What Happened to find out who dropped the ball in Michigan or Wisconsin, prepare to be disappointed. Understandably, she doesn’t want to torch her team, who surely must be smarting almost as much as she is in the wake of the defeat. And, it’s poor form for the general to blame the soldiers. Instead, Clinton name-checks dozens of the people who worked on the campaign—as well as her hairdressers in Chappaqua and Manhattan—and notes how brilliant, amazing, fun-loving, kind-hearted and hard-working they all were.

There are also tidbits that “humanize” Clinton, and we learn that Hillary is an aficionado of Goldfish crackers, the Chicago Cubs, Downton Abbey, NPR, Dove ice cream bars, Broadway musicals, and Elena Ferrante novels. Plus, she owns two dogs, is a devoted grandmother, and cared for her mother in her final years at home, a luxury she is quick to admit most people can’t afford.

Clinton’s political and personal loyalty is displayed throughout What Happened (if you had never before heard of Bill Clinton, you’d conclude from this account that he couldn’t be more of a mensch and devoted, supportive spouse). Another Clinton quality is resilience. It is amazing that less than a year after the election she has produced a tome of this size (464 pages) and quality. (It’s not all gold, and she is not a lyrical or clever prose stylist, still, there is more good stuff here than is found in many books by politicians). So, points to Hillary for not retreating into a years-long Netflix, Doritos and vodka binge, as would be her perfect right.

Hillary’s ability to bounce back is nothing new: after Bill’s scandals in the 90s, and the contempt that she too was held in during that period, she was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000, ran for the Democratic leadership in 2008, served as Secretary of State under Obama, and then again stood for the presidency in 2016. It doesn’t appear that she intends to leave public life any time soon, and is clearly a workhorse. She seems barely to have paused in the nearly half century since she served as class speaker at her 1969 Wellesley College graduation.

But back to What Happened. One thing that happened is covered in the chapter, “Those Damn Emails.” Here Clinton points out that she was not alone in using a private email account for government business. Hard not to sympathize with her on this point. The email drama was a partisan exercise by the Republicans who, having failed to “get” Clinton with Bengazi, found another cudgel with which to beat her. If the Republicans started this grotesque snowball rolling, it was, in Mrs. Clinton’s telling, the media and James Comey who made sure that it wouldn’t melt but rather grew to become a weaponized ice pellet capable of taking out a political eye.

The scandal had two dimensions – one was that the ever-secretive Clinton was trying to keep her dirty dealings off the books, the other that even if there was no actual malfeasance on her part, she recklessly endangered national security by potentially exposing classified documents. In the summer of 2016, long after the brouhaha over her private server had started, hacked DNC emails were published by WikiLeaks, and again the words “Clinton” and “emails” were in the news, even though the hack and the private email account were unrelated. Clinton admits that using her own account for government business was a mistake, still no evidence of wrongdoing or security breaches have ever been produced. That the Republicans would try to exploit this non-scandal is no surprise, but what really frosts Clinton is that The New York Times (and other media outlets) devoted an inordinate amount of space to the matter, week after week, month after month.

For months after the election, I tried to put it all out of my mind. It would do me no good to brood over my mistake. And it wasn’t healthy or productive to dwell on the ways I felt I’d been shivved by then-FBI Director Jim Comey—three times over the final five months of the campaign.

As angry as Clinton is with The New York Times (and NBC’s Matt Lauer), she is even more furious with FBI Director James Comey, who had stated on July 5, 2016 that that he was closing his investigation, but also noted on July 7 that while Clinton’s conduct wasn’t criminal, she was careless and had potentially jeopardized national security. Clinton argues that by publicizing the investigation Comey was interfering in the election. And, she asks rhetorically, if Comey was so committed to openness, then why did he not reveal that the Trump administration was being investigated for its Russia ties?

Even worse, on October 28, less than two weeks before the election, Comey announced that he was reopening the investigation. Why? Well, Clinton’s right-hand, Huma Abedin, had made an unfortunate marital choice—disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner—and the FBI was investigating him, and so was examining laptops belonging to Weiner and Huma, which contained emails with Hillary. There was no indication that the emails that Comey was looking into were new or were problematic, and Comey said as much, but the fact that emails were again in play was highly damaging.

One need not assume bad faith or partisanship on Comey’s part to recognize that his handling of the email episode was poor. One explanation, which Clinton lightly touches on, is that it was generally assumed that Clinton would win, and if it was revealed post-election that she had been under investigation, particularly if something did come of the new emails, then it would be demanded of Comey why he had kept quiet, since he had previously announced the closing of the investigation.

The word “emails,” Clinton notes, was the most talked about element of the campaign. It is both specific and vague, fueling the notion that something was out there, something was being concealed, even if one couldn’t specify what that was. Trump’s scandals—sexual assault, fraud, voluminous conflicts of interest, serial bankruptcies, unseemly relations with foreign powers, not disclosing tax returns—and his crude insults of women, Mexicans, African Americans, Muslims, veterans and the disabled—not to mention key people in his own party and random public figures—were, of course, much worse, but the email non-scandal had remarkable staying power and potency. Of course, not all of the attacks on Clinton were nothing-burgers served up as main courses, there was some tainted beef amongst the garnishes. From Clinton:

I spoke to audiences from a wide range of fields: travel agents and auto dealers, doctors and tech entrepreneurs, grocers and summer camp counselors. I also spoke to bankers.

Here Clinton seems willfully obtuse in her account of taking money from investment banks for speeches. She says it was wrong, but puts it down to “bad optics.” She reasons that in her three private talks to Goldman Sachs, for which she received $225,000 each (she never mentions the audience or amounts involved, but is highly attentive to detail elsewhere) she spun yarns about her time as Secretary of State and didn’t tell her listeners anything of consequence. She argues that she often sides against Wall Street interests, and would never tarnish her record by changing a vote because of a speaking fee. If we are talking about a quid pro quo, I tend to believe her, but she fails to acknowledge the root issue. Why is Goldman Sachs paying her such handsome fees? Because they are nice guys and can’t think of anything else to do with their loot? No, it is a way to retain access and cordial relations with a person whom they assume will become the next president. Easy to see how this money helps Clinton and her campaign, but hard to understand how it aids those outside the upper-most income brackets. Of course, Wall Street coziness is in no way limited to Clinton, and the Trump administration is nakedly corrupt in ways that are almost without precedent. Still, when Clinton claims that Bernie snuck in and sucked up the space that she was occupying as a feisty progressive, I have to say no, that door was opened very wide for him.

Clinton notes that she and Bernie wrote the Democratic convention platform together, and that he endorsed her and campaigned for her, but there is lingering bitterness toward this unlikely challenger. Her chief complaint is that Sanders was continually upstaging her with lofty, lefty promises that he would never be able to fulfill, making her look like a scold and a wet blanket. She’s correct, but since she was the establishment candidate and had no serious opponent from that quarter after Biden decided not to run, the only place opposition was going to come was from the left. Hillary says the primary battle damaged her, but that is part of the American system, and there was no point in Bernie competing against her if he was not going to distinguish himself in a substantial way. Hillary also complains that the “Bernie Bros” harassed her supporters online (not clear how widespread this was), but omits mention of the “Sanders Sisters,” young women who were fervent Bernie backers, but never really warmed to Hillary.

Clinton dispatches in a line or two the pre-convention resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz as DNC Chair. This came in the wake of the WikiLeaks dump revealing that the DNC was not a neutral arbiter, and wanted Clinton over Sanders. Naturally, the Berners were not happy. I was not surprised; after all, Sanders was a Johnny-come-lately to the leadership game and was essentially trying to blow up the party. Clinton dismisses the matter as sour grapes on the part of Sanders’ supporters. But if the shoe were on the other foot, and she was the challenger and it emerged that the party leadership was putting its finger on the scale, I doubt that she would be so cavalier.

Clinton is also ticked at Green Party leader Jill Stein, and notes that the Green vote totals in key swing states were more than the difference between hers and Trump’s. The implication being that had Stein dropped out and told her people to vote Democrat, we wouldn’t have Trump. This kind of math is always dangerous; Clinton could ask why millions of voters stayed home, rather than why a few percent chose to vote for a female candidate other than her. Is it possible there were valid reasons for voting for Stein (war, environment, income inequality) other than foolishness, hubris, or spite? Clinton writes:

In 2016 our democracy was assaulted by a foreign adversary determined to mislead our people, enflame our divisions, and throw an election to its preferred candidate. That attack succeeded because our immune system had been slowly eroded over years. Many Americans had lost faith in the institutions that previous generations relied on for objective information, including government, academia, and the press.

Clinton is plenty fired up about the Russians, and with good reason, although she sometimes engages in overreach. It is one thing to note that the Russians tried to influence the election, that their activities helped Trump, and that the Trump camp had inappropriate and likely illegal dealings with Russian interests before and after the election. The Mueller investigation is now teasing out these strands. However, one must proceed with caution before going further on this. It is a commonplace among Democrats that the Russians “hacked” the election, but some are conflating the email hacking and other dirty tricks with voting-machine tampering.

Moreover, planting targeted “fake news,” trolling social media, and hacking the DNC are one thing. But it is a stretch to say that Trump is Putin’s puppet; if so, the Russian strong-man seems to be a poor puppet master. In September, Russia expelled 755 U.S. diplomats in response to new sanctions from Congress. The Russians probably did not expect Trump to win (their end game appears to be weakening U.S. democracy), and Trump, while a narcissistic buffoon, is nothing if not unpredictable and unable to keep his mouth shut, so poor puppet material, despite his affinity for authoritarian he-men like Putin. Also, the U.S. is a vastly more powerful country than Russia (whose GDP is roughly that of Spain). The idea that the U.S. has become a puppet of this flailing autocracy is hardly credible.

Clinton casts the U.S in the role of victim here, an outpost of good, forever standing up for its European and Asian allies, yet continually being undone by the Russians and Chinese, who just don’t play fair. Influencing, and actively disrupting, foreign governments and elections in ways both subtle and violent has been a staple of U.S. foreign policy for well over a century. Of course, two wrongs don’t make a right, but it seems this would merit at least a tiny mention if we are speaking as frankly as Mrs. Clinton suggests we are.

Clinton is silent about her own very hawkish foreign policy; most recently she was the architect of the policy to engage in regime change in Libya (“We came, we saw, he died”), a move which helped fuel the rise of ISIS. All kinds of ridiculous things have been pinned on Clinton, things that she either did not do, or for which responsibility falls on many shoulders. Libya is not one of them, that was her baby. She also voted for the Iraq war. Not sure what’s worse, that she thought it was a good idea, or did so out of political expediency. This is not nit-picking; Clinton seems to have little problem with U.S. militarism (the U.S. has bases in roughly 75 countries and troops in many more), and she mentions not once the United States’ astonishingly high defense budget, which surely is crowding out spending on the domestic programs that she champions.

I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a change maker for most of my life. My journey took me from student-activist to citizen-advocate to politician-policy maker. Along the way, I never stopped searching for the right balance of idealism and realism.

It’s on the issues of health care, reproductive rights, gun control, and improving the lives of children where Clinton writes most passionately. She is a veteran of battles in these areas dating to the 1970s, and rightly wears the mantle of leader. While Sanders owned the issue of income inequality, Clinton points out that he has been squishy on guns and abortion rights. Most recently, Clinton was a strong advocate for the victims in Flint, after the astonishing dereliction by Republican officials in Michigan resulted in lead-poisoned water in a poor, largely African American city.

Clinton has been accused of being too wonkish and too caught up in policy details (this seems like criticizing a heart surgeon for being overly preoccupied with cardiac anatomy). This is a problem that other smart candidates have also faced: a kind of ignorant, delusional decisiveness seems to be de rigueur among presidential aspirants. Obama skirted this barely (it couldn’t have hurt that he was following two terms of Republicans who prosecuted a disastrous war and prevailed over the worst economic collapse in 80 years). But yes, Clinton is an “A” student, and like Democratic candidates Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004 learned, that is suspect. To suggest that trade, immigration, education, health care, and taxation are difficult issues that have complex solutions and many trade-offs is heresy in Trump Land. Remember “I alone can fix it!”? Of course, this was followed a few months later by, “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” No, nobody knew that. Nobody at all. Zero people had such knowledge.

And you can throw truth out the window. In 2004, Kerry, a Vietnam vet, was portrayed as a ditherer who was “soft on terror,” while his dimwitted draft-evading opponent George Bush was a plain-spoken brush-clearing man-of-action ready to take on foreign bad guys big and small. Amazingly Bush, scion of an oil dynasty, and a former president’s son, was seen as a regular joe with whom you’d like to share a beer, and Kerry an arrogant, French-speaking, flip-flopper, exposed by the patriotic Swift Boaters as a fraud. Similarly, in 2000, Gore the Bore was unredeemable with his yakking about social security, the environment and other complicated policy stuff and junk. Trumpism is a three-legged stool of sexism, racism and anti-intellectualism, and Clinton, like some of her Democratic predecessors, may on occasion be too smart for the room.

I know that for a lot of people, including a lot of women, the movement for women’s equality exists largely in the past. They’re wrong about that. It’s still happening, still as vital and urgent as ever.

And it was and is the story of my life—mine and millions of other women’s. We share it. We wrote it together. We’re still writing it. And even though this sounds like bragging and bragging isn’t something women are supposed to do, I haven’t just been a participant in this revolution. I’ve helped lead it.

Clinton states that for some time she felt that she did not have Bill or Obama’s grand backstory. She was one of three children who grew up in a stable middle-class home in the Chicago suburbs. Her childhood was not one of struggle and privation like that of her husband, nor did it have the amazing arc of biracial Obama’s journey from Hawaii to Indonesia, Harvard, Chicago and the White House. She states that over time it was the women’s movement that formed her, and which she in turn helped inform.

Clinton’s book may be most valuable in its recounting of the role that gender played in the election. “Build the Wall,” was big among Trump fans, but so too was “Lock her Up!” and “Trump that Bitch!” It’s one thing to dislike Clinton, but for some she was an embodiment of evil, an almost mythical or biblical source of it. Clinton writes:

In my experience, the balancing act women in politics have to master is challenging at every level, but it gets worse the higher you rise. If we’re too tough, we’re unlikeable. If we’re too soft, we’re not cut out for the big leagues. If we work too hard, we’re neglecting our families. If we put family first, we’re not serious about the work. If we have a career but no children, there’s something wrong with us, and vice versa. If we want to compete for a higher office, we’re too ambitious. Can’t we just be happy with what we have? Can’t we leave the higher rungs on the ladder for men?

Clinton notes on many occasions the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position she was in. A woman in politics must project strength and authority, but once having done so is perceived as aloof, calculating, and ambitious (the latter term is used in a pejorative way when applied to women, but not men). She notes that she received high praise for her job performance when she was helping with Bill’s campaigns, serving as First Lady, Senator, or Secretary of State, but all of that melted away when she aspired to lead the country.

She also remarks that as men gain power they are seen as more likeable, but for women the opposite is true. Clinton writes that she was often asked why she was running, as if there was some dark motive at her core. The same question is rarely asked of male candidates. For women in politics, there is also the continual emphasis on appearance (being unattractive and attractive are both bad, as are being too stylish or a frump). And women are often attacked for their voice (grating, shrill), and demeanor (too emotional, too cold).

Sexism is nothing new for Clinton. She details how after she was admitted to Harvard Law, a professor there told her, “‘We don’t need any more women at Harvard.’” She chose Yale instead. As a lawyer in 1970s Arkansas, she was considered a curiosity, and notes that retaining her last name may have cost Bill the 1980 Arkansas gubernatorial election. She subsequently added “Clinton” to the “Rodham.”

Many people said during the election: sure, I’d vote for a woman, just not her. It’s a fair comment; after all, we say the same about male candidates (I’d vote for a man, but not him!). The problem is that because of the paucity of female candidates, particularly at the top end, it is hard to separate Clinton the candidate from Clinton the female candidate. Clinton rightly concludes that the only way to combat the very deep biases against women in politics, and leadership roles in general, is through exposure: more female candidates at all levels are needed.

Of all the influences that Clinton cites, she is most grateful to her mother, Dorothy Howell Rodham, a woman who essentially raised herself from the age of eight, and whose parents were negligent and neglectful. Amazingly, she survived her difficult childhood to become an engaged and loving mother whose support helped propel her daughter to great heights. Clinton’s passages about her mother, who died in 2011, are some of the book’s most compelling and heartfelt.

In addition to gender, Clinton cites race as a key factor in her defeat. As the dust settles on the election, there seems to be more and more evidence of this. For many people, Trump was payback for the U.S. having had a black president for two terms. Trump didn’t win in spite of his toxic stream of racist insults, he won because of the them. While there is a lot of talk about alienation and economic dislocation among the non-Coastal white working class, which Clinton is sympathetic to, in the October issue of The Atlantic, Ta-Nehesi Coates writes at length (“The First White President”) that antipathy toward non-Whites was the best predictor of Trump preference, not income. (Don’t forget that Trump won among white women, something that still seems incredible). If people thought that progress was being made on race relations with the election of Obama, those hopes have been doused with a very cold bucket of water with Trump’s ascendancy to the White House. From Clinton:

Unless people stay engaged and find ways to translate protests into political power, we aren’t going to stop Trump’s agenda or win future elections. To do that, we need to invest in political infrastructure: rebuilding the Democratic Party, training new candidates and staffers, improving our data and social media operations, beating back efforts to restrict voting rights, and more.

I know there are a lot of people—including a lot of Democrats—who are not eager to see me leading such an effort. They feel burned by my defeat, tired of defending me against relentless right-wing attacks, and ready for new leaders to emerge. Some of that sentiment is totally reasonable. I, too, am hungry for new leaders and ideas to reinvigorate our party. But if Al Gore, John Kerry, John McCain, and Mitt Romney can find positive ways to contribute after their own election defeats, so can I.

At the very least, Clinton can contribute in her particular areas of expertise, and she has several of them. Her anti-NRA comments following the Las Vegas shooting were spot on, and reflect her long-time advocacy in this area.

This is a watershed moment in U.S. politics. We may be witnessing the end of the two-party system with the Republicans splitting into a pro-business center-right party (embodied by people like Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, and so on) and a racist, nativist, populist element of Trump acolytes and tea partiers. For their part, the Democrats surging leftist faction (Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris) may separate from its more mainstream wing (Clinton, Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, and most elected Democrats). Or maybe not, perhaps the dysfunctional two-party system will keep hobbling along, despite the contempt Americans feel toward their elected officials.

Where does Hillary fit into this picture? She is certainly an éminence grise in the party, and to this end has formed Onward Together, an organization devoted to supporting promising, up-and-coming progressive leaders and groups. With her motto, “Resist, insist, persist, enlist” she will not be retreating to her parlor anytime soon. As Clinton notes, she was hardly an objective observer of what happened in November 2016, and the events are still very close in the mirror. It will take some years for a full understanding to emerge, and we may never be satisfied with the answers.


Clinton Foundation Brings Together Over 40 Partners for Girl Athletes

What Happened: Clinton’s Account Reveals Our Broken Democracy

CGI Convenes in Boston, Campus Sexual Assault and LGBTQ on the Agenda

Today at Northeastern University in Boston, Chelsea and former President Bill Clinton are convening CGI U 2017 with the theme, “Students Turning Ideas Into Action.”

Sounds like great stuff from beginning to end, with sessions on building communities, migrants and refugees, designing projects, raising money, and increasing organizational capacity, to name just a few of the happenings taking place over the three day conference.  A full press release is here.

Because of our interest here at Philanthropy Women in attending to marginalized populations and vulnerable groups, I would like to call attention to the sessions on Sunday, which include LGBTQ equality, homelessness, and campus rape and sexual assault. These three focus areas are particularly important and timely subjects to be discussing, given that the social safety net of health insurance for vulnerable groups is being threatened, the President has taken direct aim at trans people serving in the military, and much concern has been raised about Betsy De Vos’s actions in dismantling protections for sexual assault victims on campuses.

So check out the agenda below on these three issues, and tune in via lifestream.

LGBTQ Equality: Overcoming the Backlash
LOC: Curry Student Center, Ground Floor, WETAddition

The LGBTQ community has made historic progress in achieving greater rights and visibility: there are now 22 countries in the world where same-sex couples can marry, up from zero in 2000. A record number of openly LGBTQ athletes participated at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Yet this progress has also yielded a disturbing backlash: in the U.S., LGBTQ people are more likely to be targets of hate crimes than any other minority group, while three in four LGBTQ students on college campuses reported experiencing sexual harassment. Internationally, 76 countries have laws against sexual relations between people of the same sex. To create and sustain more inclusive and equitable environments around the world, it is essential for communities to support victims of abuse and violence and to speak out against discrimination, homophobia, and transphobia.

In this session, panelists and CGI U commitment-makers will explore how to:

Respond effectively to discrimination, hate speech and incidences of violence by creating an environment of safety and equality through safe spaces, support services and displays of public solidarity with LGBTQ coalitions and ally groups,
Develop social media tools and effective storytelling techniques that increase awareness and raise the profile of ongoing challenges and issues affecting the LGBTQ community, and
Support efforts to promote LGBTQ rights around the world, change discriminatory laws and amplify LGBTQ voices to move beyond established workplace protections and transform public attitudes in order to build a true culture of inclusion.


Rebecca Adams, senior editor, Refinery29
Nadine Smith. CEO, Equality Florida
Sam Dorison, chief of staff, The Trevor Project
Blair Imani, executive director, Equality for HER
Schuyler Bailar, first transgender NCAA D1 men’s athlete

Addressing Youth Homelessness in the US
Fenway Center, Ground Floor

On any given night, there are over 500,000 Americans living on the streets, in emergency housing, or in homeless shelters. Twenty-three percent of them are young people under 18, and nine percent are between the ages of 18-24. Many of these youth have fled family trauma or sexual abuse, have aged out of foster care, or have been thrown out of their homes because they identify as gay or transgender. In response, a wide range of social enterprises, volunteer networks, and public-private partnerships are launching initiatives to better address the complex needs of this population. In addition to providing short-term emergency shelter, advocates are looking to connect youth with trauma-informed and gender-responsive services, mental health counseling, and programs that help adolescents stay in school, graduate from high school, and access financial aid for college.

In this session, panelists and CGI U commitment-makers will explore how to:

Ensure that vulnerable youth and their families have access to permanent supportive housing, in order to provide health care, education, and job training services in addition to immediate shelter,
Create individualized, needs-based mentorship programs that are relevant to homeless youth and those transitioning out of the foster care system, and
Expand services and support networks that can enable homeless youth to reunite with their families, including crisis hotlines, street outreach programs, transportation vouchers, and in-home family counseling

Sixto Cancel, CEO, Think of Us
Mariuma Ben Yosef, founder and CEO, Shanti House Association
Nan Roman, president, National Alliance to End Homelessness
Elisabeth Jackson, executive director, Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Preventing and Responding to Sexual Assault on Campus
East Village, 17th Floor Ballroom

Almost 20 percent of female students will experience rape or a sexual assault during their time at college, with the majority of student victims knowing their attacker. Yet under 15 percent of sexual assault victims on campus ever report the crime to law enforcement. While less common, and even more underreported, male students are also victimized. Several factors make the university environment distinct in terms of responding to and preventing sexual assault. Universities have a special responsibility to protect their students– whether in partnership with, or independent of, law enforcement. Throughout the process, they must consider the impact of an assault on the victim, the attacker, and the entire school community.

In this session, panelists and CGI U commitment-makers will discuss how to:

Create a culture in which sexual assault is not tolerated, promoting effective bystander intervention, self-defense training, and access to university resources and comprehensive care that support survivors of sexual assault,
Utilize technology designed to provide a confidential reporting platform for college sexual assault survivors and to help schools facilitate the identification of repeat assailants, and
Ensure that campaigns and initiatives against sexual assault on campus are student-driven and rooted in the experiences and perspectives of young people.


Amelia Harnish, senior features writer, Refinery29
Amy Ziering, documentary filmmaker, Chain Camera Pictures
Kim Kirkland, executive director, Oregon State University
Amanda Nguyen, founder and CEO, Rise



Clinton Foundation Brings Together Over 40 Partners for Girl Athletes

The Clinton Foundation is Alive and Well and Looking to Expand Some Programs

What Happened: Clinton’s Account Reveals Our Broken Democracy




How WDN Connects Women and Cultivates Progressive Giving

Donna Hall, President and CEO, Women Donors Network, speaking at the WDN 2015 conference in New Orleans.

One of the most significant barriers to women starting out in philanthropy is lack of knowledge about how and where to donate money. Women new to philanthropy, including women whose families may have ill-prepared them for the financial management of inheritance, may have trouble picking an organization or cause to focus on. They may be confused about which kind of donation will create the most value for an organization, or may simply not understand the tax ramifications of different forms of philanthropy.

That’s where Women Donors Network (WDN) comes in. A network of progressive women philanthropists, WDN focus on three themes: connect, collaborate, and catalyze. In other words, WDN helps women get into relationships that teach them about philanthropy — how to collaborate on philanthropic projects, and how to act as catalysts for progressive social change.

I recently had the chance to talk with Donna P. Hall, the President and CEO of WDN, about the organization’s function and future plans.

WDN offers women a unique path toward empowerment and civic participation. Hall has been with WDN for 15 years now; before that, she earned an MBA when it was rare for women to do so, and her interest in public health and her personal convictions led her to positions in nonprofit management.

Hall worked for both the Kaiser Family Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation. When a friend contacted her about working for Women Donors Network, an under-the-radar start-up dedicated to helping women with inherited wealth learn how to use that wealth in philanthropy, she jumped at the opportunity.

“Often, women did not have the support they needed in male-dominated philanthropic families,” said Hall in our recent interview. “They were told ‘everything’s taken care of’ and patted on the head.” This is quite unlike the way male children are groomed to take on the mantle of family philanthropy. In addition, there is an increasing number of women-created individual fortunes and business empires. WDN is on a mission not just to help these women give away money, says Hall, but to “help women understand the powers they have not just with money but with connections.”

This is sorely needed in the world of philanthropy. Hall cited data that reveals that it takes three women on a board before male board members will listen to them. WDN focuses on how women can get a financial education outside of the formal education experience to build philanthropic communities. Along the way, these women learn to be effective public speakers,  how to communicate with donors and grantees,  and raise more funds for nonprofit organizations. The benefit of this kind of network is also manifest in the way that women grow in confidence through collaborative efforts. “It is important,” Hall argues, “for women to see that they don’t exist by themselves.”

Given its mission, it’s no surprise that WDN has grown rapidly since Hall began her tenure there. When she joined the organization, there were only 60 members. Now there are over 220 members, whose total donations amount to approximately $180 million a year. Members share a unique mutually beneficial experience: women starting out on the path of philanthropy benefit from participating in a community that includes experienced women who serve as mentors, and long-term members often get rejuvenated by the ideas and energies of new members. “It’s great to see both women just cutting their teeth as philanthropists, and experienced women evolving their practices.”

All of this contributes to the ultimate goal of WDN, which Hall explains is to help women understand the value and import of collective work as a means of creating progressive social change. “We are an unabashedly very progressive organization,” Hall reiterated, and WDN wants to continue pumping money into the progressive pipeline to fund projects such as Reflective Democracy, which has already raised a million dollars a year since its inception.

Though there are regional chapters of WDN in 39 of the 50 states, one of the most popular forums through which members make connections is at the annual conference, where participants focus on intersectional work on race, gender, class, and sexuality, to effect deep structural change in American politics and society. This year, the WDN Connect 2017 conference will be held November 9-12 in Atlanta, GA, and will “explore issues of race, gender, and equity, and the role of women donors in this critical time of resistance.”

This focus has already helped draw new members into the group, especially younger members. The uptick in interest from younger women has been so pronounced that WDN recently scrapped its requirement that all members reach a giving level of at least $25,000 per year to progressive organizations, because that proved to be a barrier to expanded membership. Now the only requirement is that each member provide WDN with a $5,000 a year tax-deductible contribution. “We think every woman should be a philanthropist,” Hall firmly stated. Occasionally, sponsors will assist in membership fees for women whose work is closely aligned to WDN or contributes significantly to progressive causes.

The other popular forum is the listserve created by WDN, which encourages conversation among philanthropic women who live thousands of miles from one another. This may be the key factor in one of the most interesting results of the creation of the WDN: almost every member within two years has upped their giving significantly, no doubt aided by the support and encouragement of fellow members. Currently, WDN plans to expand some of its programming in two specific ways:

  • WDN will soon provide more online resources to give members suggestions on how to fundraise and engage in other philanthropic activities;
  • WDN is going to initiate programming that’s intergenerational, and forge more relationships with millennials to build future members. “We want to welcome more millennials into our network so that we can develop the next generation of donor activists,” said Hall.

To women who lack the level of economic resources as members of WDN but still want to make a difference through a philanthropy portfolio, Hall recommends taking action. “Form groups and create communities,” she said. “Start with small dollar amounts, start locally, look at what interests are, and start making grants together.”

I asked Hall where she sees the Women Donors Network in five years, and she was confident that the organization will meet its strategic goal of increasing membership to 500, and will be able to expand its Reflective Democracy project. With all of this dynamic activity is going on at WDN, Hall stays grounded in her conviction about the intrinsic value of women giving together: “It is wonderful to be surrounded by women and doing good work.”

Editor’s Note: Women Donors Network is one of  Philanthropy Women’s Spotlight organizations, receiving additional media amplification of their strategy and work.


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Sandberg Deploys Another $100 Million in Facebook Stock, Much of It For Women and Girls, supported by Sheryl Sandberg, works to help address the gender pay gap and move more women into leadership roles.

Good news for the women’s philanthropy sector: Sheryl Sandberg has added another $100 million in Facebook stock to a Donor Advised Fund she uses to fund causes she cares about, with much of this new money going to Lean In, the nonprofit named after her best-selling book about how to succeed as a woman in business.

Sandberg represents a new prototype for women’s philanthropy: the young tech executive who sees gender equality philanthropy as a priority. These new funds will help expand its mission of increasing women in leadership. recently reported that Sandberg has transferred 590,000 shares of Facebook stock to a Fidelity Donor Advised Fund which she uses to donate to organizations she supports. According to Recode:

That includes two philanthropies Sandberg founded:, a nonprofit focused on female empowerment; and, a nonprofit helping people overcome grief and adversity. Sandberg founded following the death of her husband, Dave Goldberg, in 2015.

The Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, the umbrella organization for both nonprofits, will be one of the major recipients of this money, according to this source.

Sandberg has made major donations like this an annual affair. She donated $100 million worth of Facebook stock to her fund in late 2016, and another $31 million earlier that same year.

Some of the funds will also go to other causes, including childhood hunger, and funding for college for disadvantaged individuals.

Sandberg’s imprint on American society is growing as she continues in her executive business role at Facebook, and expands her gender equality philanthropy. She also plays a minor role in Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened, as a friend to Clinton who helped her understand the gender dynamics impacting her campaign for President.

We here at Philanthropy Women are very glad for Sheryl Sandberg’s support for women’s leadership and are inspired by hear attunement to the issues women face. We would like to see Ms. Sandberg pressure Facebook to stop supporting in its efforts to shirk off responsibility for the child trafficking that happens on their site.


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



Putting Women on the Map: New NGO for Women Launches at Georgetown

Tomorrow at Georgetown University, a new nonprofit called Women on the Map will launch. WOMAP is a digital network which seeks to advance women in technology and digital affairs.

It’s always good to start the week learning about the launch of a new gender equality nonprofit. Tomorrow at Georgetown University, Women on the Map (WOMAP), an international, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the role of women and girls in fields of technology and foreign affairs, will officially launch. To celebrate the launch, WOMAP will host an expert panel discussion on how technology can empower women and girls. Following the panel, a photo exhibition will be unveiled which celebrates the history of female trailblazers from around the world who have contributed to women’s rights, peace and security as well as international business, development, diplomacy, and public service.

“Our aim is to provide guidance, resources and tools that will both strengthen and promote women’s networks on campus and beyond,”  said Zoe Dauth, WOMAP founding director. The new nonprofit will have the support of the Georgetown Women’s Alliance, Georgetown Global Engagement, Gelardin New Media Center, and the School of Foreign Service Global Career Center.

Gwen K. Young, director of the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative and the Women in Public Service Project will moderate the panel discussion. Other featured speakers include Ria Bailey Galvis from Global Economic Policy Team, Google, Inc., Victoria Espinel, President and CEO of The Software Alliance, Prachi Vakharia, managing director of Womanium, and Lisa Singh, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University.

Every time a new nonprofit for gender equality is developed, particularly in a place of such important thought leadership as Georgetown University, it is cause for celebration. The organization promises to explore new ways technology can empower women and girls, particularly shining a spotlight on financial inclusion and female entrepreneurship.

“We are proud of the attributes that make WOMAP a distinct and singularly effective organization,” said Dauth in a press release announcing the launch. “We are both young and intergenerational, dedicated to global citizenship and the full inclusion of the voices and perspectives of women and girls in decisions and policies affecting societies worldwide. Our mission and goals align with key components of the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

Visit WOMAP’s website to learn more about their work.


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