2017 was a tremendous year to be writing about gender equality philanthropy. In the wake of Trump’s election in 2016, women in progressive circles rallied their resources for fighting back against the coming regression. Our top ten posts help to recall the many ways that women joined the resistance and continued the fight. At #6, for example, Emily Nielsen Jones delves into the experience of coming together for the Women’s March last January. Meanwhile, at #2, one of the most unusual giving circles in the country celebrates its ability to reach women on the other side of the globe. At #5, we hear from Kimberle Crenshaw, law scholar and fierce advocate for philanthropy to reach out more to women and girls of color.
With Christmas over, it’s now time to get down to business and develop a strong agenda for 2018. At the top of that agenda for progressive donors, in my opinion, is repealing the Trump Tax that recently passed. This legislation does more to hurt the middle class and nonprofits than can be tolerated in a society that still prides itself on equality and freedom.
Here are just a few choice details about how this law will deter giving for the middle and upper middle class. The law’s discouragement of itemized deductions by raising the standard deduction for married couples to $24,000, is estimated to reduce the number of itemized tax returns from the current 30% to only 5%. That means only 5% of people will have enough charitable and other deductions to qualify for itemizing their taxes. This change strikes a devastating blow to families in the $70,000 to $200,000 income level, who often stretch their giving in order to qualify for the charitable tax exemption at $12,000. Between the mortgage interest deduction and the charitable deduction, some middle class families would be able to qualify for the $12,000 deduction threshold. By giving an extra two or three thousand or more, they are often supporting nonprofits in the community (their local church, food bank, or domestic violence shelter) getting a tax break, too.
Learning how to laugh as much as possible can be a key component to sane living, particularly in today’s regressive political and social scene. The Ms. Foundation for Women recently hosted its 22nd Annual comedy night, calling it “Laughter is the Best Resistance,” where Gloria Steinem did stand-up. Meanwhile, women like Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are moving into the executive producer role for hit comedies like Grace and Frankie.
While Donald Trump is predicting that his “monumental” tax bill will pass next week, women donors came together to demand that Congress reject the tax plan currently being finalized by the GOP. “This is not the decent and fair America we seek to build,” a letter from over 200 women states, as it blasts the GOP for its reckless and irresponsible tax bill.
Calling the tax legislation “morally bankrupt, intellectually corrupt, and economically indefensible,” the letter signed by over 200 Women of Wealth members.
We know from the research coming out of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute that giving circles are growing, and women’s giving circles in particular are on the rise. But what does a giving circle really look like on the ground? How do they make decisions that are well-informed and that carry out the group’s intentions?
To find out more, I recently attended the New England International Donors (NEID) Global Changemaker’s Gala in Boston, an event that brought together a wide range of givers and giver groupies to celebrate the NEID Giving Circle’s donations to social change. The event featured a keynote conversation between NEID member David Campbell and Petra Nemcova, supermodel and philanthropists specializing in disaster relief rebuilding and education (she has funded the creation of 165 schools), who spoke to the group about the way in which disaster relief tends to focus on first response. Nemcova takes a more holistic (and, I would argue, feminist) approach to disaster relief — committing to long-term support to help countries affected by natural disasters.
“The Emergent Fund started as a plane built in mid-air. We moved faster than comfort allowed in developing a funding response to the new threats posed by the 2016 election because the scale of the crisis that loomed was so large, multidimensional, and immediate. Resources were urgently needed in many places and without much time for deliberation.”
So begins Visionary Resistance, a new report reviewing how several donor networks came together to invest $ 1 million rapidly for efforts to protect those most marginalized and targeted by a Trump presidency. Aptly named the Emergent Fund, this new resource is funded through a partnership between the Women Donors Network, Solidaire, Threshold Foundation, and the Democracy Alliance.
So much exciting change is happening in women’s philanthropy, but one of the biggest breakthroughs by far has been the overwhelming response to the #MeToo campaign, which helps to break the silence on sexual abuse and harassment. While we all have to measure when and were we choose to tell our stories (and as a therapist I have listened to many accounts, and have helped guide people to make choices about how much they wanted to disclose, and to whom) it is heartening to see so many women willing to take the risk and put their story out there.
The newest issue of Gender & Development is taking a close look at the connections between gender equality and environmental work in today’s world, a world where President Trump has the power to reduce the size of public monuments in Utah by millions of acres, a potentially illegal move that has huge implications for gender justice. Certainly, now is the time for feminist and environmentalists to come together and strategize about how to fight back.
In a post introducing the new issue of Gender & Development, Editor Caroline Sweetman reminds us that 2017 has been the deadliest on record for environmental activists. Further, in many countries around the world, women are on the losing end of deals made to extract natural resources from developing nations.
I am pleased to announce that the Women’s Funding Network has agreed to serve as Philanthropy Women’s fiscal sponsor for our not-for-profit publishing work. This partnership will help us to raise funds to make Philanthropy Women a more potent force for educating the community about how women in philanthropy are driving social change.
The Women’s Funding Network (WFN) grew out of a 1984 joint meeting of the National Black United Fund and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, where participants discussed creating an organization exclusively for women’s funds. By 2000, WFN had grown into a network of 94 member funds and foundations with over $200 million in assets, deploying $30 million a year in grants. In 2003, WFN received a $5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which enabled significant growth. Today, WFN continues to expand, with over 100 women’s funds and foundations spanning 30 countries, and continues to collaborate with other philanthropic powerhouses like Kellogg, the Gates Foundation, and the Clinton Foundation, to address gender equality globally.