Women’s Funds Show Philanthropy the Way to Transparency, Diversity

Happy Women’s History Month. There are only a few days left to this month of focusing on the value of gender equality and the arc of its progression throughout time. I spent a lot of time this month researching and thinking about how women’s funds feed social change. Most of what I learned reinforced the theory that women’s funds represent a unique approach to philanthropy that the rest of the sector would do well to replicate.

My last piece for Women’s history month on this topic is published at Daily Kos, a site dedicated to the larger sphere of progressive political change.

As Philanthropy Opens Up, Women’s Funds Show the Way

Something unusual happened recently in philanthropy: Bill and Melinda Gates opened their annual letter by answering 10 “tough” questions from the public about their philanthropy. The Gates’ Q&A is just one example of philanthropists becoming more responsive to the public. Funders are growing more aware of the value of engaging with the communities they seek to serve. The Fund for Shared Insight (FSI) which is dedicated to bringing more openness to philanthropy, is cultivating this trend; it added five new foundations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this past year: Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, James Irvine Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and Omidyar Network, bringing the number of funding partners in the collaborative to 39.

These new commitments to FSI represent a trend toward participatory grantmaking — a method of listening to and engaging with grantees and community members in the funding process, making the interventions being supported more impactful. It’s a powerful strategy that is gaining momentum, with grantmakers like Wikimedia Foundation increasing the amount of participatory grantmaking into the millions in recent years.

With help from FSI, Women’s Funding Network recently conducted research on the standard openness practices of its members, yielding  significant findings about the power of participation.

How Do Women’s Funds Practice Openness?

  1. Women’s funds recruit community members for several parts of the grantmaking process. Of the women’s funds studied for this research, 79% practiced participatory grantmaking in the form of bringing on grant readers from the communities being served. 74% of women’s funds also had community members participating in funding recommendations and site visits, and 61% engaged community members in evaluating grants.
  2. Women’s funds use listening tours and other engagement strategies. Listening to the voices of community members is a key strategy that women’s funds practice. 68% of women’s funds in the study engage in listening tours and 88% engage in candid conversation with community members.
  3. Because women’s funds listen, they do some of the most effective advocacy. 88% of women’s funds engage in advocacy, with 75% engaging at the state level. That advocacy is magnified by 96% of women’s funds engaging in coalition-building — getting other organizations on board when advocating for systems changes.
  4. Women’s funds prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion. Engagement and listening tours in the community help women’s funds fully appreciate and elevate the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Of the participating women’s funds, 58% have explicit definitions and commitments to diversity, equity, and/or inclusion.

The Results

The Women’s Foundation of California, recently introduced three important pieces of legislation through its policy institute that were signed into State law, all of which benefit underserved communities and enhance inclusion and economic equality. In Kansas City, Missouri, the Women’s Foundation was on the forefront of advocating for and enacting new paid family leave policies. And in Chicago, the Chicago Foundation for Women teamed up with other advocacy groups this past year to raise the minimum wage in Cook County to $11.

Bottom Line: Consistently employing participatory grantmaking practices can result in increased resources, knowledge, and self-determination for grassroots movements.

Women’s funds’ standard operating procedure of listening and understanding a community from its perspective, empowers grantmakers and community members to be more effective change agents. Grantees get more opportunities to collaborate with others in the community and participate in advocacy that creates structural change. Grantmakers feel more effective and confident about their connection to the community.

Now more than ever, foundations should fully embrace the participatory grantmaking model that women’s funds have been practicing for decades. By doing so, they will increase their capacity to accelerate the social change they seek.

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is a clinical social worker and founder of Philanthropy Women. Full disclosure:  Women’s Funding Network is the fiscal sponsor for Philanthropy Women.

Related:

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#ProsperityTogether Twitter Chat Tomorrow!

Tomorrow brings us another cool event for women’s history month.  From 3 pm to 4 pm EST tomorrow, Prosperity Together will hold a Twitter chat to celebrate the collective impact of their funding.

Prosperity Together is the coalition of 32 women’s funds across 26 states and Washington D.C., which has invested $58 million since 2016 for grassroots organizations growing gender equality and economic security for women.

Philanthropy Women will be there tomorrow, to hear about how these women’s funds are pushing for social change, particularly by using participatory grantmaking strategies and paying extra attention to diversity and inclusion. Women’s funds are also doing some of the most groundbreaking work with supporting youth-led grantmaking and youth-led social movements, so it will be great to hear more about that, too, since we are living in the midst of the largest child-led social movement in America, the movement for gun safety.

This twitter chat will be a unique opportunity to hear from women’s funds about exactly how they are investing with their grants, and how these investments are paying off in gains for women and girls.

The hashtag for the event, #ProsperityTogether, will help readers follow the conversation. Be sure to use the hashtag in tweets that you post, in order to add your voice to the conversation.

Related:

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#MarchForOurLives: Women’s Funds Support Youth-Led Movements

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#MarchForOurLives: Women’s Funds Support Youth-Led Movements

Thanks to Daniel Heimpel and The Chronicle of Social Change for publishing my op-ed on the student-led gun safety movement happening all around us today in the world. I am immensely proud of all the young people who are showing us the way today.

From the op-ed:

Ahead of the Curve: Women’s Funds and Youth-Led Social Movements

Are we finally listening to the children? An estimated 185,000 youth walked out of school and onto the streets on March 14 to protest the lack of adequate gun control in America. Thousands more will descend on Washington, D.C., today to raise their voices and most importantly lay out a responsible path forward. Youth-led social movements are demonstrating that they are the force to be reckoned with.

In key respects, many women’s funds have already done groundbreaking work for youth-led movements in recent years. Scaling these movements up could be an effective way to fight back against a government currently held hostage by the powerful moneyed interests of the gun lobby.

Funders ready to acknowledge and bolster youth-led movements are in the right place at the right time to help chart a new path for public safety. Among the funders who are well-positioned for this niche are women’s funds and foundations.

 The growth of youth-led advocacy supported by women’s funds started because they recognized the essential value of young women’s voices and experiences. This work was cultivated further in 2016 with the launch of Prosperity Together, a collaboration of 32 women’s funds across the country who have committed to investing $100 million over five years in improving economic security for low-income women, particularly young women.

Read the full text at The Chronicle for Social Change. 

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Kathy LeMay Shares About the Fine Art of Radical Listening to Donors

Martha A. Taylor: On Accelerating Social Change for Women

 

Kathy LeMay Shares About the Fine Art of Radical Listening to Donors

Kathy LeMay, President and CEO, Raising Change, and Interim Executive Director, Women Moving Millions.

I’m glad to be collaborating with David Callahan and publishing occasionally on Inside Philanthropy again. Here is my latest piece, featuring longtime philanthropy professional Kathy LeMay talking about her new masterclass for social change fundraising.

The topics of listening and participatory grantmaking are trending heavily in philanthropy right now, and for good reason. We are living in a time when the lack of listening and responsiveness from government and other social institutions is finally getting people’s attention. LeMay’s masterclass sounds like an opportunity worth exploring if you are particularly interested in engaging donors deeply in their mission and strengthening your skills as a change agent and fundraiser.

The article also contains some exciting tidbits about LeMay’s current role as Interim Executive Director of Women Moving Millions, one the most influential organizations in the gender equality philanthropy sector.

From the article:

What Does Kathy LeMay Know That Other Fundraisers Don’t?

“I never said anything. I radically listened.”

These are the words of Kathy LeMay, a longtime fundraiser, about how she helped a donor discover that she was ready to make a million-dollar donation.

What is radical listening? It’s the process of “being in relationship” with donors so that you are able to help them fulfill their mission. It’s about being on the receiving end of the donor’s vision, and being able to help them articulate that vision in a way that inspires them to give.

LeMay recently taught her inaugural Raising Change Masterclass for fundraisers, which guides students in the fine arts of radical listening and being in full, trusted relationships with donors. LeMay’s work in this area is a response to messages she has heard from donors over the years who have told her that they wanted more of a relationship with the organization they are funding, rather than to be treated as a check writer.

Read the full text at Inside Philanthropy.

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#MeToo and the Power Shift Women’s Funds Helped Create

Check out the Op-Ed piece I wrote recently for Inside Philanthropy, which explores the ways that the #Metoo movement — the mass uprising of sexual abuse and assault survivors seeking justice — is driving a shift in power and gender dynamics in our culture never before seen. With news of sexual abuse occurring for decades in children’s sports like gymnastics and swimming, and agencies like Oxfam facing major repercussions from reports of sexual misconduct of development staff, #MeToo is helping to open up essential litigation and public discussion on sexual behaviors and norms.

From the Op-Ed:

The #MeToo movement is challenging power structures that long enforced the silence of women who endured sexual harassment, abuse and assault. But while the start of this movement is often traced to revelations last October about Harvey Weinstein, it’s important to recognize that there’s a much deeper backstory, here—one in which philanthropy has played an important role. 

In key respects, the #MeToo movement was made possible by decades of work by women’s funds and the women’s advocacy groups they patiently supported. These funds, which have come to operate worldwide, invested in community-based efforts to end sexual violence long before the #MeToo uprising. They listened to the experiences of survivors and responded by funding shelters, public awareness campaigns, and advocacy efforts aimed at shifting social policy. The central practice that women’s funds used to cultivate the ground for #MeToo is openness. In recent months, we’ve witnessed the visible impact of valuing women’s shared experiences, having frank conversations, and collaborating—all critical elements of the kind of movement building long supported by women’s funds. 

This history carries larger lessons for philanthropy writ large. Across the sector, funders are growing more aware of the value of openness—of listening to and engaging with the people they seek to serve. The Fund for Shared Insight (FSI), a funder collaborative dedicated to increased openness in philanthropy, is feeding this trend, and added five new foundations this past year, including the Gates Foundation, bringing the number of its funding partners to 39.

These new commitments to FSI come at a time of growing interest in participatory grantmaking—the practice of not just listening to grantees, but engaging them in the grantmaking process to optimize impact. While participatory grantmaking has been gaining momentum lately, many women’s funds have long embraced this approach. 

Read the full text at Inside Philanthropy. 

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Difficult, Disturbing Times at Oxfam, but Gender Equality Mission Endures

Oxfam has announced a new multi-faceted effort to prevent abuse and misconduct by its employees, in the wake of reports of misconduct of employees in Haiti and Chad.

If you follow the news on philanthropy, you have probably heard about Oxfam’s troubles. One of the oldest and largest global relief and development organizations, Oxfam is now facing heavy scrutiny due to sexual misconduct by some of its staff in Haiti in 2011. The Haitian government has suspended some of Oxfam’s operations in its country for two months while it investigates how the nonprofit handled the allegations of sexual misconduct during their humanitarian response in 2011. An estimated 7,000 individual supporters have since abandoned the organization since the allegations were reported in February this year, although the nonprofit asserts that their corporate partners have not withdrawn support. (A helpful timeline of events about the Oxfam crisis is available at Third Sector.)

Crisis = Opportunity

As you might imagine, Oxfam is working hard to address the problems internally by strengthening systems that identify and respond to abuse and misconduct. Since 2011, a Safeguarding Team was created, equipped with a confidential “whistleblowing” phone line as part of that effort. On February 16, Oxfam released a statement outlining several other ways that safeguarding will now be enhanced: 

  1. New High Level Commission: Oxfam established a “new independent High-Level Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change.” This commission is comprised of women’s rights experts and other leaders who will have open access to Oxfam’s records, staff, partners, and communities where people have received Oxfam relief services,  who will work independently to investigate and develop new ways to hold abusers accountable and change the culture of the organization.
  2. Ensuring that References for Employees are not Forged: Oxfam has committed to creating “a new global database of accredited referees – designed to end the use of forged, dishonest or unreliable references by past or current Oxfam staff.” This was one of the issues that led to former Oxfam staff who were perpetrating sexual misconduct being hired by other agencies.
  3. More Financial Resources to Bolster Safeguarding Systems: Oxfam has pledged to more than triple the annual funding for safeguarding to £720,000 and double the number of staff dedicated to this work within the agency.
  4. Improve Agency Culture Throughout: Oxfam already has a Code of Conduct which all employees must sign. It will now work on improving its internal culture, ensuring that everyone, especially women, feel safe and able to speak up about problems and know that they will be listened to and the issue dealt with.
  5. Publishing Its Internal Investigation from 2011: Oxfam wants to clear its name in the question of whether it covered up any of the abuse. It has published the 2011 internal investigation into staff involved in sexual and other misconduct in Haiti and provided authorities in Haiti with the names of the alleged perpetrators that were part of its staff.

All of these measures provide reassurance that the agency is seeking to rebuild public trust and ensure that things improve going forward. Alongside these new efforts, it’s important to remember that Oxfam has been a long-standing ally for gender equality in development. As we’ve reported here at Philanthropy Women, Oxfam has invested decades into programming, research and advocacy to break down gender barriers and create a more just world for women. 

To learn more about this history and how it is co-mingling with the current crisis, we recently talked with Nikki van der Gaag, Director of Women’s Rights and Gender Justice at Oxfam GB.  We wanted to get van der Gaag’s take on how the organization is faring in its efforts to hold its ground as a leader in gender justice and women’s rights.

“The lessons of feminist movement-building are also the lessons of Oxfam internally. The strategies are not so different,” said van Der Gaag. “What women run up against again and again is the power dominance of men across all sectors.” In a blog post published by Oxfam on International Women’s Day, van der Gaag acknowledged that she was not feeling as celebratory about the day this year as she would normally, in the wake of “appalling” behavior of Oxfam employees in Haiti, and the widespread sexual abuse and harassment scandals emerging throughout the development and relief sector. “Instead, for many of us, it is a time for self-reflection, for listening and speaking out, and for recognizing what many feminists already knew – that in big institutions such as the UN and INGOs and other charities, men still hold the power as much as in the media or Hollywood, the Church or the judiciary.”

Indeed. This is one of the reasons the #MeToo movement has been so powerful — because it holds individual perpetrators of abuse accountable, and the court of public opinion is demanding action. #MeToo suddenly provides transparency, where, throughout time, acts of abuse have largely been shrouded in secrecy. One could argue that it is no coincidence that #MeToo preceded the emergence of sexual abuse and harassment scandals in the development sector, and that its power will have lasting implications for how the sector operates going forward.

Van der Gaag comes at the problem not from a policing approach, but from an approach that inspires the staff at Oxfam to see gender as integral to all that they do. The organization’s 2016/2017 Annual Report embeds its work for women within its overall strategy thusly: “Throughout all our efforts, we focused on water, women, work and inequality, because saving lives in disasters, advancing women’s rights and building fair livelihoods are the most effective ways to end poverty for good.”

So what does this look like on the ground? Oxfam’s work on gender takes many forms. “We have long been working with rural women in Colombia to earn a better living, understand their rights and influence the government,” said van der Gaag. ” We’re mobilising men in Zambia to condemn violence against women through a public campaign. In  the disaster-prone Philippines, we are working to increase women’s confidence and status by supporting them to lead their communities and  improve their income. In Iraq, we’re helping survivors of gender-based violence recover and create small businesses and earn income.” More details about each of these initiatives are available in the latest annual report.

“For me, interestingly, one of the unexpected outcomes of what has happened in the past weeks is much more staff engagement. I think this really gives us an opportunity to strengthen inspiration at all levels,” said van der Gaag. She sees “getting the systems right first” as an essential way to address the problems of sexual abuse and harassment in organizations. “You need people in every department to raise the issue of gender as a matter of course, and for everyone to understand their role in this.”

Van der Gaag also feels strongly that we need to use this crisis in the development sector positively. “It provides an opportunity to redouble our efforts,” she said. She sees Oxfam’s troubles as part of the global movement to challenge gender norms in myriad ways, both in our personal relationships and our community institutions. “We need to challenge the individuals and institutions that perpetuate privilege, in order to ensure that those who exploit their power, whoever and wherever they are, do not get away with it.”

Much agreed. Perhaps all development and relief nonprofits should take a cue from Oxfam right now and double or triple their internal investment in employee training and supervision to prevent abuse and misconduct. Such action could accelerate gains for nonprofit organizational culture, which could have ripple effects that add to the gains being made for gender equality movements across the globe.

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Feminist Philanthropy Newsflash: #FunnyGirls Featured on NBC Tonight at 6:30

Funny Girls, the signature leadership development program of The Harnisch Foundation,  will be featured tonight on NBC Nightly.

One of my favorite programs, Funny Girls, is going to be getting some major attention this evening, as NBC Nightly featured the program, along with Harnisch Foundation Executive Director Jenny Raymond and program officer Carla Blumenthal.

One reasons I enjoy talking about Funny Girls is because of my own experience, watching my daughters participate Improv programs locally at The Artists’ Exchange in Cranston. I am a strong believer in the power of Improv to help people explore identity and develop key aspects of relationship-building. I also think there is great potential for using Improv to help all people, not just women and girls, enhance their social and emotional lives. Want to know more about Funny Girls? Check out this page. 

Editor’s Note: Ruth Ann Harnisch, President and Co-Founder of Harnisch Foundation, is a lead sponsor of Philanthropy Women. 

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#IWD2018 Recap: Women Rock for International Women’s Day

While Michelle Obama was First Lady, she launched Let Girls Learn, a global campaign to improve education for girls. Now the Obama Foundation has a new program targeting education for adolescent girls worldwide.

Yesterday, International Women’s Day, was packed with events  acknowledging the value of women in the world and calling for more women’s leadership across all sectors. It was also a great day to celebrate the role that gender equality movements are increasingly playing in social change that advances peace and justice for humanity. Here are just 5 of the philanthropy-related happenings that made #IWD2018 a significant day of partying for women’s equality:

  1. Jacki Zehner published an updated research collection. Jacki Zehner, C0-Founder of Women Moving Millions and Co-President of the Jacqueline and Gregory Zehner Foundation, has been aggregating the best quality data on women and girls for over ten years. Her newly updated 500 reports spans a diverse range of topic areas including sports, real estate, peace and security, and STEM, with extensive report-gathering in areas like violence against women and economic development. It’s an essential and handy resource for anyone in the community looking for recent data from the growing body of gender equality research.
  2. Michelle Obama highlighted the life experience of a young Nepali woman. To demonstrate how the Obama Foundation seeks to reach adolescent girls globally, Michelle Obama partnered with Refinery29 to help the world see and hear Nirupa Katuwal, a 21 year old girl from Nepal, who talked about the value of education for her future.  Quote from Michelle: “I see myself in these girls. I see my daughters in these girls. I knew that I couldn’t just sit back and accept the barriers that keep them from realizing their promise. I had to do something.” Wow. That’s what real post-presidential leadership looks like. Hopefully, Melania is taking notes.
  3. Women Gathered to Talk Strategy and Take Action. At the UN, top leadership reaffirmed their commitment to SDG5 and enhancing gender equality worldwide. UN Chief Guterres put it succinctly by saying,”Gender inequality, discrimination and violence against women harm us all.” In Washington DC, a collaborative of organizations dedicated to women got together to celebrate how, as Sarah Bruno of  Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) put it, “ordinary women, who work hard each day to take care of their families, are also bringing change and innovation within their communities.” Other organizations collaborating in the event included WeWork, Vicente Ferrer Foundation USA (VFF USA) and Malala Fund.
  4. Women Convened to Discuss Gender Lens Investing. Ruth Ann Harnisch says it best when she says, “The final frontier of feminism is finance.” When women move into the driver’s seat of financial markets, there will be more opportunities to accelerate social change by holding corporate culture accountable for respecting the human rights of all people, including women. This was all discussed at length and in detail on a webinar convened yesterday by Veris Wealth Partners. The event was recorded on a webinar called Gender Lens Investing, Observations & Insights 2018, so we will keep you posted about when it is available for others to watch.
  5. Women Rallied to Embolden #MeToo Activism. High-level philanthropy publications like The Chronicle of Philanthropy  discussed the value of #MeToo, especially when combined with women’s growing wealth, influence, and leadership cache. Organizations like Femme Fatale celebrated the advances that women are making in creating films, while magazines like Alliance celebrated the range in diversity of women’s blogs, particularly those from marginalized communities. At the same time, mainstream publications like The New York Times featured obituaries of women previously overlooked by the newspaper for special attention upon their passing.
Related:

Big Doings in Feminist Philanthropy For Women’s History Month

It’s hard for me to keep up with all the news these days on feminist philanthropy, which is a good thing. That means there are more stories every day (and especially during women’s history month) that are reaching people’s inboxes and getting the world thinking about turning further in the direction of a feminist vision of peace and justice.  The constancy of this news is why I publish a daily aggregate of news called Giving For Good, which I encourage you to subscribe to if you are a feminist philanthropy news junkie like me.

Sometimes the news is so big that it deserves extra attention, which is one of the reasons I created Philanthropy Women: to highlight the feminist philanthropy news that is truly game-changing and groundbreaking. Here are a few extra important stories that I wanted to pick out and share:

  1. Gates Foundation Commits $170 Million to Global Gender Equality Movements: This Quartz piece gives it to us straight from the horse’s mouth (the horse being Melinda Gates, no offense!) on how the Gates Foundation will  plow $170 million over four years into gender equality movements. To put that in perspective, 32 women’s funds made a commitment in 2016 to invest $100 million in U.S.-based gender equality movements over five years. This one commitment from Bill and Melinda Gates nearly doubles that. We are talking big moving and shaking going on. Here’s the golden nugget from Melinda in that post: “We’ll never reach our goals if we don’t also address the systematic way that women and girls are undervalued.” Amen, Melinda. But it’s not just about “linking women to markets” and money getting into individual women’s hands. It’s about changing the systems, including the corporations that exploit women as laborers. When we put that together with building government services that are truly women-centered, then we will see the ways that systems can change.
  2. Big Meetings for Gender Equality Movements Happening Soon: Those who have the resources to get themselves to meetings about gender equality this year will not lack for events to attend. Recently many of my Twitter followers have been rallying about the upcoming United State of Women Summit that will happen in Los Angeles from May 5-6, which will feature an amazing line-up of leaders including many friends connected with Women’s Funding Network, Women Donors Network and BRAVA Investments, as well as such luminaries as Michelle Obama and Tarana Burke. In addition, Women’s Funding Network will be holding its New York Summit on Tuesday, May 22. More information on that event is here.
  3. Important Gender Lens Investing Call Thursday: While there are lots of events happening on Thursday for International Women’s Day, this conference call with  Alison Pyott, Partner and Senior Wealth Manager, Veris Wealth Partners, Luisamaria Ruiz Carlile, Senior Wealth Manager, Veris Wealth Partners, Cynthia Nimmo, President and CEO, Women’s Funding Network,  and Suzanne Biegel, Founder, Catalyst at Large, is one I am not going to miss. The potential for advancing impact on gender justice with gender lens investing is great, and the growing range of services and products in this market indicate that women are getting closer to being in the driver’s seat in financial markets. I look forward to hearing these experts flesh out the terrain.

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Women’s Funds Deploy $58.4 Million in Funding in Two Years

Leaders of Dallas Women’s Foundation, California Women’s Foundation, The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, New York Women’s Foundation, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham and Ms. Foundation on stage at the United State of Women Summit on June 14, 2016 in Washington, D.C.

Despite an increasingly hostile climate for women and girls in the United States, with access to reproductive services being cut and campus sexual assault policies being rolled back, a partnership of women’s funds that started during the Obama administration is continuing to grow and deploy needed funds to grassroots organizations.

Now, the Partnership for Prosperity, a network of 32 women’s funds and foundations located in 26 states, has announced that they have already invested $58.4 million in their first two years. The Partnership’s commitment is to invest $100 million in 5 years, so they are already ahead of schedule with their funding of community organizations around the country.

According to a press release about the Partnership, in Year One (2016), Prosperity Together partners invested a collective $29,170,427. In Year Two (2017), partners invested $29,251,072. This means that 1,022 nonprofits received funding and 137,153 women and girls were impacted across 26 states and the District of Columbia.  You can visit Prosperity Together’s website to see the report.

The Women’s Fund of Rhode Island is one of the partners in Prosperity Together, and as it happens, my husband and I attended a very thought-provoking event they held last evening in our neighborhood, at a local nonprofit cafe and theater called Theater 82. 

“Local research indicates that many features of our economy could be improved for Rhode Island women. Workplace policy, government regulations, collective action and educational attainment are all areas that can grow access and opportunity for low income women and their families,” said Kelly Nevins, Executive Director of the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island. “We are pleased to be part of this national effort to further raise awareness of those approaches.”

It’s great to have Kelly Nevins leading the way in helping Rhode Island move the needle on gender equality. (We are a state that is sadly dominated by male leadership. I cringe every time I look at my local city council and the all-male lineup, and I especially cringe when they pass ridiculous legislation about putting armed guards in all our schools.)

Prosperity Together employs a unique style of grantmaking also sometimes called participatory grantmaking, which emphasizes inclusiveness and engaging grant-recipients in the process. More on how the partnership distributes its funding:

To achieve economic security for all women, Prosperity Together partners employ a broad, inclusive approach to grantmaking. In 2017, 90% of partners supported workforce development; 81% leadership development and community mobilization; 74% financial literacy and asset building; 74% research; and 74% education.

In 2017, Prosperity Together partners targeted their grantmaking to support programs in many areas:

Job Training: Programs that are customized to address the cultural and educational needs of low-income women to secure a higher-wage job in a stable work environment.

Two-Generation Programs: Programs that assist parents seeking education, job training, or employment while concurrently placing their children in high-quality education.

Asset Building & Financial Literacy: Programs that help women develop and keep wealth.

Childcare Access & Quality: Programs that create access for low-income women to culturally appropriate, affordable, high-quality childcare so they can be successful in the workplace and their children can have a strong academic start in life.

Research: State and national research to inform best practices and policies that increase economic security for low-income women, build awareness of community-specific issues, and mobilize support for policy change.

Policy Change: Support policy change efforts that most affect low-income women, including pay equity, paid family and medical leave, minimum wage increase, improved access to childcare, reducing predatory lending, improving access to childcare subsidies for community college students, and fair scheduling and work-week bills.

Here in Rhode Island, the Women’s Fund of RI (WFRI) is doing some amazing grantmaking and collaborating with the community. Their work has a huge impact both for women and girls and for society in general, such as their collaboration with legislators and advocates to pass the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act, which enables 45,000 low income workers to earn up to three paid sick days per year.  WFRI grants about $50,000 a year, which is not nearly enough grantmaking (in my humble opinion)  for such an impactful approach. That’s why they need more funding!  Funders take note: Because Rhode Island is the smallest state, is a great state for lab testing new interventions for gender equality. If more funders took an interest in funding gender equality in Rhode Island, we could likely test out important policy initiatives that could then be scaled up to create social change in other states.

Visit the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island’s website to learn more about how you can get involved.

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