Feminist Grantmaking’s Connection to the New Relational Culture

Feminist Scholar Rebecca Walker is pictured here with Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix, after delivering a lecture at Southern Methodist University in October of 2017. Walker and Hunt were in town to discuss the history of feminism and ways to develop a more relational culture.

The recent Kavanaugh hearings resurfaced a very old story about gender, power, and the truth of experience.  When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford bravely testified, people everywhere had to grapple with the fact that early life relationships, and particularly sexual traumas, can drastically impact our lives.

In fact, while our dominant culture remains in denial about the prevalence and negative effects of sexual violence, thought leaders in feminist psychology and sociology have been calling attention to the problem for decades.  While sexual violence is an extreme form of domination and abuse, these thought leaders have demonstrated how gender-based violence is part of a continuum of control and exploitation that most women begin to experience more of as they hit adolescence.

As David Brooks wisely points out in his recent op-ed, Two Cheers for Feminism, “For thousands of years social thinking has been dominated by men — usually alpha men — who saw life as a place where warriors and traders went out and competed for wealth and power. These male writers were largely blind to the systems of care that undergirded everything else.” Brooks references Carol Gilligan, Niobe Way, Alisha Ali and Pedro Nuguero, in their new anthology called  “The Crisis of Connection,” for their ability to identify how the stereotypically masculine values of “self over relationships, individual success over the common good, the mind over the body, and thinking over feeling” have perpetuated harmful gender dynamics in relationships.

One way to reduce the harmful effects of gender inequality in our lives is by consciously practicing a different kind of being with our power — experiencing ourselves as having “power-with” other people, rather than “power-over” them. Despite growing social inequality, in our personal relationships, it is still possible to practice a “power-with” approach. One such approach is facilitated by a process called Safe Conversations.  

I recently attended a Safe Conversations training in New York, so that I could learn and teach others the skills to help people unpack the patriarchy and power dynamics in their personal lives. After decades of research and practice, Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix have come out with Safe Conversations, a new way to engage in relationships, that makes it possible for people to experience deeper empathy and understanding.

How Does Safe Conversations Work?

The training I attended in New York involved multiple practice sessions, during which we broke out into groups of three’s and practiced being both members and facilitators of the structured conversations.  Within an hour of beginning the training, we had begun to engage in conversations that went deeply into a space of emotional revelation.  Facial expressions softened as the groups tried out speaking to each other with new, unfamiliar sentence stems like, “Let me see if I’ve got that. You said…” and “Is that what you are feeling?” and then listened in new ways, with an ear toward being able to reflect back as much of what they heard as they could.

This wasn’t the first time I had practiced the techniques. I had attended an online workshop with my husband in February of 2017, and since then, had been introducing the technique in small ways in my private practice, with astonishing results. I had seen mothers and daughters reach new understandings of their longtime emotional struggle. I had seen couples practice the technique and come away with a renewed commitment to making their relationship work. Even as people sometimes felt awkward or resisted, I saw how speaking in this new way, using Safe Conversations, was impacting them positively.

Safe Conversations helps us identify ways in which we experienced early relational challenges, and how those challenges impact our identity, as well as our sense of hope and possibility about ourselves, our families, and the larger community. The process teaches us how to both share appreciation for people in our lives, and how to safely tell the story of our own emotional challenges. Built into the process of Safe Conversations is a feedback loop that fosters validating and empathizing with each other’s emotional struggles. Essentially, Safe Conversations teaches us that everyone needs to be part of the answer to a more gender equal and relational world, and gives us the skills to connect better with others.

A parallel process of sorts has been building momentum in philanthropy recently with a strategy called participatory grantmaking, which helps donors and grantees build stronger relationships. Participatory grantmaking invites donors and grantees to become partners, with the central premise that the grantee has the experience to lead the way toward solutions. Organizations like NCRP, the Center for Effective Philanthropy, and the Fund for Shared Insight, are adding to the chorus of philanthropy experts calling for more participatory grantmaking, with many large foundations joining the Fund for Shared Insight in the past year.

Three decades ago, Helen LaKelly Hunt was part of a small army of pioneering feminist founders of some of our country’s largest and most successful women’s foundations. By funding the start of these women’s funds, Hunt helped establish new community hubs for participatory grantmaking. Most women’s funds have been under-recognized practitioners of participatory grantmaking since inception, and these practices — of moving into relationship with the grantee, listening to and incorporating their feedback, and even of including grantees on boards and in the grantmaking process — have made women’s funds some of the most effective change agents in the philanthropic landscape.

In philanthropy, participatory grantmaking is teaching us to listen and value feedback in the donor-grantee relationship. This is a significant shift, but just as important are shifts that can take place in our own everyday relationships. With new techniques like Safe Conversations, we can all be stewards of stronger, more gender equal families and communities.

Editor’s Note: Kiersten Marek is trained as a Safe Conversations Leader and will be teaching her first Safe Conversations workshop on November 7, 2018. To learn more about future Safe Conversations workshops for both helping professionals and the general public, please email Kiersten at kiersten@philanthropywomen.org

Full disclosure: The Sister Fund (of which Helen LaKelly Hunt is co-founder) is a Lead Sponsor of Philanthropy Women. 


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Women Donors: Help RI Take Out Anti-Feminist State House Speaker

The Woman Project, a grassroots coalition born in South County, Rhode Island, has called on both Speaker Mattiello and Rep. Keable to resign.

The Woman Project, a grassroots coalition of progressive women activists in Rhode Island, is calling on House Speaker Nick Mattiello and State Rep. Cale Keable to resign, in light of new evidence that Keable engaged in sexual harassment of Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian, and the House Speaker did little to address the problem.

The Woman Project noted that it is “unthinkable” that Speaker Nick Mattiello would “keep Representative Keable in a leadership role and take no formal action.”

Nick Mattiello is currently being challenged by Republican Steve Frias, who came very close to beating him in the last election, with only 85 votes making Mattiello the winner.

On October 29, Rep. Keable was suspended from his position as Judiciary Chair of the House of Representatives in Rhode Island.

The Woman Project further noted that Representative Keable’s power as Chair of the judiciary committee has prevented bills on reproductive freedom and sexual harassment from proceeding to the Rhode Island State House floor for full consideration by the legislature.

Because of Rhode Island’s size and political structure, the House Speaker has the power to “table” legislation and keep it from proceeding for a vote. In recent years, progressive women in Rhode Island have grown increasingly frustrated with the House Speaker’s stalling of legislation, particularly around women’s rights and gun control. Progressive women donors would do well to support the coalition of organizations coming together to defeat Mattiello in the upcoming election on November 6. Those organizations are the National Organization for Women, the Rhode Island Coalition against Gun Violence, and the Rhode Island Latino PAC. Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island also issued a statement calling on Rep. Keable to resign and criticizing the leadership of House Speaker Mattiello.

The Providence Journal provides an overview of the full story, including Mattiello’s side.

Here is the full statement from The Woman Project below:


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Empowering Women by Changing Men: Promundo’s Global Fight for Gender Equality

Giovanna Lauro, Vice President of Programs and Research at Promundo, talked with Philanthropy Women about finding key entry points for reaching men, in order to change gender norms. Some of these entry points include sports and prenatal education for families.

A great deal of emphasis in feminist philanthropy is placed on women, and changing the role of women in society. But what about men? What role can men play in challenging gender norms, and what initiatives are gender equality organizations taking to reach men?

To further explore these questions, I spoke to Giovanna Lauro, Vice President of Programs and Research at Promundo, by telephone from her D.C. office. Promundo was founded in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in 1997, working with young men in Rio’s poorest communities on transforming gender norms and concepts of masculinity. It has since taken that approach far beyond Brazil, and its website notes, “Promundo works to promote gender equality and create a world free from violence by engaging men and boys in partnership with women and girls.”

The organization’s expansion from the global South to global North makes it an anomaly, as many NGOs start in wealthy countries and then move into less developed nations. Regardless, Lauro says that there is a commonality to the organization’s work, wherever it takes place, namely, “a frustration with the limits of putting the burden of change on women and girls only.” One can work to empower women and girls all one wants, but it’s a tough mandate without change occurring among the other half of the population.

Promundo’s Washington, D.C. office opened in 2011, allowing the organization to expand its reach globally to more than 40 nations. To date, Promundo’s projects and technical assistance have reached roughly 10 million individuals, including over 4,500 health professionals, 22,000 educators, 1,400 members of the police and military, and 300 government officials.

The emphasis on masculinities—what it means to be a man—separates Promundo from many NGOs in the gender-equity field. Lauro argues that continued female empowerment requires men and boys to see themselves as allies and partners, not adversaries. Moreover, change is not a zero-sum game; men and boys also gain in many ways when rigid attitudes toward gender are challenged.

Promundo’s “Manhood 2.0” project, developed in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh, aims to prevent teen dating violence by engaging young males aged 15-24 in understanding the effects of harmful gender norms. Manhood 2.0 is modelled on Promundo’s Program H (named after homens and hombres, the Portuguese and Spanish words for men) which launched in 2002. Employed by Promundo and its partners in 34 countries worldwide, Program H is based on research with young Brazilian men who exhibited more gender-equitable attitudes than others in their demographic cohort. Men expressing less rigid attitudes around gender roles typically have peer group support in this area, positive personal experiences around gender equality, and male role models who express support for gender equality.

Stereotypical and rigidly enforced conceptions of gender are toxic to all. Statistics indicate the high rate of male violence against women, but it’s not as if men are untouched by violence. They are twice as likely as women to die of suicide, and comprise over three-quarters of homicide victims in the U.S. The large number of male lives lost in wars and other armed conflicts goes without saying. Research by Promundo and other organizations indicates that many of these negative outcomes have their basis in overly rigid conceptions of masculinity. Promundo’s report “Masculine Norms and Violence: Making the Connections” explores this relationship.

Engaging Men Through Pre-Natal Programs and Soccer

Engaging with young men in the U.S. and abroad around harmful gender norms is a noble goal, but how does one lead the male horse to the trough of gender equity? Firstly, Promundo identifies local partners who can make a difference. “Find a facilitator who believes in what they preach,” says Lauro, “someone who has shown a commitment or potential for working for gender equality.” Next, she says, it’s vital to “incorporate contextual intervention” in recruiting and retaining participants. In other words, don’t place an announcement for a gender-equity workshop in the local paper and expect men to rush the doors. Lauro notes two specific angles that Promundo has tried: fatherhood and soccer.

In Chile (and other locales) sessions on gender norms have been rolled into pre-natal programs for first-time dads. Fatherhood, family, child-rearing and gender norms are intertwined, and Lauro notes that a group for expectant fathers can function as “a place where men can have meaningful discussion around gender and express themselves in a safe space.” Promundo is a sponsor of the State of the World’s Fathers report series examining men’s contributions to parenting and caregiving globally. These are published as part of the Men Care (“a global fatherhood campaign”) which Promundo co-founded and coordinates.

Sports is another approach used by Promundo to recruit young men to explore gender-equity and masculinity. The study “Engaging men to prevent gender-based violence” sponsored by Promundo and the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women documents a Brazilian program that used soccer to engage men around the issue of gender-based violence. According to the report, “Sports, particularly weekly football (soccer) matches were used as a venue for dialogue and an opportunity to convey the themes of the workshops.” The same report also details programs aimed at understanding and combating gender-based violence that were organized around the workplace (Rwanda), the health sector (Chile), and the community (India). Regardless of the setting, scale or target of the intervention, “We focus on building local partnerships with local organizations,” says Lauro.

The only places where Promundo implements projects directly using its own staff is on its home turf of Brazil, the United States, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where in 2014 Promundo co-founded the NGO Living Peace with local partners. In Eastern DRC, Promundo has worked to promote gender equity in the wake of a brutal conflict which resulted in millions of people being injured, killed, and displaced. The DRC is notable for a very high level of sexual violence, not just as part of the armed conflict, but also in the home and elsewhere. Promundo’s outreach has sought to combat the prevalence of attitudes and practices, including ones about masculinity, which had embedded gender violence so deeply in that society. “We take into account trauma and how this affects behavior,” says Lauro.

Measuring Concrete Change

Promoting gender equity is not easy, and approaches must vary. She notes that sometimes norms change, and then drive a change in behavior. Other times a behavior—which might be encouraged by a public policy like parental leave for both women and men—can produce a change in attitudes, which subsequently influences behavior, and so on. It is not always easy to separate cause and effect. Regardless, the Italian-born Lauro, who has a Ph.D. in political science from Oxford, and previously served as Associate Director of the Women and Population Programme on behalf of the United Nations Foundation, believes in the power of research. “Our goal is to ensure that we can measure concrete change around attitudes, behaviors and norms,” she says.

To this end, Promundo and the International Center for Research on Women have created the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES). This household survey probes men’s and women’s practices and attitudes around gender norms, gender-equality policies, care-work distribution, intimate partner violence, health, economic stress and other issues facing women, men, and families. As of 2017, notes Lauro, IMAGES and IMAGES-inspired studies have been administered to more than 40,000 men and 20,000 women in nearly 40 countries. Moreover, Lauro describes the IMAGES survey as an “open source” tool which “can be used by local organizations to inform their own work.”

Promundo uses research not just to take the temperature of a given community regarding gender-equity, sexual violence and other topics, but also to evaluate whether the programs that it and its partners sponsor are having an impact. Do they really produce a change in attitudes and practices? How, I wondered, can one know if a program simply teaches its participants to talk a good game about gender equity to researchers, but leave the reality unchanged?

Lauro notes that a rigorous attempt to gauge the impact of programs and interventions requires more than asking participants easily-answered questions. “From our research, we know that when we word questions in the positive, everyone answers the politically correct ‘yes.’” In other words, asking, “Do you support equality between men and women?” is likely to elicit positive answers, but more authentic responses come from creative questions. “For example,” says Lauro, “we don’t ask ‘have you ever beaten your partner?’ Instead, we ask, ‘how often have you beaten your partner?’” The idea is to remove the cues that would push respondents toward the “correct” response. Furthermore, says Lauro, to corroborate the trends highlighted in men’s responses, women are surveyed as well to find out if they have noticed a reduction in violence. Finally, notes Lauro, “At times we employ a control group which helps isolate the impact of the intervention.” This commitment to research has helped Promundo weed out or modify interventions which have been ineffective in promoting change.

Lauro has a long history of work in this area, including her Ph.D. thesis, which addressed the double standard of European governments toward the global South on harmful gender norms. The Europeans would advocate for women’s rights in Africa or Asia, but at home would use contentious gender issues as a wedge to demonize or punish immigrant communities rather than protect women. Lauro recommends that issues such as child or forced marriage, wherever it occurs, be “framed first and foremost as a human rights issue rather than a cultural practice.”

Promundo works with NGOs and multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization. These stakeholders have partnered with Promundo, or adopted their programs and implemented them in communities around the world. Promundo receives funding from bilateral and multilateral donors, foundations, international NGOs, and individuals. A range of feminist-friendly foundations also support Promundo, “There is a large pool of funders committed to combating gender-based violence,” says Lauro. Other foundations, she notes, are more interested in thematic work on fatherhood and caregiving, gender and youth, or the ramifications for women of large-scale conflict resulting from local gangs, or from ethnic, tribal, national or other differences. Regardless, funding and advocacy around male conceptions of masculinity and gender represents an important part of the fight for gender equality.


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$1,000 a Month: How These Grants Empower Women Entrepreneurs

Since 1998, Women’s Net has been providing grants to women entrepreneurs with no strings attached. This is an exceptionally successful model that could potentially be replicated in a world where women in business are rising.

One thing is for sure: there are not enough financial supports out there for women. As a woman myself developing the sustainability of my publishing work, I am always on the look-out for ways to get a stronger foothold in my own business/nonprofit niche, and I know many women who are in the same boat.  Banks and investors routinely discriminate against women entrepreneurs when giving small business loans and venture capital, so where can women entrepreneurs turn when they are angling to start successful small businesses?

Amid this hostile climate for women in business, one woman-owned enterprise is filling a niche with grant-giving that supports women entrepreneurs: WomensNet, which gives out Amber grants of $1,000 a month to women business owners. These grants are able to be made because each woman entrepreneur applying for a grant pays a $15 fee. With the accumulation of these $15 fees across 300-500 grant applicants a month, WomensNet is able to cover the costs of reviewing and choosing grantees, as well as the overhead costs to run their LLC business, and sometimes even has money left over to make multiple grants in a given month.

The three-woman board of WomensNet engages in a relatively straightforward process to choose its grantees. They read through every grant application and select a group of finalists, usually 5. Then they discuss each finalist in more detail and vote to determine a winner.

Recipients of Amber grants vary widely, and are easily perusable on their website. A few that jumped out at me include Imagiread, which fosters literacy for families in Houston, Texas, Yoga2Sleep, which offers yoga classes, corporate trainings, and a free online yoga video, and The Functional Pelvis, which provides physical and occupational therapy for people with pelvic floor dysfunction and complications.

An added perk of the Amber Grants: every monthly winner is eligible to receive a larger grant of $10,000 distributed yearly in December. This grants is chosen partially through online voting, so an element of public participation is engaged here, adding to the way that this for-profit business is engaging with the community.

With the growing need for funding opportunities for women, WomensNet is providing a critical public service by helping women build their businesses. It would be great to see larger funders for women consider models such as this one in order to expand their reach to women in business, or to expand nonprofit micro-grantmaking to women in communities. An organization like a state women’s fund, for example, might be a great place to set up a similar grant-funding structure since, with the support of marketing from the organization, they can help drive applicants’ fees which will then pay for the grants.

The downside of Amber Grants is that only 1 in 300 to 500 grant applicants receives a grant of $1,000, whereas many more could doubtlessly benefit from such a grant. But with added support from a foundation that could cover some of the costs of the grant’s administration, perhaps the odds of receiving a grant could be brought into the 1 in 100 or even 1 in 50 range. That would mean many more women would be able to receive a boosting grant that might make all the difference to their sustainability as a business, particularly in the start-up years.

You can learn more about Amber Grants here.


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NY Women’s Foundation Centers on Gender with New Justice Fund

The Justice Fund initiative was unveiled at a panel discussion titled A New Paradigm for Justice: Centering Women and Families presented by The New York Women’s Foundation and New York Philanthropy.

People who have been incarcerated face a number of barriers in reintegrating into society. For women, girls and transgender communities, the difficulties can be even steeper. Oftentimes, the effects of incarceration can worsen problems related to housing and employment, and can have a devastating impact on children.

To address these problems, particularly for women, The New York Women’s Foundation recently announced the creation of The Justice Fund, which will aim to do more to dismantle mass incarceration, particularly for women, girls, and transgender people.

This effort is part of a seven-year mobilization of funding to address issues related to incarceration. A press release announcing the initiative stated that,”The fund is the first of its kind in the country to engage in criminal justice reform through a lens of gender and racial equity.”

“Our initiative will create a new paradigm for justice that dismantles unfair and biased systems and creates new paths for stability and opportunity in the lives of New York City women, families, and communities,” said Ana Oliveira, President and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation, in a press release announcing the new initiative. Part of the goal of this initiative in New York City will be to close Rikers Island and find alternative ways to promote justice, safety, and well-being.

More from the press release:

The fund will harness financial and other resources of a diverse set of funders committed to justice reform for women, TGNC (transgender non-conforming) individuals, families, and communities in New York City.  Its framework for grantmaking will target organizations engaged in systems change and reform and community solutions and leadership.

Oliveira noted that insufficient attention has been paid to comprehensive policy and practice solutions that fully center issues of economic, racial and gender justice in their analysis and implementation.  When women are jailed, the impact is far reaching and destabilizes families and entire communities, yet gender-specific solutions and long-term solutions for women and families involved in the criminal justice system remain elusive.

While the focus will be on efforts targeted toward women, girls and TGNC individuals, it will also recognize that ending the effects of mass incarceration for them means ending mass incarceration for all.

Community-led expertise, input and solutions will be central to the initiative and will include the voices and visions of individuals with histories of criminal justice involvement, community leaders and community-based organizations, and leaders from academia and research.

Key strategies for implementation include grantmaking and philanthropic mobilization; thought leadership and outreach that supports reform efforts and disseminates best practices; and partnerships with policymakers and leaders at the city and state level in coordinated reform efforts.

Informed by the experiences of system-involved individuals, The Justice Fund will engage in a variety of reform efforts. These include: local and citywide grassroots organizing that supports closing Rikers, with a focus on closing the Rose M. Singer Center early; bail reform efforts; capacity building for the ecosystem of local community organizations engaging in reform efforts; investment in community solutions in the early stages of development in areas such as housing, mental health, and leadership development; and education and training for families.

The initiative was unveiled at a panel discussion titled A New Paradigm for Justice: Centering Women and Families presented by The New York Women’s Foundation and New York Philanthropy.  To watch the panel,  please visit here.


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Giving Circles Gain Infrastructure Support from Big Funders

Giving circle networks are getting anchor support from big funders including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in order to grow giving circle activity across America.

With the advent of new technologies to accelerate donating money and distributing grants, giving circles are the cutting edge of how many communities are finding and funding their causes. Now, a significant group of giving circles and funders are coming together to enhance the potential for giving circles to impact the philanthropy landscape.

This new partnership is led by five giving circles and collective giving networks, many of which bring unique social and cultural foci to the collaboration.  These five networks are coming together to “engage dozens of stakeholders across the philanthropic sector to design efficient and effective infrastructure to scale and strengthen the American giving circle movement.”

How are these giving circles finding the resources to grow the American giving circle movement? From some of the largest and most powerful funders in today’s philanthropy landscape. These funders include “Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Lodestar Foundation, Delores Barr Weaver, and Global Impact,” according to a press release announcing the project.

According to the Collective Giving Research Group, giving circles are a growing phenomenon in the United States, with the number of giving circles tripling over the past two decades to more than 1,500 in 2016. The research also shows that giving circles are responsible for as much as $1.29 billion in giving, and currently engage $150,000 people in the U.S.

The Five Giving Circles/Networks participating in this new collaboration are:

Amplifier:  Advisory Board Member Felicia Herman is leading her organization’s involvement in this new collaboration. Amplifier’s mission is to “grow the movement of intentional, collaborative giving by building and sustaining giving circles inspired by Jewish values.”

Asian Women Giving Circle & Faces of Giving:  Hali Lee is the contributing partner in this new collaboration. Asian Women Giving Circle is  “first and largest giving circle in the nation led by Asian American women.”  Lee is also a co-founder of Faces of Giving, which seeks to organize and empower giving in “minority, ethnic, immigrant and new American communities.” 

Catalist:  Catalist is the newly branded Women’s Collective Giving Grantmakers Network (WCGN).  Paula Liang, Vice-Chair of Catalist, will be representing Catalist in this new partnership. Catalist is a national network representing over 60 collective giving groups in the U.S. and Australia.

Community Investment Network: CIN is a national network of giving circles working to cultivate giving leadership in communities of color in order to influence mainstream philanthropy.  CIN Chair Marsha Morgan will be working with the new giving circle project.

Latino Giving Circle Network : Comprised of 18 giving circles, LGCN describes itself as “the largest network of Latino donors united by a shared sense of justice and generosity.” Sara Velten, Vice President of Philanthropy for LGCN, will be engaging with this initiative.

Bringing in the Big Funders 

Anchor funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for this initiative is a great indicator of how the large foundation may be pivoting further in the direction of feminist philanthropy. Readers of Philanthropy Women will recall that The Gates Foundation recently hosted both Women Moving Millions and the Women’s Funding Network in Seattle, in order to further explore and support strategies around gender-based giving. The Gates Foundation’s commitment to this new effort for giving circles suggests that the organization is being further influenced in the direction of democratizing philanthropy and making it part of the experience of more people. This new support also suggests that the Gates Foundation is funding multiple strategies to support giving by women. Research shows that giving circles are heavily female-dominated, with women leading 640 of the 706 giving circles surveyed by the University of Indiana in 2017.

Discovering and Capitalizing on Giving Circles

Donors, including large foundations, are discovering that starting a giving circle is a great way to infuse more money into the causes they care about.  Simultaneously, women’s philanthropy is growing in new directions, and one catalyst for this growth is women’s giving circles.

A prime example of a donor building out terrain in giving circles is Delores Barr Weaver, one of the funders of this new giving circle infrastructure-building project. Barr Weaver is one of five founders of the Women’s Giving Alliance of Jacksonville, a 473-member giving circle initiated by The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. Barr Weaver is also a Women Moving Millions member, and is invested in advancing rights for girls and young women in her community, particularly those at-risk because of juvenile justice or child protective issues.

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New #MeToo Funding Fuels Empathy and Justice for Survivors

The Fund for the Me Too Movement and Allies has provided $840,000 in grant funds to organizations across the country doing work to address gender-based violence.

Within the past year, the Women’s Media Center reports that coverage of #MeToo in the mainstream media has grown significantly. As awareness about the detrimental effects of sexual assault continues to grow in our culture, the New York Women’s Foundation is fostering real efforts to aid #MeToo survivors. In May of 2018, the foundation created the Fund for the Me Too Movement and Allies, and now that fund has made $840,000 in its first round of grant funding.  This is a collaborative effort, housed and managed by The New York Women’s Foundation, with the grantmaking decisions being made jointly with Tarana Burke, founder and leader of the #MeToo Movement. 

Ms. Burke announced the first recipients of grants from the Fund for The Me Too Movement and Allies. “The money we are awarding today will undoubtedly make an impact in the work to end sexual violence because all eight organizations are doing tremendous work,” said Burke, in a press release announcing the new grants. Burke noted that all chosen grantee organizations are not only helping survivors of sexual violence, they are also “combating deeply-rooted systemic issues that allow it to persist across all our communities.”

In keeping with the core feminist philanthropy principle of inclusion, the Fund prioritized organizations “led by and for communities of color that give voice to women, immigrants, and LGBTQ people.” The first grant recipients are:

Congratulations to the grantees, and to the new Fund for #MeToo and its intrepid leader, Tarana Burke. This kind of funding is doing essential work to address one of the big drivers of inequality between men and women: sexual harassment and abuse. Hopefully, more funders will become aware of the value of this work in challenging unhealthy gender norms and helping us all live healthier lives.


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Rebecca Traister Comes to Rhode Island for Women’s Fund Benefit

Rebecca Traister, author of Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, pictured with event hosts Emily and Robin Kall Homonoff. (Photo Credit: Little Lion Communication)

With the recent news that “rage giving” — philanthropic giving to offset the shrinking of civil society resulting from the election of Donald Trump — is primarily driven by progressive women donors, the timing could not be better for Rebecca Traister’s new book, Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger.  Particularly with the much-contested appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, progressive women’s rage appears to be reaching a new crescendo, and the resultant giving to charity and politics may set new records.

On October 15, Rebecca Traister came to a Richmond Street club called Alchemy in Providence, Rhode Island to read from her book and reflect on the many ways that rage has the potential to spur creativity and drive social change. Traister’s appearance in Rhode Island was not just a reading and celebration of her provocative new book. It was also a fundraiser for the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, a small but mighty feminist philanthropy hub doing powerful work to channel women’s rage into meaningful social change.

Traister convincingly makes the argument that women’s anger has often fueled progressive change in society, citing women’s suffrage as a prime example. Today, Traister views women’s anger as particularly consequential to political struggle, and remarked that it may be key to a better future for our world.

Traister sees women’s rage as an under-utilized force for good in liberal movements for change. She argues that, while social conditioning teaches us to view women’s fury is seen as a perversion of nature and social norms, that rage is actually a healthy response to our world today, and one that can help women and men become more equal.

Female candidates for office in Rhode Island (and one male ally candidate) made short speeches before Rebecca Traister’s appearance, giving testament to the fact that rage has helped activate them in politics. (Photo credit: Little Lion Communications)

The event began with some words from some of several local  progressive political women, including state-wide legislative candidates Rebecca Kislak, Bridget Valverde, and Teresa Tanzi. All gave testament to the fact that anger helps to fuel their action, with Tanzi getting some laughs when she remarked that she thought she was angry when she first got elected in 2010, but, after being sexually harassed by legislators and lobbyists at the statehouse and dealing with the regressive political climate in Rhode Island, now she is really angry. Tanzi has been on the frontlines of legislative efforts to better protect women from sexual assault and harassment, and continues to be a strong proponent for gender equality across the board in her legislative work.

Traister read from some particularly cogent sections in her book. One piece she read addressed the issue of control, and what the #MeToo era means for men’s control. She noted that while some men are complaining of the anxiety they are now experiencing about issues such as how to flirt appropriately, “these anxieties are the normal state for everyone else,” said Traister.  This kind of loss of control for men, says Traister, is the point for movements like #MeToo.  It’s the kind of loss of control that powerful men like Senator George Mitchell at the Anita Hill hearings insisted on keeping — their control of the social dynamic being played out. She writes in Good and Mad:

Yes, things were out of control. That was the point. Because control was when no one was able to report the story of Harvey Weinstein raping women; control was Donald Trump getting elected president, thanks to voter suppression and the electoral college systems designed to suppress, and thus better control, nonwhite populations. Control was the unchallenged reigns of Bill O'Reilly and Roget Ailes and Bill Cosby. Control was women being too terrified to defy Eric Schneiderman by telling of how he hit them. Control was ensuring that no one cared about the abuses sustained by Ford factory employees or flight attendants; control was all male presidents and vice presidents; control was only two black women senators and no black women governors in the history of the country; control was marital rape being legal to the seventies; control was slavery and locking women in unsafe shirtwaist factories. Control was Jordan Peterson's Taoist white serpent, thrust at us against our will. 

This was a powerful moment in the reading.  You could feel the audience’s deep response to Traister’s words — to her lining up the instances of how male control has silenced women’s anger in so many different ways.

I haven’t read the whole book yet, but am looking forward to it. To learn more about Good and Mad or get a copy for yourself, visit here. 


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Hamutal Gouri: Seven Steps to Growing Feminist Funding Eco-Systems

Hamutal Gouri takes her decades of experience as a feminist funding leader and outlines seven steps we can follow to grow feminist funding ecosystems.

After leading the DAFNA Fund in Israel for over 15 years, Hamutal Gouri has written an overview of how we can grow funding for feminist philanthropy and accelerate social change that is both inclusive and fair, and that engages the larger systems of government in new ways.

In the article, Gouri calls on leaders invested in Israel to do more to safeguard human rights and equality, which are under threat from growing religious and nationalist extremes. She then outlines the unequal status of women in Israel before offering her vision of the future steps needed. The article considers the particular concerns of Israel, including specific religious, security, and social justice contexts of the nation.

From the article:

Women comprise 51 per cent of Israel’s population, yet according to the Gender Index published by the WIPS Center at Van Leer Institute, the gender gap in Israel remains steady in most areas of life. Less than 30 per cent of Knesset members are women; only three out 19 government ministers are women and only 2 per cent of mayors and heads of local and regional councils. Women in Israel still earn up to 32 per cent less for the same work as men, are more exposed to abusive employment practices and comprise 54.6 per cent of people living in poverty.

While these numbers are true for other countries around the world, women in Israel face two unique challenges: coping with the lack of separation between religion and State and living in a violent conflict zone. While the former accounts for the exclusion of women from public spaces and the subjugation of their rights and welfare to conservative religious laws and practices, the latter accounts for our exclusion from political discourse and decision-making on issues of peace and security.

In this political climate, the leadership qualities and unique assets of women who could offer a gendered lens on society and the conflict are often undervalued. Yet there is a great deal of evidence that the active participation of women in public and political life serves to build stronger societies and economies, especially when the voices of diverse women are heard in policy formation and decision-making.

The article also describes the growth of intersectional approaches in Israel, which have helped to connect diverse organizations that share a commitment to gender equality. The steps that Gouri outlines are vividly articulated and align well with other visions of feminist philanthropy. While the steps outlined are specific to the needs of Israel, they can also provide guidance to other nations or organizations that are looking to grow a more feminist approach to their work.

In her seven steps to funding the feminist ecosystem, Gouri calls on the Israeli community to jointly strategize for action with diverse stakeholders, increase engagement of state agencies, learn from the work on the ground, apply a gender lens, get more political, take risks with big gifts for promising approaches, and have a vision that extends beyond short-term fixes. Read the full article at Fathom Journal.


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#GirlsToo Launches to End Gender-Based Violence Against Girls

Girls Inc. announced the new #GirlsToo movement, which will work to prevent sexual abuse and harassment of girls.

Everyday, it seems, some new subgroup is taking ownership of the #MeToo hashtag to create a movement of their own. The latest in this growing series of movements: girls. Today, Girls Inc., one of the country’s oldest nonprofits dedicated to helping girls, announced the launch of a new campaign called #GirlsToo, which will work to address gender-based violence against girls, including sexual harassment and assault.

#GirlsToo will take an approach that challenges gender norms for youth. “Sexual harassment and violence is an epidemic facing adults, but the problem starts at a much younger age,” said Judy Vredenburgh, president and CEO of Girls Inc. “The #GirlsToo campaign will focus on building a culture of respect for girls today and generations to come.”

The announcement was coupled with some sobering facts about just how prevalent sexual harassment is among high school girls.  Young girls ages 14 to 19 report report that they hear boys making sexual comments “at least several times a week,” and the majority do not feel safe most of the time in society.

Accompanying the launch is a pledge that both youth and adult can take at girlstoo.girlsinc.org in order to increase their advocacy for gender equality and working to promote the dignity of girls. The campaign also provides resources for girls, boys, parents and educators about how to discuss harassment and abuse in order to feed healthy change in communities.

“What you’re taught from a young age gets ingrained in you, which is why it’s critical that we educate and empower boys and girls to treat women with respect and call out harassment when we see it,” said Nina Ho, a college student at the UC San Diego who participated in Girls Inc. during high school.

More from Girls, Inc:

“The deeply entrenched norms about gender and identity first begin to take hold in early adolescence,” said Dr. Christia Spears Brown, a developmental psychologist and professor at the University of Kentucky. “These norms help to perpetuate the perception of women as sexualized objects and have harmful and lasting impacts for girls in particular.”

From an early age, young people receive limiting and harmful messages about how girls and boys should behave and be treated, which creates an imbalance of power that disproportionately affects girls of color, LGBTQ+ youth, girls with disabilities and girls from low-income communities. These norms and stereotypes follow them into adulthood and perpetuate attitudes and behaviors that can harm young girls and women alike.

Girls Inc. believes we must unite to shift deeply entrenched norms, stop the sexual harassment and violence that girls face, and create a healthier, safer culture for all young people. Changing norms around sexual violence is possible, but it requires participation and commitment from everyone. There are concrete, tangible actions individuals can take to make a positive difference and create a culture of respect for girls and all young people, such as:

Reflect – Reflect on your own biases and challenge gender stereotypes
Educate – Educate youth about healthy relationships and consent
Support – Support and believe survivors who come forward
Promote – Promote policies and practices that foster a safe school climate
Encourage – Encourage youth leadership and involvement in change
Call Out – Call out words and actions that demean women and girls
Take Action – Be an “upstander” and intervene to prevent harm

Girls Inc., along with its powerful network of girls and partners, will champion this change in the communities they serve and put forward solutions to prevent sexual harassment and violence and promote respect for girls.

“The best way to foster a community that’s rooted in respect is by making it a daily practice in our homes, schools and neighborhoods,” said Victoria Juarez, executive director of Girls Inc. of Carpinteria, CA. “When we treat each other with respect and teach our youth to do the same, we can achieve the type of culture change that significantly improves the lives of young people today and tomorrow.”

Leadership of Girls Inc. includes Susie A. Buffet, as well as high level business leaders, many from the corporate funders who support the organization.  Corporate funders for Girls Inc. at the $100,000 level include HSBC, TD Bank, Benefit San Fransisco, ESPN, Made with Code Google, Tides Foundation, Free People, STEM Next, and National Grid. Foundation and institutional support comes from the Coca Cola Foundation, the SD Bechdel, Jr. Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, Lockheed Martin, the U. S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, The Sherwood Foundation, and The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation.

In 2018, Girls Inc. reports assets of $40,642,490 and cash reserves that are significantly higher than the industry standard.  According to its 2018 Annual Report, “Girls Inc. cash reserve is 6.7 months, more than double the industry standard.”


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