Liveblog: Funding to End Violence Against Women of Color

Kiersten Marek, editor and publisher of Philanthropy Women, opened up today’s webinar, “Funding to End Violence Against Women of Color,” with a welcome to the speakers and audience.

She introduced the webinar with a discussion on the idea behind Philanthropy Women. Partially inspired by NoVo Foundation’s bold commitment of $90 million in funding for women and girls of color in 2016, Philanthropy Women launched in January of 2017 to cover this kind of intersectional feminist giving approach and others like it. However, with NoVo’s recent shuttering of programs for women and girls of color, the funding landscape for addressing domestic violence against women of color is facing some big changes.

Kiersten shared a few practices she uses to learn more about this type of funding: following leaders like Kimberlé Crenshaw, Teresa Younger, and Tracy Gray, who bring together experts to strategize on these issues; following organizations on the forefront of work against gender violence, like the Women’s Funding Network (a fiscal sponsor of Philanthropy Women), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and new player MacKenzie Bezos through the Equality Can’t Wait Fund.

“Safety of women is finally becoming a valuable resource that we are starting to recognize and be able to value monetarily,” said Kiersten.

What can we do to improve funding for women and girls of color?

Kiersten introduced our first speaker, Indrani Goradia. Indrani is a philanthropist and activist who fights for health and empowerment for women and girls. She is the founder of RAFT and board member of Everywoman Treaty and Think Equal.

Goradia began by thanking everyone for coming, and drawing a distinction between the subsets of “women and girls” and “women and girls of color.”

“We know that most funding within the nonprofit space does not go to women and girls,” she said. “We know that about 1.5% out of the billions goes to larger, more robust, older organizations that are not focused on women and girls of color. In order for us to find the organizations where women and girls of color are coming together for help, we need to go into the cities, and the inner-cities.”

Goradia gave the example of her work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and PSI, where she worked with women and girls of color in her home country of Trinidad.

“It was where I wanted to put my hard-earned money,” she said. “We have to take a magnifying glass, look at the landscape, and drill down and ask hard questions.”

One of these hard questions addresses diversity in foundation leadership: “What is the makeup of the board?” Goradia asked. “If the nonprofit is serving minorities, where is the diversity on that board?”

“There needs to be an approach that makes sure women and girls of color rise to positions of leadership,” said Kiersten. She added the examples of quotas and leadership programs, many of which are not reflected in the United States.

“There are enough qualified people of color, but they do not have the pedigrees,” said Goradia. “We have the knowledge, but we don’t have the Ivy Leagues. People who are looking for leaders have to look beyond that. You don’t go back six generations of philanthropy or leadership—when you look at that woman, her leadership has been stellar in the place where she lives. The question to ask is, ‘How are we going to train her up, so that in five years she can sit on the board of another nonprofit?’”

“The more you know, the more you teach. We have to lift people up,” she added.

Visions for Funding: How Have You Changed Things for People in Need?

“Especially during the time of COVID, my funding went to women’s shelters that are primarily for women of color,” Goradia said. This included safe housing and other shelters for women of color in places heavily impacted by COVID, like New York City and her home base of Houston. She stressed the importance of giving in “small” amounts, even if it doesn’t seem like it does much. “We cannot wait for the Bezos and the Gates of the world to give the $30 million. They don’t have enough money to solve the problem, but all the millions of us, with five and ten dollars, we have the money.”

“Let us invest in capacity, in administration, in overhead. It is amazing to see the funds these superwomen have to work with.” Goradia gave the examples of new computers, printers, or gift cards for office supplies—small amounts of funding that can make a huge impact for a small non-profit. “As funders, are we brave enough to fund low-cost loans to advocates who need things like car repairs and emergency childcare?”

“Yes, it is philanthropy,” she added, describing these kinds of impacts, “but you can also think of it as a great big hug to somebody who really needs the help.”

Karma Cottman on Ending Violence Against Women of Color

Next, Kiersten welcomed Karma Cottman, the Executive Director of the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence since 2010.

Cottman started off by thanking Goradia and the rest of the attendees, and speaking to her experience with DCCADV and her experience with UJIMA, the National Center of Violence Against Women in the Black Community.

Cottman pointed out the difficulties in gaining funding for organizations that serve communities of color.

“Very often, funding streams are directed toward organizations that already have a relationship with the source of funding,” she said. “For culturally-specific organizations and those serving women and girls of color, we are often not in those circles. Our organizations are newer, and we don’t always have those connections to people serving on those boards and within those organizations.”

Cottman also spoke to the capacity to apply for funding. “[Leaders of these organizations] really are boots on the ground, serving meals, driving individuals back and forth, and there really isn’t time to take a minute out to apply for funding. I often say that in culturally-specific organizations, the Executive Director is washing the windows and putting the building up, while having to manage the finances and look for additional funding at the same time. That issue of capacity is very real.”

Finding a New Language for Funding

Cottman next spoke to the difficulties of finding funding for organizations that serve specific communities.

“We’re just getting to the point as foundations and as a nation where we’re looking at funding for racial injustice,” she said. “Having the language to put our communities first is new.”

Cottman pointed out that it’s not established philanthropic teaching to focus in on a specific community – “It can limit your funding, or mean you’re in some way discriminating.” The difficulty here is that wanting to start an organization that specifically serves women and girls of color means relying on a new style of language when approaching funders — the “old rules” of the philanthropic system, where organizations are designed to serve “everyone” or “the greater good,” can no longer apply.

“I want to lead with the realities of my community, and I don’t want to apologize for that,” she said. “[These organizations have] been taught that doing so will limit their access to funding.”

Kiersten added that NoVo Foundation’s funding for women and girls of color seemed like a massive breakthrough for this type of funding – “We thank them for that, and I hope they’re able to come back to add to this type of funding again. Being able to fund women – women of color in particular – and be proud of it, is a critical issue.”

How Can the Philanthropic Community Help Smaller Community Organizations?

Goradia suggested offering grant-writing services for smaller organizations to take pressure off of the women who are putting in so much effort as the Executive Directors of these smaller foundations. “You will feel so overjoyed when this money comes through. And then you can teach somebody or fund a part-time person to take over those duties.”

“If I could do grant-writing, I’d be doing it every day!” said Goradia.

“The other thing we’ve seen for our organizations is this idea that women in general tend to think we’re doing this work for the love of community, but that that means we have to sacrifice our pay,” said Cottman. “We don’t pay ourselves or our staff as well as we should – doing nonprofit work should not mean having to sacrifice ourselves. Funders for culturally-specific organizations should invest in salaries, overheard, and healthcare, so people actually have the ability to take a day off, hire a grant writer, or hire a financial team.”

Cottman pointed out the difficulty for small, new-on-the-scene organizations to build infrastructure. Especially during crises like COVID-19, financing becomes more important than ever for emergent needs. “When we say you need to invest in our communities, ‘emergent’ does mean investing in infrastructure and our ability to fund our communities. Some of us are just learning about these ‘emergent’ issues while others of us have been living them. What funding for these issues can do is level that playing field.”

Goradia added a common difficulty, using the example of Back to School season. When organizations fill backpacks with school supplies, but the staffers handing them out do not have the money for school supplies for their own children, that speaks to a larger issue.

“Does your staff have everything they need to send their children to school?” Goradia encouraged organizations to ask themselves. “We need to be having these conversations.”

What Are New Sources for Funding to End Domestic Violence in Our Communities?

“What can we do to help make these systems value women’s safety?” Kiersten asked.

“I usually have a lot of words, but for something like this, I bow my head and say, ‘From my mouth to god’s ears,'” said Goradia. “One of the things we can do is approach police departments and say, ‘Do you have a dedicated social worker to go on calls of domestic violence?’”

Specifically, she stressed the importance of de-escalation. “If you don’t have someone on staff, how do we encourage you to train the people coming into the precinct every day in empathy, compassion, and learning how to listen?”

“I am sure there’s a human inside of every officer who puts on a uniform,” Goradia continued. “More often than not, there are good people who want to do the right thing.”

Goradia called herself out, saying she needs to ask her community how she can best help her local police departments with such a challenge, and encouraged others to do the same.

Cottman spoke to the importance of addressing bias. “The idea of working with law enforcement is so critical in making sure that they understand the ways in which domestic violence show up, but also that you work with them around bias, both implicit and explicit, so that when they show up to homes they understand how victimization happens,” she said. “That, too, can be impacted by culture. A lot of what we are learning now is what domestic violence advocates have known for a very long time – there also has to be a focus on a public health approach to this issue. How do we engage communities to take accountability for the violence happening in these communities? How do we focus on restorative justice to respond to violence? We also need to address prevention and community education.”

Reaching Survivors Where They Are

“Very often, DV survivors are going to disclose to a family member or a friend before they say anything to anyone else,” said Cottman. “Educating our communities to knowing what resources exist, knowing how to respond when someone shares with them, is critically important.”

Cottman also stressed the importance of intersectionality in this approach. “Not only are you experiencing DV or sexual assault, but there may be other things happening within the family.”

She gave the example of working with farm worker communities in Florida. “No one ever said, ‘I want to come to you to talk about domestic violence.’ But you could talk about cooking, or other forms of community engagement, and that would lead to disclosures around domestic violence. The challenge for funders is that this is the way our community works—coming together over food, or exercise.”

Cottman discussed how the traditional rape crisis centers and shelters lock out women of color. “The systems are not always safe for us,” said Cottman. “Law enforcement and social services are not safe for us. And you see that in the representation in every system. If we don’t shift the service models in every system, then our communities will continue to be left out.”

“There’s also got to be an investment in systems change for women and girls of color. People are making decisions for our community that have not lived within our communities. You can’t make policies that relate to us when you’ve never lived like us—that means the policies are just going to be disconnected.”

Finding Diversity in Community Foundations

The conversation turned to the importance of diversity within foundations and funders, not just within the organizations and communities they serve.

“’What you do for me but without me is against me,’” quoted Goradia. “Not only does somebody who looks like me have to be there, but you need to give that person the power to speak. Sitting me at the table and telling me to be the face is not good enough—for those of us sitting at those tables without the power to speak up, we need to ask why.”

“If nobody ever tells you to shut up, you’re not pushing the buttons,” she added. “We have to push those buttons.”

Goradia invited everyone on the call to speak to their families, particularly young people. “If you are accepting violence, you’re teaching the other generations to accept it. Are you teaching your boys and your girls how to be respectful? Are you being respectful to your children and your spouse? It’s the dance that we all play—we cannot be violent at home, and then step outside and expect that violence not to come back.”

“Are we strong enough to do that?” Goradia asked. “I think that’s the next level of the challenge.”

Cottman stressed the importance of the ways we experience violence and the ways that generations learn from us, and pointed out the intersection of race. “It’s important to lift up the experiences of women and girls of color. So often we have to choose, are we going to address the issues we face as women and girls, or the issues we face as members of our communities? Very few times are we addressing the intersection, and truly addressing the realities of what is happening.”

“I can’t ensure the safety of my niece without ensuring the safety of my nephew, but oftentimes we’re asking girls—particularly girls of color—to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of the community. The importance of funding women and girls of color, we cannot underscore that enough.” Cottman pointed out the danger of shoving down our experiences in benefit of the greater good.

“If we can’t be safe in our homes, then we will not achieve safety overall. If that safety is interrupted, then we cannot thrive.”

Women Need to Celebrate Their Own Sense of Self

Kiersten added that, as a therapist, she notices how there is often an issue women’s attention revolving around what the men in their life are doing. “That needs to change—your life needs to revolve around your own self-care.”

Goradia asked all participants to make a list of the five most important people in our lives. “Did any of you write yourself first? Knock the first person on your list down to second, and put yourself first. It took me fifty years to figure that out.”

Cottman pointed out the importance of addressing systematic oppression. “It’s not just me as Karma saying, ‘I will not accept this.’ This is about saying, ‘We’re going to pay women and girls the same as men,’ and saying, ‘We value the lives of women and girls.’ These things are not just learned in our homes, they’re learned systemically.”

Goradia added the importance of the #SayHerName campaign, pointing out that we know the names of many of the men who have been victimized, but have to dig for the names of the women.

Kiersten ended the conversation by inviting everyone to be in touch about potential ideas they may have about ways Philanthropy Women can continue to support women and girls of color in our writing.

Check out the full Zoom video of the webinar here. Password: 1R.$UKb7


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Author: Maggie May

Maggie May is a small business owner, author, and story-centric content strategist. A Maryland transplant by way of Florida, DC, Ireland, Philadelphia, and -- most recently -- Salt Lake City, she has a passion for finding stories and telling them the way they're meant to be told.

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