From Resistance to Renaissance: Women Must Embrace their Power for Funding Social Change

Allison Fine, author and nonprofit leader, is Vice Chair of NARAL: ProChoice America Foundation.

Editor’s Note: It gives me great pleasure to welcome Allison Fine to Philanthropy Women as a guest contributor. Allison is the author of multiple books including Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age and The Networked Nonprofit. A former Senior Fellow at Demos, Allison specializes in the intersections of online activism and democracy-building. 

Exactly a year ago, millions of women across the country created the Resistance. We have marched and protested, shared our outrage using hashtags such as #metoo, #yessallwomen #nastywomen and called (and called and called) Congress. Now it’s time to shift from powering the Resistance to creating the Renaissance. However, there is one huge barrier, the “final frontier” as philanthropist Ruth Ann Harnisch calls it: our discomfort with money and power.

According to one study, more women are giving to more causes than ever before. However, the amount of money women are giving hasn’t gone up correspondingly. Here is the key point, “Men may represent a smaller slice of the donor pool, but they have made up for it by giving more money, keeping their impact and influence similar to what it was in 1990.”

Even though many women are wealthier than ever, we have yet to connect the dots between money, influence and power.

So, how do we shift to funding the Renaissance?

First, we have to put our name on things. Frankly, no one really needs to have their name on a building; however, we do need to put our names on important issues and causes and campaigns. Pick a critically important issue for rebuilding our democracy, and there are plenty of them, say immigration or anti-gerrymandering or climate change, and then tell the world you are funding it at a significant level. Step out into the spotlight and say, “This is where my $10,000 is going.” Be proud of your contribution. Your pride  will be contagious and other women will do the same.

The second thing we need to do is to get comfortable asking for money. Even if you can’t write a big check, it is likely that there are people in your social networks who can. Now, don’t get into the habit of asking for money from everyone all the time because people will begin to cross the street to get away from you. But you need to get comfortable with the sentence, “Can you write a check for $10,000?” And that’s just for starters, eventually it has to be $100,000. Then $1,000,000 has to become part of your vocabulary. That’s what those seats around the board table are reserved for – not for the nice people or the smart people, women have always been those people, but for the people who can write, or get, million dollar checks.

And finally, we have to create our own systems if we can’t get equitable access to existing ones. There are powerful women in Hollywood and even  a few women in the C suite here and there, but they work within a system created by and maintained by men. We need women-owned studios and banks and venture capital firms. We have women’s foundations, but they are far too small to have a big impact. We need more women to contribute to these funds or pool their money as parts of giving circles in order to magnify the impact of their giving.

The revitalization of our country will be led this time by founding mothers, but only when we embrace our own power and leverage our wealth and connections to create a more equitable society.


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Author: Allison Fine

I am a pioneer in online activism. Am helping to rebuild our democracy. I am Vice Chair of the national board of NARAL: Pro Choice America Foundation.

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