Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work in Cranston, Rhode Island, and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.
Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Karen Morales, Founder of Marketing Magnet and Board Member of Cure Rare Disease.
1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
I never knew I would be a marketing agency owner. I never dreamed I would be self-employed. In my early days, I wanted to be a pediatric oncologist to bring hope to sick kids. In later years, I wanted to fight oppression as an ACLU lawyer.
Neither dream materialized, as the path to get there – medical school and law school, seemed like too high a hill to climb.
Since starting Philanthropy Women, we have chosen to embrace Giving Tuesday each year in different ways, but always as a great opportunity to give back to women. This year we are celebrating Giving Tuesday by naming our Top 10 Picks for feminist giving for the day. We hope you enjoy the list and relish the experience of making an intentional gift to one or all of them on Giving Tuesday.
#1 Women’s Fund of Rhode Island or Your State’s Women’s Fund
There is really no better bang for your charity buck than your own local women’s fund. Ours here in Rhode Island does a fantastic job of gender equality education and training, civic engagement, and grantmaking. Imagine if every adult in Rhode Island (roughly 800,000 people) gave just $1 to the Women’s Foundation of Rhode Island? That would mean $800,000 in resources that would exponentially increase the education, engagement, and grantmaking for one of the most influential women’s organizations in the state. Then we could really see what WFRI is capable of in terms of helping our state move toward gender equality. If you don’t live in Rhode Island, you can find your local women’s fund by visiting the Women’s Funding Network where most state and regional women’s funds are members.
On Thursday, November 19th, 2020, at 6:30 pm, The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture held a one-hour event with guest speakers Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt, Matrice Ellis-Kirk, and Jerry Hawkins. The discussion was centered on Hunt’s book, And the Spirit Moved Them: The Lost Radical History of America’s First Feminists.
Larry Allums, Executive Director of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, welcomed viewers and discussed the auspiciousness of the event, given that this year is the Centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. He described Helen LaKelly Hunt as an important “discoverer and chronicler of the connection between abolitionist and women’s rights movements in American history.” He acknowledged Hunt as a “dear friend” to the Dallas Institute and recognized her contributions as part of an early group of women donors funding gender equality, noting that Hunt co-founded the Texas Women’s Foundation, the New York Women’s Foundation, the Women’s Funding Network, and Women Moving Millions.
2020 women donors may go down in history as having been the first class of women donors to drive massive political change in one election. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, Joe Biden’s campaign for President saw a massive surge in funding, particularly from women, when he chose Kamala Harris as his running mate in August.
According to a report in CNN, the Biden-Harris ticket received over $33.4 million in itemized contributions from women in August, more than doubling the total amount of contributions from female donors the previous month of $13.7 million. In comparison, Trump’s campaign raised only $8.7 million from women in August.
The question came up in my mind, and I see many other people have been tossing this question around in conversations online: What if only women voted in the 2020 election? Would it have been a much easier win for the Biden-Harris presidency?
2020 Election Results for Women Voters
The above graphic says it all. In the 14 states listed above and in many others, Biden would have won handily.
I don’t know about you, but to me it feels like a great weight has been lifted off of us as a nation, and as a world even. Many, many people in the world are rejoicing at the news of the upcoming Biden-Harris presidency, and all the possibility this new leadership holds. For those of us focused on funding women and girls, this change in leadership will likely be extremely valuable to our work, and could be instrumental in getting us closer to equality much faster.
What can women donors do to make sure that gender equality movements are optimized for acceleration at this moment in history? Here are three basic strategies:
Editor’s Note: This edition of our Feminist Giving IRL series features Laura Deaton, Executive Director of Multiplier, a nonprofit working to accelerate impact for initiatives focused on health, sustainability, resilience, and equality.
What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
I landed my first leadership role in the nonprofit sector in my early 30s and still had much to learn. I wish I had known from the start about the immense role that transparency and curiosity would play in helping me lead effectively. The power of those traits helped me design and better chart a course for impact.
First and foremost, transparent communication—executed well and with compassion—is a fundamental leadership skill that is integral to earning respect and trust. Curiosity and inquiry open doors and dialogues about truly discovering the best path forward by learning more about people, perspectives and processes before advocating for change.
I was doing some thinking on the funding-of-women quandary. What the Women’s Philanthropy Institute helpfully taught us was that as of 2016, funding specifically for women and girls in the U.S. is at 6.3 billion a year, comprising 1.6% of total philanthropy funding.
It’s unclear whether this giving has increased under Trump’s tenure. It’s also unclear whether this type of giving will face new barriers in the COVID economy. Therefore, one has to wonder what we should be doing to try to bridge the gap between the conversation about funding women and girls, and the actual doing of it.
On Thursday in New Zealand and Wednesday in the US, a virtual conversation took place between some of the boldest strategic experts in the feminist giving space. The conversation included Sarah Haacke Byrd, Executive Director of Women Moving Millions, Tuti B. Scott, feminist expert on gender lens grantmaking and gender lens investing, Melanie Brown, Senior Program Officer for US Policy and Advocacy at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Lucy Lee, Senior Associate for Volition Capital and Lotus Circle Bay Area convener.
As more virtual strategizing takes place to amplify feminist giving strategies, these leaders offer a valuable perspective. Sue McCabe, Chief Executive of Philanthropy New Zealand opened the call with some shocking stats about how COVID is impacting New Zealand’s economy, even though they have had some of the best health outcomes from the virus. McCabe said that 90% of newly unemployed people, due to the COVID restrictions in New Zealand, are women. She stressed the importance of giving more, and giving more strategically, in the time of COVID.
It’s always great to see your name up in lights, particularly at such a highly esteemed publication as Women’s eNews. Alyssa Fisher, the 2020 fellow in the Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence Program at Women’s eNews called me up and let me have a great riffing session on what it’s like to be at the helm of our small but mighty publication, Philanthropy Women, and what I see feminist donors doing for the world that no one else is doing.
From the article:
The idea to launch a website dedicated to women in philanthropy first came to Kiersten Marek in 2016, when Hillary Clinton was anticipated to win the presidential election and become the United State’s first woman president. When she launched it the following year, it felt even more pertinent.