Gender Lens Funding in Israel: A New Framework for Collaboration

Hamutal Gouri, former director of Dafna Fund, with co-author Tuti Scott, discusses specific steps we can take to grow feminist funding in Israel.

Editor’s Note: This piece is authored by Hamutal Gouri, founder of Consult4Good, with support from Tuti B. Scott, gender justice leader and facilitator for the Jewish Women’s Funding Network community learnings.

Aviva is a preschool teacher’s aide in Jerusalem. Despite being an experienced and dedicated professional who educates and cares for those most precious to us, she is employed only as a contracted worker earning low wages with no job security.

Aviva is not alone. Her reality is that of tens of thousands of women in caring professions who, more often than not, are poor working women. But Aviva and her peers are also members of local labor union chapters and therefore are also social leaders with years of activist experience. These women are fighting for their human rights while working in what are often abusive and underpaid employment settings.

The Coalition for Direct Employment is comprised of 30 labor rights and civil society organizations, and Itach-Ma’aki Women Lawyers for Social Justice are working closely with Aviva and her peers to enact policies and practices that seek to improve the working conditions and rights of women in a precarious, often openly gender-hostile labor market.

This work is supported by the Jewish Women’s Funding Network (JWFN) through a collaborative two-year grant designed to address contracted labor in Israel through a gender lens. JWFN is a collaborative of 25 member organizations engaged in social change philanthropy through advocacy and grantmaking focused on women and girls in the United States and in Israel. The group has collectively awarded nearly $33 million in grants, holds over $40 million in assets, and has grown to over 2000 members, donors, and trustees.

Tuti B. Scott, co-author and gender justice leader. Scott also serves as a facilitator for JWFN community learnings.

The first JWFN collaborative grant in Israel kicked off in 2013 and was instrumental in the establishment of Shutafot, a coalition of 15 feminist organizations that worked to advance women’s rights and active participation, with a focus on economic and labor rights. The decision to come together as a funding collaborative in support of coalition building in Israel was an expression of JWFN’s commitment to continue strengthening Israel’s vibrant feminist arena. In 2017, two of the JWFN member funds, National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) and the Dafna Fund, co-sponsored groundbreaking field action research designed to celebrate and make visible the achievements of Israeli feminist and women’s organizations over the past 15 years, as well as to chart a new direction forward for potentially greater collective impact.

The research report, “Past Achievements and Future Directions of Women’s and Feminist Organizations in Israel” by Dr. Nancy Strichman, was published on March 8th 2018 on International Women’s Day in a public conference that brought together women leaders from Israel, U.S., and Australia. The report shows that JWFN members were right about their hypothesis when it came to supporting feminist work in Israel: “Women’s and feminist organizations have had notable success over the years in impacting the public discourse and shaping public policies on topics from domestic violence and political representation to gender sensitive budget analysis and women’s economic empowerment” (Dr. Strichman).

While women in Israel – and indeed around the world – have a long way to go in the uphill battle for gender equality, we must pause from time to time, appreciate the work we have done and draw valuable lessons for the future.

In the six years that the JWFN has supported collaborative grantmaking in Israel, it has made it a priority to understand the the social, economic, cultural, and political factors that comprise the backdrop of life for women and girls in contemporary Israeli society.

Through this effort, a body of knowledge has emerged regarding effective gender lens philanthropy and organizing. For JWFN, the eight lessons we have learned are the following:

1. Our values must be aligned with our giving.

The values of JWFN are clear and articulated in our documents, shared across learning platforms, and accentuated verbally at all of our gatherings: a. Tikkun Olam Repairing the World; b. Justice; c. Acts of Kindness; and d. Compassion. We have seen that when we align these Jewish values with feminist funding practices centered around power, dialogue, and listening to expert leaders and activists on the ground, we have a greater impact. To optimize social impact, we are learning that we must constantly ask how our actions and priorities benefit ALL women and girls, especially those who are under-resourced and who most often are not at the table when policy is being shaped.

2. We must speak up, invite new voices, and promote dialogue.

Our role as funders and civil society activist leaders is to be agents of change, and as changemakers we must lead boldly and shape public discourse through meetings with elected officials and those seeking office, penning op-ed pieces and position papers, social media – any way we can make our voices as well as the concerns and solutions of our sisters and allies heard. Quite often women’s rights and gender equality are pushed aside for the sake of what leaders perceive as more urgent and critical issues. For example, the recent election campaign in Israel, which focused to a great degree on the single issue of military security, has once again buried the issues of women’s safety and security, education, welfare, and health.

Gaining more representation in the public sphere is also directly tied to our ability to promote and create an audience. Finding people who want to learn or participate in positive systemic change is a result of numerous factors, some within our control and some not. It is critical to develop compelling, viable theories of change along with effective strategy and execution plans; to collect, analyze, and share relevant data; to listen attentively to the stories of people whose lives are different from our own; to organize and build cohesive communities; to secure financial resources; and to build human capital. Together we can navigate the maze of bureaucracy and develop healthy working relationships with public officials and other allies, share real stories, and harness the power of social media.

3. Collaborative structures are critical; agility is vital.

When JWFN approved its inaugural grant in January 2017 to support a two-year program to promote the rights of women in contracted labor, our grantee partners submitted a detailed plan of action complete with a solid theory of change and well-defined strategies designed to engage local and national policymakers and elected officials. However, JWFN leaders learned that we still needed to be nimble and creative as we identified unexpected windows of opportunity. As funders, we should expect this same agility, responsiveness, and creativity from our partners. We must continue to demonstrate this organizational flexibility ourselves.

On a related point, there are always factors out of our control. The on-the-ground reality in Israel frequently creates such expected developments. From out of cycle national elections to yet another escalation in the violent conflict, to frequent criminal investigations against senior official – each of these factors, and sometimes all of them simultaneously, have far reaching effects on public discourse. These events draw attention to what is deemed as crucial in the eyes of political leaders, pundits, and the media. It is equally critical that we remain flexible to be able to invest in work that brings a gender lens front and center.

4. Shared capital is built through shared commitments and real partnerships.

In 1990, the Women’s Funding Network defined social change as, “One where systemic change is slow and incremental.” In the uphill battle for social justice, leaders like Aviva find their resilience and tenacity through the passion, depth of knowledge, and shared commitments of collective work. Intentionally collaborative work makes it possible for these leaders and their many supporters to make their voices heard, tap into collective wisdom, listen to different voices, work together in new ways, and incorporate diverse perspectives.

As a funding collaborative supporting a partnership comprised of dozens of organizations, there were three circles of partners to engage: JWFN network in the U.S.; grantee partners in Israel; and a joint U.S.-Israeli cultural exchange and learning program. Developing inclusive and effective mechanisms for shared decision-making and joint leadership across these groups took persistence, diligence, and connectivity. To be able to truly “walk the talk,” genuine partnerships were critical. Working relationships require effective and careful communication, especially when these are transatlantic and the opportunity for human face to face interaction is sporadic at best.

5. Multi–member coalitions own greater social capital to leverage for good.

In a philanthropic arena increasingly preoccupied with return on investment, it is important to evaluate all models for effectiveness. Over the past six years we have learned that collaborative efforts of funders and organizations on the ground yield sustainable results in multiple ways, all related to building many different forms of capital – financial, impact, social, and human. Social capital is critical when advocating for policy reform, development of new services, and/or allocation of public resources.

As a group with a larger footprint and shared vision, a multi-member coalition is better positioned to apply for substantial grants from state agencies, both local and international. However, collaborative efforts are not only about doing more and better; they nurture and bring forward new initiatives because they are inclusive and they create a shared space for many voices. Lastly, they are a platform for mutual support, shared learning, and the outpouring of otherwise unknown collective knowledge.

That said, raising long term financial capital for collaborations is harder to come by and requires funders to value the time it takes to build trust and respect. As we know from Mark Kramer and John Kania’s Stanford Social Innovation Review article, “Collective Impact,” funding a “backbone” or a coordinator to support a collaboration is essential. The backbone is a commitment to a central hub where members of a collaborative can be supported on capacity-building and have human capital to deliver on their shared vision. Additionally, the coordinator can provide moral and tactical support when the work gets difficult – a given with intentional, collaborative social justice work.

6. A participatory process helps create a shared theory of change.

We believe and have seen that participatory group processes create a healthy larger ecosystem, while leaders stay mindful of the time it takes to build and maintain relationships and create the conditions for synergy. As funders, we can encourage meaningful collaborative efforts by designing non-competitive, participatory processes into the work. This is what JWFN did in its second collaborative grantmaking cycle in Israel. The topic, promoting the rights of women in abusive employment, was chosen following several rigorous, on-the-ground work planning sessions including learning, dialogue, and Q&A sessions with women in the thick of the issue day-to-day as well as professionals from more than 30 organizations from across three continents.

For example, we experimented with a non-competitive democratic voting process for the network. Instead of issuing a call for proposals, we invited all relevant players in the field to come together and submit a joint proposal. This was not an easy process for JWFN members as it meant relinquishing the ability to choose from several proposals. For our grantee partners this meant having to partner with JWFN to negotiate an agreed upon statement of purpose, theory of change, and strategies for action while resolving any differences and finding points of agreement regarding all of the above.

7. Evaluation is important as a feedback loop for shared learning.

Quite often, both funders and grantee organizations perceive evaluation reports as a “scorecard” or “test” rather than a teaching moment. But when grantees think of evaluation as a judgment tool or a prerequisite for renewed funding, they typically have a hard time working openly and candidly with an external evaluation expert. This prevents important learning from taking place.

For these reasons, in every aspect of a funding relationship, honest communication is vital. If evaluation is going to be used for the purpose of continued funding, this must be made explicit. If evaluation is to be used for learning, growth, and development, this also must be indicated clearly. As we defined the role of the “evaluator” on this project, we invited funders and grantees to work together to identify talent and decide jointly. The evaluation model we adopted was a “hybrid” blending observational research and analysis by the specialist with capacity-building and mentoring designed to help grantee partners develop internal mechanisms for collecting, documenting, analyzing and making sense of quantitative and qualitative data.

8. Cross-cultural storytelling matters. Stories propel the work forward.

Every community, organization, network/movement needs stories to move them forward. This means storytelling must be designed into collective processes so that individuals have multiple opportunities to share their lived experiences with colleagues and fellow leaders who are eager to listen. Storytelling is particularly vital for international funding initiatives as it serves as the glue that binds together staff and lay leaders in the U.S. with organizational leaders, activists, and beneficiaries in Israel. Learning through stories while being culturally aware with our language is a process that doesn’t end. We must continue to create opportunities for this kind of storytelling long past the end of a grant and its reporting phase.

Often, grantee stories are lost in robust periodical reports. Moreover, organizations and networks are dynamic, living organisms. People leave as others join at different points in time, and the shared story and institutional memory are at risk of becoming fragmented or misrepresented. That is why, in our second collaborative funding cycle in Israel, we decided to set aside some funds specifically for storytelling. We know this investment in time and creativity will help our work come to life in more meaningful ways and will resonate with broader movements for gender equality.

Practicing any combination of these eight “lessons learned” will strengthen the work we do as grantmakers, conveners, and collaborative partners who are committed to intentional social change work. We need deep investment in systems change with long-term funding commitments, and we must continue to model and share best practices for organizing around our values.

Editor’s Note: JWFN was established thanks to the vision of its founder, Barbara Dobkin, a prominent leader in global feminist philanthropy, and Nancy Schwartz-Sternoff, who served as the network coordinator until her passing in January 2019.

Violence is Not Culture: Feminist Philanthropy Draws the Line

Feminist activists and philanthropists are helping to recognize FGM as a form of violence against women. (Image Credit: Global Citizen Video, The Truth About Female Genital Mutilation)

Recently I read a post on PRI.org by Rupa Shenoy entitled “The US movement against female genital mutilation is at a crossroads,” which discusses how laws to prevent FGM are developing and facing challenges in the US. The article is very informative about the status of the issue at this time, and helps to explore different ways to address the problem including community education and prevention efforts.

A salient point was made by one of the experts interviewed for the article, Mariya Taher, one of the co-founders of the anti-female genital mutilation advocacy group Sahiyo.  With regard to the doctor who performed the genital cutting surgery that was the subject of a federal prosecution on FGM, and who justifies the act as part of a cultural practice, Taher said:

“We’re at this tipping point,” she said. “We are seeing that communities are recognizing, and others are recognizing, that this is harmful, and I don’t think any form of harm to a child should be allowed by any culture or religion.” Taher said stronger laws would send the message that culture shouldn’t be confused with violence. (emphasis mine)

One thing I have noticed in studying feminist philanthropy is how gender equality funders pay particular attention to distinguishing between violence and culture. Because of the recognition of relationships, progressive women funders are able to see more clearly the harm that some cultural practices do to women, and to begin to open up new alternatives that don’t involve violence. This is the concept behind the Women’s Global Education Project and its alternative rite of passage for girls who are at risk of FGM — finding a self-affirming, non-violent way to ritualize the transition to adulthood. As another piece of evidence of feminist strategy that helps distinguish between violence and culture, check out this video by Global Citizen, which makes crystal clear the damage to women done by FGM.

This discernment between violence and culture is also evident in a recent announcement by Deacon Patrick Moynihan, President of the Haitian Project, a nonprofit providing solutions to poverty in Haiti. Moynihan recently refused a $100,000 donation from Robert Kraft because he does not accept Kraft’s behavior related to sex trafficking in Florida at the Orchid of Asia Salon.

Says Moynihan in a recent post about refusing the donation: “…And the women performing [sex trafficking] are expected to go from room to room like an assembly line. When you think about the gravity of the inhumanity of that there is no way with that out there and unaddressed that we could ever take these funds.” He said further: “We are in the very direct business of educating men and women to go on to healthy productive lives, and the opposite [of] that would be a life in prostitution or involved in the sex trade, and so given the current situation it was just not possible for us to accept that gift with a lack of clarity.”

These are just two examples of what I would argue is a feminist philanthropy mentality — one that is particularly attuned to the relationship of the grantee to the grant-maker, and recognizes how that relationship reflects on the work they do and the mission of their organization. Both examples exhibit the critical differences of distinguishing between violence and culture, and of giving higher value to relationships of all kinds, in the effort to end violence at every level of society.

Thomson Reuters Wins Funding for LGBTQ Reporting in Asia and Africa

Thomson Reuters Foundation has received new funding to support reporting on issues of modern slavery and LGBTQ rights. (Photo credit: Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Here’s some good news for global feminist donors, particularly those focused on giving for LGBTQ issues. The Thomson Reuters Foundation – the charitable arm of the global news and information provider – has won funding for more media reporting on marginalized populations, as an award from the People’s Postcode Lottery, a UK-based organization that devotes “a minimum of 32% from each subscription” to charities and causes in Great Britain and around the globe.

The Foundation has received a £400,000 ($523,560 US Dollars) grant from the Postcode Heroes Trust, to expand its reporting on social justice issues related to labor and sex trafficking and other forms of modern slavery, as well as LGBTQ rights. These funds will be particularly focused on increasing media coverage of these topics in Southeast Asia and Eastern Africa.

“By raising awareness of these critical issues, the Foundation’s world-class journalism aims to shed light on the hidden plight of vulnerable communities, to ensure these topics remain on the global news agenda, and to educate and empower those working to promote equality and diversity and advance human rights around the world,” said a press release announcing the award. Reuters news stories reach “up to one billion people a day,” according to the press release.

Because feminist philanthropy takes a particularly inclusive lens, this new funding represents an advancement for donors who are pushing for social change for those at the margins of society. Feminist philanthropists were some of the first funders of LGBTQ rights, and they continue to invest in this work as a way to increase inclusiveness and recognize the non-binary nature of gender and the way in which people who do not conform to rigid gender norms are often discriminated against.

As a corporate Foundation, Reuters is well-positioned to play a leading role in expanding media coverage for marginalized populations. The foundation has the capacity to collaborate with its own corporation — which describes itself as “the world’s leading news and information company” — to change the way news is gathered and disseminated.

Reuters Foundation also supports another important service that needs more funding — the practice of legal pro bono. Reuters Foundation has created initiatives that connect people to free legal help, which can be of enormous importance to LGBTQ populations and those who are being abused in labor markets. The Foundation also runs the Trust Conference, an annual human rights forum working to find solutions to “fight slavery, empower women, and advance human rights worldwide.”

People’s Postcode Lottery is a subscription lottery raising money for charities, based out of Great Britain. Subscribers to the lottery are eligible to win cash prizes and revenue from the lottery is given to charitable organizations.

How Craig Newmark Philanthropies Empowers Women at Work

Empower Work helps employees reach out by text for support for work-related issues. (Photo Credit: Empower Work)

Editor’s Note: The following opinion piece is by Jaime-Alexis Fowler, Founder & Executive Director of Empower Work, discussing how women, and anyone who needs outside support for a critical issue at work, can access this service, which is generously supported by Craig Newmark Philanthropies.

Jobs are at the center of opportunity. They affect everything from earning potential and career mobility to financial security and emotional well-being. Access to career opportunities, and support along the way, can play a critical role in gender equity and inclusion—in the workplace and beyond.

Two years ago, just after Susan Fowler’s headline-making Uber memo, a friend of a friend connected with me about a challenge she was facing at work. Just out of college, first in her family to join her industry, she’d experienced a terrible situation that left her confused and unsure of what to do. As I hung up the phone, I was left wondering: how can we better support and empower people at critical work moments?

After conducting extensive research to answer this question, we launched Empower Work, a nonprofit that provides confidential, immediate support via SMS for work-related issues. We found that while challenges at work are nearly universal, the resources to navigate them are not. Without an accessible, trusted place to turn to, those with less social capital are more likely to take pay cuts, leave industries all together, or leave jobs without the next role lined up.

By providing a sounding board and resources, Empower Work can help change that trajectory.

Over the past year, we’ve moved from concept to national reach, thanks to a community of champions who believe in our mission and who took a leap with us—including Omidyar Network, The Pineapple Fund, Fast Forward, Microsoft, and over 100 individual donors.

Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies, was one of our initial supporters. On Equal Pay Day this year, he generously tripled his gift—an inspiring commitment to improving opportunity and making workplaces more equitable, inclusive, and respectful, particularly for women in technology.

“Our country aspires to fairness, opportunity, and respect for all,” said Newmark. “Empower Work embodies those values and is making a difference for women in tech by valuing them and listening to them. It’s a big honor to support this organization as they scale this work across the nation.”

With Craig’s catalytic contribution, we’ll leverage our learnings from the past year to reach tens of thousands of additional workers, including those who have historically been excluded, silenced, and marginalized. This is especially critical in industries like tech, which has gender imbalances across its workforce and leadership.

Women, and particularly women of color, across all industries are more likely to experience harassment and discrimination, and are also disproportionately more likely to experience what social psychologists call negative “pathway behaviors.” New York University Professor Dolly Chugh describes these as, “non-formalized, seemingly minor ways in which an individual’s chances for success are improved or worsened.” They include microaggressions, double standards, and unconscious bias.

To make significant progress towards equitable opportunities and economies, we need to dramatically shift cultural norms and expectations within workplaces. And we need to radically transform how we support people at critical, opportunity-altering moments.

We’ve seen that one way to do this is to meet people where they are at the moment a challenge happens. Over 91% of people who text with us say they feel better after a conversation and, a few weeks later, have taken an action that results in an outcome they want. They’ve negotiated a severance agreement to get financial coverage while changing jobs, provided feedback to a manager, or asked for a pay raise and gotten it. And over 90% of our trained peer counselors, all volunteers, say they learn new skills that they bring back to their workplaces.

“Wow, thank you so much. This was incredibly helpful,” one texter shared, “I can’t thank you and this service enough. Just talking validated it as a concern and shake off some of the anxiety surrounding the issue. I feel much better about taking this on.”

Another texter wrote, “You are doing such important work. I have spent years looking for actionable advice for my work woes. Have a wonderful evening and know that you have made my journey a little bit easier.”

Another texter simply stated, “I could never repay you.”

Craig’s generosity is an inspiring commitment to helping everyone reach their fullest potential. I’m humbled and grateful for Craig and for our community of partners, who believe, like we do, that when people thrive at work, communities, companies, and the economy thrive. Together, we’re creating healthier, more equitable workplaces where everyone is heard, valued, and empowered.  

Want to get involved? Learn more about partnering, funding, or volunteering with Empower Work. Or reach out to us directly at: team@empowerwork.org! We’d love to hear from you.

How Can Philanthropy Do More to Support Women in Sports?

Golfer Maria Fassi greets young girl fans at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur event. (Photo credit: Augusta National Women’s Amateur on Twitter)

Good news for women in sports: for the first time ever, the Augusta National golf tournaments included women, in the form of the first Augusta National Women’s Amateur event. Finally, one of the oldest and most revered golf courses in America allowed women to officially compete on its greens.

USA Today asked a very pertinent question following the breakthrough: What if Augusta National had done this 20 years ago? This process of opening up golf to women could be so much further advanced today, if we could have gotten the ball rolling earlier.

What if all athletics began to welcome women, to recognize how women’s sports could attract just as many viewers and revenue (maybe even more) than men’s sports? How do we get sports institutions closer to the threshold of change, so they can stop digging in their heels to resist, and begin openly welcoming women as equals in the sector?

With continued pressure from athletes themselves as well as the sponsors of sport, golf courses and many other sport arenas are becoming more accepting of women, but progress has not been easy. Alison Curdt, a veteran women’s golfer and business owner in the sector, argues that we need much more acceptance and mutual support in golf, in an article entitled “A Skirt Among Khakis: My struggle to navigate golf’s gender gap.”

So how do we get there? First, of course, by organizing the sports players. In the sport of golf, that organizing has been going like gangbusters in the past few years. The Ladies Professional Golf Association launched the LPGA Women’s Network in 2017, to provide a platform where women could unite. With more than 40,000 women joining the network in 2018, this was a great way to bring unity to the voices and advocacy goals of the women’s golf profession.

Alongside of this growing network, LPGA has been able to increase prize money and events dramatically in recent years, going from $41.5 million in prize money and 23 events in 2011, to 32 events and a total purse of $68.45 million in 2019. The money is starting to move in the right direction, but compared to men’s, women’s prizes are still only about 46% of men’s — a long way from parity.

How Can Progressive Women Donors Support Women’s Athletics?

There are many ways that women donors can impact the sports scene, both in their local communities, at the policy level locally, and at the policy level nationally.

1: Support Women’s and Girls Sports with Funding

Feminist philanthropy can take the lead in supporting women’s athletics at all ages.

Some specific suggestions:

1. Support the Women’s Sports Foundation — Founded by Billie Jean King, this is THE central hub for funding in this area. If you don’t want to dive directly into this work yourself, just give money to the Women’s Sports Foundation, because they already know what to do with it.

2. Sponsor some girls to play a sport: contact a local sports league and offer to provide scholarships specifically for girls and young women to play.

3. Another area where there is a huge gender gap in sports is refereeing. Consider setting up a program to encourage and financially sponsor girls to become a referees for a sport through your community’s referee associations.

4. Endow a college with funds to create more sports scholarships for girls and young women. Consider earmarking a university contribution particularly for women’s athletic programs.

5. Provide support to a local sports business like gymnastics or karate, to ensure that girls of all backgrounds and financial means can participate.

2. Advocate for Sports in the Women’s Organizations and Networks

Discuss the role of sports in influencing culture at gatherings for feminism and/or philanthropy. Talk about how national policies and culture make it difficult for women to gain ground in sports. Encourage your organization to celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day in order to call attention to the issue, or host other events that encourage attention to sports.

3. Be a Myth-Buster

Challenge the stereotypes that feed the male domination of sports. Feminist Majority Foundation provides a helpful page called Exploding the Myths that helps identify how sports myths continue to create disparity for women. For example, one myth that continues to be propagated is that women are inferior to men in strength and speed, and therefore can’t be as good at athletics. In fact, many women overlap with men in terms of strength and speed, and many men perform at levels far lower than women.

4. Become a Sports Equity Policy Geek and Evangelist

Learn about the three areas that gender equity needs improvement in sports: participation opportunities, financial aid for athletes, and other benefits and opportunities associated with athletics.

Use your influence as a philanthropists to encourage policy makers to take specific steps that reduce gender bias in all three areas. Talk to you local legislators, your members of Congress, and anyone else in an official position, and let them know you want gender equity to be addressed in the specific areas of participation, financial support, and other benefits (like physical fitness and access to education) for women athletes.

In university settings, consider talking to athletics administrators as well as college presidents and faculty. Ask them to inform you of the gender equity issues at their institution and anything that has been done to address the issues.

5. Support Media that Recognizes the Need for Gender Equity in Sports

Media around gender equity in sports can have a huge impact, partially because sports crosses over into popular culture and many young people look to sports figures as models. Make sure to contact the media and make them aware of anything you feel deserves coverage around gender equity in sports. Encourage reporters and bloggers to cover women’s athletics in your community. Contact local radio and TV talk shows and ask them to share news and events related to gender equity in sports.

Some more specific suggestions:

1. Support women sports reporters and media coverage of women’s sports. Be that annoying person who calls up the TV station and asks why there is little to no coverage of women’s sports, or a lack of female reporters in the sports department.

2. Consider sponsoring a photography or video series that has a sports/feminism theme to it, like this one. Create a spectacular set of images that help people reconceptualize women and girls as sports players, and then hold an event to showcase the work.

3. Go to women’s sports events and take pictures of yourself and share them on social media. Participate in a sport yourself and share your experiences with others.

4. And of course, get out there on social media and tweet and retweet about gender equity in sports. Or get someone to do it for you.

6. Support Legal Interventions

Much of the real change that has occurred in sports has been the result of legal advocacy and intervention. Title IX sets a standard that women must have equal access to sports in education, and finding ways to bring this to bear legally is an important strategy that feminist philanthropists can support. Or, as another possibility, you could support the Women’s National Soccer team in their lawsuit to get equitable pay. Or you could approach the issue by providing support to the Women’s Sports Foundation to increase their legal advocacy and educational resources.

Disrupting Philanthropy’s Status Quo by Convening on Gender

Surina Khan, Executive Director of the Women’s Foundation of California. (Image Credit: WFC)

“I recently went to the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice, in Montgomery Alabama. It’s an incredibly powerful place, but the stories of women are not as prominent as they could be,” says Surina Khan, Executive Director of the Women’s Foundation of California (WFC), in a recent interview about the principles guiding her leadership.

The experience of visiting the Legacy Museum reinforced for Khan the importance of gender justice impact assessments — of organizations and institutions regularly assessing whether they are paying enough attention to gender issues. Since returning to the helm of WFC in 2014, Khan has taken an increasingly intentional approach to employing a gender lens to everything they do, meaning from caterers to banking services to program grantees, it’s all about doing business with partners who align with WFC’s values.

Gender justice, for Khan as a leader, sometimes also means bending the rules and changing the process, if the status quo process is reinforcing power imbalance, rather than creating more equality.

This rule-bending and process-changing philosophy even applies to the Women’s Foundation of California’s internal hiring process. “The de facto [for hiring program professionals] is BA required, graduate degree preferred. We don’t have that requirement, because we take our core founding principle from our founders: those who are closest to the problem are also closest to the solution,” says Khan.

In this way, WFC’s hiring process challenges the status quo assumption that a certain level of education creates the ideal candidate for a job. It also opens the position up to a wider candidate pool, possibly creating a more competitive and diverse process.

The history of the Women’s Foundation of California is a story filled with re-inventing the process, with the organization merging and re-organizing as a different, larger, and more powerful entity several times over the years. Again and again in WFC’s story, the theme of convening and merging to consolidate collective power for women repeats. Created in 1979 as one of the country’s first women’s foundations, WFC’s founders went on to seed the formation of the Women’s Funding Network in 1985, which is now one of the largest networks of women’s funds on the globe. In 2003, the Los Angeles Women’s Foundation and the Women’s Foundation of San Francisco merged with WFC, adding to the collective strength of the organization.

For Khan, WFC’s role as a convener has even more potential in the future. In fact, convening is one of the three main things that WFC is doing more of, according to its 2017-2020 strategic plan. The list of convenings that WFC will either lead or participate in is long, and includes Connecting California in 2020, which will celebrate WFC’s 40th anniversary by bringing together funders and advocates for gender justice across the state. Other convenings include one on the U.S.-Mexico border, United State of Women, and the Bay Area Women’s Summit. Still others focus on public policy advocacy and research on well-being for women in the state.

“Invest, Train, and Connect” are the three approaches that WFC is using to grow its influence on gender equality issues in California. Within in this approach, WFC plans to quadruple its grantmaking by 2020 from roughly $500,000 a year now to $2 million in 2020.

Investing with Grantee Partners

The grantmaking approach that WFC takes is also not your typical way of doing things, and grew out of Khan’s deepened appreciation for how larger foundations like Ford did this work. From 2011 to 2014, Khan left WFC and joined the Ford Foundation as a program officer and rose to become the Director of Democracy Rights and Justice Program. When she returned to WFC to become its CEO in 2014, she wanted to become a foundation that offered general operating support to gender equality nonprofits. She also wanted to cut out a lot of the hoop-jumping and help organizations focus more of their time on their work.

“Let us do the due diligence on the front end, have a series of phone conversations, and then everyone’s time is valued,” says Khan. Further, to cut down on time spent by grantees, WFC does not have any specific reporting requirements. “We ask people to send us what they have,” she says, and WFC only does site visits if needed, not as a required part of any process.” But that doesn’t mean that WFC isn’t there for support and guidance, and some grantees do reach out for that support.

“Philanthropy, like many other things in our lives, is relational. So if we can build deep, authentic relationships, then people will come to us with their problems,” says Khan. This makes for an open-door type approach with grantees where they can and do ask for help and problem-solve by connecting with the foundation. “If they need guidance, I want them to feel like they can come to us and ask us for it. That is one of the things I feel most proud about.”

The Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF) is one grantee organization that WFC is a particularly proud of supporting. In 2005, WFC began supporting the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and since then the organization has blossomed into an important hub for community organizing in the region. Among other endeavors, the Dolores Huerta Foundation worked with the Mexican Legal Defense and Education Fund in a lawsuit in 2016 aimed at reducing Latino voter disenfranchisement.

Women’s Foundation of California Executive Director Surina Khan, pictured with Dolores Huerta, community activist, and founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, a grantee partner of WFC. (photo credit: Women’s Foundation of California)

DHF also does leadership development, candidate forums, and engages with local school districts around equitable budgeting. Gratitude from DHF for WFC runs deep. “Dolores Huerta always reminds me that WFC was the first funder of the Delores Huerta Foundation,” says Khan. Because of her work for civil rights and community organizing, in 2018 Governor Jerry Brown declared April 10 to be Dolores Huerta Day in California. recognizing the 88-year-old living icon and activist, who co-founded the United FarmWorkers.

Bringing in the Corporate Partners

Khan sees WFC’s role as convener involving influencing the corporate agenda as well, when possible. “In order to influence, you have to engage.” Khan has brought particular corporate funders in for closer engagement with the new collaborative, Gender Justice Funders, including Blue Shield of California and Fondation CHANEL.

Engaging with corporations that want to fund gender equity is part of what WFC does, but not at any cost. “It may be at some point that it’s not worth engaging, because the values are so far apart,” says Khan, mindful of the dangers of being involved with corporate partners who are working in opposition to women’s rights with their products, services, or workplace culture.

When looking for partners of any kind, Khan referenced how the gender justice impact assessment plays an essential role for WFC. That assessment, says Khan, determines the kind of relationship we are establishing with the partner.

Here are some of those questions: “Is the organization or effort woman-led? Is it women of color led? Does it have an articulated commitment to gender justice? How do women participate in program design and implementation? What feminist policies do they implement in human resources, investments, and banking?”

And that’s not all. Khan continued: “Do they provide paid family leave? Do they have a transparent pay scale? Is it a flexible workplace? Do they provide child care? Do they represent interests that are in opposition to gender/racial justice?”

These are just some of the questions that WFC is asking as it moves forward with its strategy, seeking partners as grant funders, grant seekers, and community activists. Khan sees progress for women’s movements as slow, but steady, and expresses concern that some of the large foundations send potent, but incomplete messages. She noticed that after the Ford Foundation put out its strategy for racial and economic justice in 2016, other big foundations like Weingart, Irvine, and the San Francisco Foundation followed suit and came out with similar strategies. All were aimed at reducing poverty, but none made gender central to the strategy.

“Who lives in poverty? Single moms of color and their kids,” says Khan. “If you don’t address it with some kind of gender analysis, you won’t be successful.”

Khan sees specific progress that California is making with gender justice work, and hopes it will guide other parts of the country in that direction. “As goes California, so goes the nation. Now I can say with great confidence, the Women’s Foundation of California has its fingerprints all over that. We have supported leaders that have been on the vanguard for gender, racial and economic justice, and that has been a source of hope for the rest in the country.”

Invest for Better: Helping Women Impact Finance, and the World

Ellen Remmer, Senior Partner at The Philanthropic Institute, discusses the launch of Invest for Better, a new platform to help women lead the way in impact investing.

“The deeper I get into impact investing, the more I’m persuaded,” says Ellen Remmer, Senior Partner at the Philanthropic Institute (TPI), after a 25 year career in finance and philanthropy. “Personally, when I changed advisors and started doing impact investing, it connected me to my money in new and different ways, and it was so much more interesting. I was always bored by [traditional investing]. Now it was interesting, because it was about social and environmental change.”

Remmer is part of a minority of women in our culture who has pursued her interest in impact investing to the point of actually doing it. While more women are finally moving into impact investing now, Remmer wants to add to that momentum and make sure they are equipped with knowledge and guidance to do impact investing well.

A projected $400 billion or more will be directed to impact investments in 2020, a dramatic increase from $80 billion in 2011. But Remmer notes that there is a disconnect between women’s interest in the field and the actions they currently take with their investments.

With the launch of Invest for Better this past January, TPI and a coalition of national leaders from organizations like Mission Investor Exchange, Mission Throttle, and the Case Foundation aims to mobilize more women in the direction of activating their capital for social change. “We’re trying to help women get inspired and make it easy for them to activate their investments for impact,” she says.

One way Invest for Better is getting women active is with a pledge that puts them on record with doing at least one thing that will improve their capacity to impact invest. These action steps include things like, “I will ask my donor advised fund administrator about options for impact investing,” or “I will talk to my partner about allocating some or all of our shared investments to impact.” Others are about joining a national network of impact investors or starting an Invest for Better Circle, a group of women coming together to share experiences and support mutual growth and empowerment.

“This is really about accelerating things,” says Remmer, “and getting women to understand that impact investing is possible and there are many ways to do it.”

One way Remmer sees impact investing having big potential right now is with CDFI investments. “This could be the time to invest in CDFI’s,” says Remmer, noting that CDFI’s are a more secure investment than stocks, and generally pay a guaranteed return. “I just had coffee with this amazing woman, Catherine Berman, who has started an impact investing firm called C-Note which invests in CDFI’s throughout the country.” The annual return on CDFI’s through C-Note is 2.75% with no fees, and recently the firm also launched The Wisdom Fund, which is specifically aimed at increasing capital access for women-owned businesses.

“If you start to change the face of the investing community so women are more deeply involved, you’re going to change the nature of what we’re investing in, and who we invest in,” says Remmer. She sees this happening both in philanthropy and in finance, and has been a frontrunner in both of those movements. She and her sisters and mother started a family foundation about 30 years ago, and focused on disadvantaged girls, an idea that was barely registering on the radar of philanthropy at the time.

While philanthropy directed exclusively to women and girls still only makes up a 5-10% of philanthropy, it’s an area of philanthropy experience intense growth now, alongside capital investments directed at gender equality. Between the two, Remmer is on a mission to help remove limitations for women, and shift their understanding of the role they can play.

“I’ve been a philanthropic supporter of the work Joy Anderson of Criterion Institute is doing, and it’s exciting to see so many people trying to get in on it now,” she said. Ranked by Fast Company as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business, Anderson has been highly instrumental in laying the foundation for social impact investing, particularly for women.

Remmer also sees women doing creative things with their Donor Advised Funds, and was an early adopter of these techniques, having been given a Donor Advised Fund by her mother. “I’ve got about four different deals through my DAF’s at the Boston Foundation,” she says. Remmer says some of these investments are in the form of recoverable grants and some take other forms, but the bottom line is that money that was formerly “just sitting there” is now activated for social and environmental impact.

“With my DAF, I’m willing to take higher risks,” says Remmer. “I’ve done a lot more local things with my DAF’s. One is a social finance bond here in Massachusetts, and another supports the Boston Impact Initiative, which invests in a diverse and inclusive economy. I also have one with an energy breakthrough group called Prime.”

Remmer referenced a pilot program that Fidelity Investments and other finance firms are working with called Cap Shift, which helps donors create tailored impact investments, targeting a range of issues including climate change and inequality. Cap Shift is just one example of the expanding realm of vehicles that women can explore if they want to do more impact investing, says Remmer. “The bottom line is that women have to think more about the investing side of things across the board.” Doing so will likely lead to the kind of epiphany she had two decades ago when she started learning about impact investing with a gender lens.

“We give away the 5% of our foundation, and we don’t even think about the rest. It’s ridiculous.” says Remmer, remembering how her awareness began to shift when she learned about the potential for impact investing.

That epiphany led her to develop a passion for the field, which is now converging with other cultural factors driving the growth of the approach, particularly for women. “The point it, I went through a personal journey with impact investing, and while philanthropy is fantastic, I wasn’t using the power of what I had in all of those other resources.”


Longtime Women’s Foundation CEO to Step Down

Lee Roper-Batker, CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.

The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota has announced the retirement of Lee Roper-Batker as President and CEO, a big change for one of the largest and most influential women’s foundations in the country.

Effective January 3, 2020, Roper-Batker will step down, after leading the foundation for 18 years.

Her service to the sector is significant. Since becoming the foundation’s President and CEO in 2001, Roper-Batker has presided over a period of growth and expansion that included increasing the organization’s grantmaking by 840%. She also helped established groundbreaking programs to protect women and girls from sexual trafficking including MN Girls Are Not For Sale, launched in 2011, a prescient project that helped raise awareness about sexual abuse and trafficking of women and girls before the #MeToo movement.

 “The Board of Trustees is deeply grateful to Lee for her nearly two decades of outstanding leadership and strategic vision that has transformed the Foundation to be a leader in seeking racial equity and the advancement of women and girls not only across our state, but in our nation” said Susan Segal, Women’s Foundation board chair. 

In addition to launching MN Girls Are Not for Sale in 2011, Roper-Batker was instrumental is establishing girlsBEST (girls Building Economic Success Together) in 2002, creating the first permanently endowed fund just for girls at any women’s foundation in the world.

Roper-Batker has also played a critical role in supporting the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota, “a $9 million public-private partnership with the Minnesota Governor’s Office to ensure equity in outcomes and center the leadership and solutions of young women of color, American Indian young women, young women from Greater Minnesota, LGBTQ+ youth, and young women with disabilities,” said Segal.

“I am tremendously proud of what we have achieved together toward a Minnesota where all women and girls are guaranteed economic opportunity, safety, and leadership. Serving as President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation has been my calling, a culmination of my life’s work, and among the highest honors in my life,” said Roper-Batker.

“I leave behind a women’s foundation that is grounded in research, community wisdom, intergenerational equity, and with a model of innovation, responsiveness, and impact. I am excited to see what the future holds as we pave the way for the Foundation’s next CEO and the fresh perspective, innovation, and leadership they will bring,” said Roper-Batker.

“I retire with hope, appreciation, and unwavering belief that we will, one day, see a world where women, girls, and all people hold the power to create and lead safe prosperous lives.”

Roper-Batker will certainly be missed, particularly as a leading member of the coalition of women’s funds focusing on women and girls of color. She also made major headway in helping the public understanding the complex needs of women and girls in Minnesota, and shared that information with the White House Council on Women and Girls, established by the Obama Administration in 2009.

How This Nonprofit is Growing Support to End FGM Globally

Former First Lady Michelle Obama with Amy Maglio, Founder of the Women’s Global Education Project. (Photo: Chuck Kennedy for the Obama Foundation)

Recently when checking in with the Obama Foundation, we learned that they are highlighting the Women’s Global Education Project (WGEP) and its work in helping global communities end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). To find our more about how this work takes place, Philanthropy Women spoke with Amy Maglio, Founder of WGEP. Maglio founded WGEP over 14 years ago after she was a peace corp volunteer in Senegal, where she lived for three years.

“When I got back from Senegal, I thought about all the girls I knew who weren’t in school,” said Maglio. She was particularly concerned with the reasons that girls weren’t going to school, and wanted to find more ways to ensure that girls got into school and stayed in school in Senegal. Maglio began partnering with local community-based organizations in Senegal that were already working on these questions. Local organizers in Senegal identified that girls ended their education often because of healthy, safety, and cultural issues.

About ten years ago, WGEP started working in Kenya and found a partner organization there that developed the Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP) program. From leaders there, Maglio said she gained a deeper understanding of how girls generally drop out of school and begin a family shortly after going through FGM.

ARP is slowly gaining traction in Kenya, with a 2014 Demographic Health Survey reporting that in some regions of the country, rates of female circumcision have dropped from 32% in 2003 to 21% in 2014. Other regions still have much higher rates, such as 92% of Kisii women and girls who are still subject to the practice, and 78% of Maasai women.

(ARP) is one answer to ending FGM, where girls participate in ceremonies that affirm their human rights to life, education, and health, as well as their cultural rights, many of which align with traditional cultural values of that particular community.

“We give girls the opportunity to transition into adulthood without the cutting,” said Maglio. “In Kenya we also do scholarships, tutoring, violence prevention, and leadership, but the alternative rite of passage is a critical piece that helps girls stay in school.”

Given the popularity of ARP for girls, WGEP has also started an alternative rite of passage for boys. “We advocate for safe circumcision, and while we have them there, we give them all the same health and reproductive education workshops that we give the girls.”

Maglio stressed the need for more funders to recognize the centrality of the issue of FGM in global gender equality work. “We have had a lot of support because our program is holistic and we address all of the issues of why girls aren’t going to school. A number of women donors and family foundations have supported us for a long time.” In addition, last year WGEP received funding from Dining for Women, an organization in the U.S. that helps women pool donations to address global gender issues.

One donor who has been a passionate long-time supporter of WGEP is Suzanne Kanter. “I have been so impressed with Amy, who understands the complexities of this issue and takes a nuanced approach to changing attitudes about FGM in Kenya in a real and lasting manner. Her work has helped thousands of girls stay healthy and in school.”

Kanter’s advice for other funders who want to make headway on this issue is to seek out organizations like WGEP that take a collaborative approach to changing FGM attitudes and practices, and who have a proven track record of success.

Another key aspect that Kanter said funders should look for is whether the organization learns from their experiences and thinks creatively about how to improve their programming and effectiveness. “WGEP avoids a top-down approach to its FGM work. In creating and building the Alternative Rite of Passage program, Amy has collaborated with high-caliber Kenyan partners, who have a deep understanding of local culture, customs, and needs.”

That process of building trust doesn’t happen overnight, stressed Kanter. “Amy has built WGEP’s program slowly, gaining the trust of girls, mothers and decision-makers in the villages the organization is serving, and expanding into new villages as word spreads about the program and its benefits.”

Maglio, and other leaders in the movement for gender equality globally, think it’s time for larger foundations and institutions to step up and add to the momentum to end FGM. “I think there is still difficulty with larger institutions and funders staying away from FGM,” said Maglio.

The reason, she speculates, is the deeply entrenched nature of cultural practices like FGM, and how hard it is to help communities shift to a new way of thinking and behaving. ” It’s such a deeply rooted tradition. “It is not something you can change overnight, it is a long term process.'”

The Obama Foundation lending support to WGEP may be critical to boosting the issue into the mainstream, as it represents a breakthrough into a broader level of funding and message dissemination capacity. Maglio is feeling particularly grateful for that connection these days, as she continues her work.

Learn more about WGEP and Amy Maglio on the organization’s website.

Partnering for Power: NYWF Grants $11 Million for Gender Equality

The New York Women’s Foundation has announced a record-breaking $11 million in funding for 2018.

“These extraordinarily demanding times call for increased responsiveness, investment, and collaboration from philanthropy,” said Ana Oliveira, The New York Women’s Foundation’s President and CEO, upon announcing a record $11 million in grants for 2018 to 175 community organizations. “Our 2018 grantmaking expresses the Foundation’s increased response to the needs of historically underinvested communities most impacted by poverty and violence.”

The New York Women’s Foundation (The Foundation) has been at the forefront of gender equality philanthropy for several decades. From 2017 to 2018, grantmaking from the foundation increased by $3 million, breaking its previous record of $8 million, a 27% increase in just one year. If the New York Women’s Foundation continues giving at this rate, in another five years, its giving could reach over $25 million per year.

Big Focus on Partnerships

The Foundation’s new record grantmaking total builds on five strong years of growth with a particular focus on partnerships, said Oliveira in an email interview with Philanthropy Women. One major partnership highlight was the when the Foundation joined with 27 public U.S. women’s foundations, along with the Women’s Funding Network, to create Prosperity Together, the five-year, $100 million funding initiative to create opportunities and break down barriers to women’s economic security across the United States. “In its first two years, Prosperity Together invested a collective $58 million of its $100 million commitment,” said Oliveira. “We will be reporting on 2018 soon and will be sure to share the results with you.”

Another important collaboration leading toward this year’s record giving was the Foundation’s partnership with the New York City Council’s Young Women’s Initiative. This partnership focused specifically on increasing visibility and opportunity for girls, young women and gender-fluid youth of color in New York City.

The Foundation’s partnership with MeToo Movement founder Tarana Burke has been another significant propeller of its growth. “The MeToo Fund is a vehicle to ensure that the momentum of the Movement is sustained beyond news cycles, by activists of color leading organizations working to prevent sexual violence and promote the leadership and healing of survivors,” said Oliveira. With this work, the Foundation has extended its grantmaking beyond New York City with the help of other public women’s foundations across the country.

I wanted to know what inspires Oliveira to keep driving the Foundation to further heights of giving — and at such a fierce pace. “I am most inspired by the leaders we have the honor of supporting,” said Oliveira. “What we bring to the table is a willingness to listen, to invest right from the beginning—at the idea stage—and to stick with [grantees], continuing to invest over 5 years as they build out the solution.”

Oliveira cited examples of organizations thriving through their partnerships with the Foundation, including ROC United, Hot Bread Kitchen and Domestic Workers Alliance. “We know it is about more than funding, that is why we invest in the leaders themselves with training, coaching, and opportunities for visibility.”

Another factor that contributes to the Foundation’s record growth in giving, said Oliveira, is the the volunteer and donor communities that supports the Foundation. “Just as we look to community for solutions, we look to them for guidance in our grantmaking,” she said.

Oliveira also recognized the heavily participatory process that the Foundation uses to make grants. “Our brand of participatory grantmaking treats community members as equals. They already know the best ways to approach their local challenges, so we ask them to decide with us where resources should go, rather than determining what their problems are or how to fix them.”

A complete list of The New York Women’s Foundation 2018 grantee partners can be viewed here.