Top 10 Happenings in Feminist Philanthropy for Mid-Summer 2018

Feminism is taking a beating in the summer of 2018, but the fight is far from over.

It’s summer: the time of year when I start feeling like a slouch, like I’m not getting enough done, and may never get enough done again. But then I remind myself of a wise Chinese Proverb: Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.

Relaxation is an essential part of being human. Relaxing doesn’t mean you’re not as rugged as everyone else. It doesn’t make you weak and ineffectual. Relaxation makes you who you are, and who you are becoming. 

So I am welcoming this period of reduced work and enjoying the gorgeous weather this summer in New England. And at the same time, I am keeping my eyes and ears open to the world of feminist philanthropy, where fascinating, and frightening, events continue to transpire.

  1. Disney is Starting a New Way to Fund Women in Film. It’s called Dream Big Princess, and the initiative will fund 21 women and girls across 13 countries to produce short digital films about women who inspire them. Each like or share of the projects that has the hashtag #DreamBigPrincess will result in  a $1 donation from Disney to the United Nations Foundation’s “Girl Up.” While I am not a big fan of the title for this initiative (can we stop calling women “princesses” once and for all?) my twelve year old daughter advised me not to make a big deal about that problem, as this is an important new step for a big corporation that we must acknowledge and praise.
  2. A new fund will give $100 million to women of color entrepreneurs Richelieu Dennis, CEO of ESSENCE, announced the new initiative, entitled New Voices Fund, at the 2018 ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans. The fund has already invested in, or committed to, over $30 million in funding to black women entrepreneurs since its founding in 2017. This money marks a new advancement in funding for women of color who want to pursue entrepreneurial careers. Women of color entrepreneurs are a sector of our economy that is rapidly growing and in need of more financial investment.
  3. New Policy Briefing: Fight Corruption: Finance Gender Equity: This policy brief provides an essential outline of the impact of corruption in continuing the oppression of women. While government corruption might not sound like an important life-threatening problem for women, it most certainly is a big contributing factor to gender inequality. Corruption makes life more difficult, if not impossible, for the poorest people in communities. This briefing calls us to increase government transparency, particularly in procuring new business, so that women and girls have a decent shot at advancing in society. The report also explains how exposing and addressing violence against women, governments can “close the loop on a key weapon used in corruption.”
  4. Commonwealth Commits to Gender Equality by 2030: Whenever a large network of governmental bodies ups their commitment to gender equality, the whole world should stand still and applaud. This past spring, the Commonwealth, a network of 53 countries with a total population of  to 2.4 billion people, committed to achieving gender equality goals by 2030. A total of 305 million pounds (approx. $397 million in U.S. dollars) was committed to support this agenda at the meeting. What will this mean for real women and girls in the world? Hopefully 12 years of education for every girl and an overall improvement to the lives of 17 million people.
  5. Women Thrive Alliance Closes its Doors: The announcement came in late June that Women Thrive Alliance, which has been cultivating gender equality movements globally for twenty years, is closing its doors.  Their work will continue through World Pulse, so all is not lost, but I wonder if this is an indicator of the downsizing that is happening in civil society globally. A paper published by Berkeley Law and the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Rights also suggests that women human rights defenders are facing a tougher climate on the ground in many places in the world. I am also trying to understand what happened to the United States’ funding of the development sector’s gender equality and women’s empowerment issues. Data from the OECD suggests that funding from the United States for aid in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment went from $26, 211 Billion in year 2014-2015 all the way down to $20,814 Billion in year 2015-2016. If I am reading this data correctly, that would mean that the US’s contribution to this funding dropped by $5.3 Billion dollars from 2015 to 2016. I have emailed the Washington office of the OECD for verification and explanation of this data, and am awaiting their response.
  6. The Crisis of the Century for Progressive Women Funders: Trump’s appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and what it bodes for Reproductive Justice. There is no doubt that this event has shaken and stirred the progressive women’s funding community like no other. This linked article gives a good sense of how the battle lines are being drawn. It will be up to women funders to help the grassroots protect this fundamental medical right.
  7. Trump’s Apparent Alliance with Putin and What it Means for Feminist Philanthropy — This article in The Guardian spells it out pretty clearly in this sentence: “From Europe to Asia, Trump is destroying alliances with democracies, while making friends with authoritarian leaders.” This can only mean bad things for feminist philanthropists, who can only thrive in an environment where human rights are respected and women’s autonomy and authority can continue to grow. Authoritarian regimes are not good for women’s empowerment.
  8. But there are Still Good Things Going On in Feminist Philanthropy. Gender Just Climate Solutions grantmaking is open. These alliances between gender justice and climate justice are one of the most important strategic moves in the space.
  9. Grantmaking is Open for Sexual Violence Prevention through the Sexual Violence Research Initiative here.  And important for women journalists looking for funding is also the Buffett funding for women journalists, which closes August 5.
  10. The Data On Women Continues to Grow., which bills itself as “the most comprehensive compilation of information on the status of women worldwide,” is now open for business. You can create an account for free and mine the data on women to your heart’s content. Excuse me while I get lost in using this tool to study the research on women, starting with comparing murder rates of women in the United States, China, and the Czech Republic.


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UPDATE: Big Win for Progressives as RI Dems Rescind Endorsements

Moira Jayne Walsh, Incumbent Democratic candidate for Rhode Island State Legislature, District 3, Providence. In an interview with Philanthropy Women, Walsh stated she does not want the endorsement of a party the endorses John Carnevale, who has been accused of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Great news for progressives in Rhode Island, as Moira Jayne Walsh and Bridgett Valverde prevail in their efforts to correct the Democratic party after it veered off course and endorsed some decidedly unfit candidates. From WPRI:

Bowing to heavy pressure from progressives locally and nationally, the Rhode Island Democratic Party on Thursday rescinded its endorsement of two controversial General Assembly candidates.

In a letter dated July 4, Democratic Party Chairman Joe McNamara withdrew his endorsement of Michael Earnheart, a pro-Trump challenger running in the primary against incumbent Rep. Moira Walsh, and Greg Acciardo, a former state senator with a criminal record who is running against a progressive newcomer, Bridget Valverde, in Senate District 35. [Full Text]

The Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women shared a copy of the letter to Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, withdrawing the controversial endorsements:

It’s nice to be one of the Rhode Island progressive Democrats celebrating this victory today. I supported Moira Jayne Walsh and Marcia Ranglin-Vassell and was pleased to wake up this morning and learn that the Democratic Party listened to concerns and did the right thing. It’s also an interesting example of participatory democracy. The party demonstrated a more relational attitude regarding the public’s concerns, especially as these concerns gained national attention, and took action regarding that new relational attitude.

In a text message, Moira Jayne Walsh let me know that she will not be asking the party to reconsider their non-endorsement of her. “I don’t want to belong to a party that endorses John Carnevale,” she said. Carnevale is currently on trial for perjury after being accused of not living in the district he represented, and in 2011, he was arraigned for first and second degree sexual assault charges. Carnevale’s ex-wife has sought restraining orders against him several times, alleging physical abuse. In police statements, Carnevale’s ex-wife reported that Carnevale had “choked and punched her, struck her with a cord, pinned her against a wall, slapped her, and dragged her by the wrist out of her house in separate incidents.”

There is still much work to be done to make the Democratic party in Rhode Island a more ethical organization. The party also needs to be more representative of the population and more adherent to core values of equality and inclusion. However, it’s good to know that the avenues of communication appear to be working well enough that party leadership got the message loud and clear over the past few days, and responded to the call.

Bridgett Valverde, who was also victorious in getting the party to rescind its  endorsement of her opponent, Gregory Acciardo, had this to say:

If you are interested in knowing more about these progressive women running for office in Rhode Island, please visit their websites:

Moira Walsh, Democrat for House of Representatives in Rhode Island

Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, Democrat for House of Representatives in RI

Jeanine Calkin, Democrat for Senate in Rhode Island

Bridget Valverde, Democrat for Senate in RI


Women Donors: Rhode Island Women Candidates Need Your Help

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Cheers for the Winners. Now Help Us Meet More Women Candidates

Women Donors: Rhode Island Women Candidates Need Your Help

Marcia Ranglin-Vassell took down House Majority Leader, John DeSimone, in 2016. DeSimone was a close ally of House Speaker Mattiello. Now it looks like the party is trying to take Ranglin-Vassell out.

Bob Plain sums up the sad state of affairs in his post, RI Dem Party Doesn’t Endorse Three Progressive Female Legislators, so I’m going to quote extensively from him.  The upshot from my perspective is that the Rhode Island Democratic party’s abandonment of progressive women candidates is a huge misstep for the party, along with their recent endorsement of John Carnevale, who is still on trial for perjury and in 2012 stood trial for charges of first and second degree sexual assault.

From Bob Plain:

Being a progressive woman may be beneficial at the ballot box in the 2018 election but it doesn’t seem to help with respect to endorsements from the Rhode Island Democratic Party.

Three female legislators learned this the hard way when the state Party endorsed their more-conservative primary opponents. Reps. Moira Walsh and Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, both Providence House members, and Sen. Jeanine Calkin, of Warwick, aren’t the endorsed candidates in their races. They are the only incumbents who didn’t win the endorsement of the state Democratic Party.

Walsh lost the House District 3 endorsement to Michael Earnheart, which didn’t surprise her. “My opponent changed affiliation to democrat in March,” Walsh tweeted about Earnheart. “Previous to that he’s been a republican his entire life. He’s a vocal Trump supporter. Now watch as the @RIDemParty shows its true colors and endorses my opponent. Straight up shameful.”

Earnheart could not be reached for comment. His Twitter account, which previously included advocacy for conservative positions, seems to have been deleted. On his campaign Facebook page, peppered with requests from progressives to explain his positions defended some conservative ideas. “I fully support the Second Amendment and will defend against legislation that attempts to stop or interfere with lawful gun ownership,” he wrote.

Let’s stop right here and call attention to the lack of credentials that Earnheart has as a Democrat. He is a pro-gun Trump supporter. Full stop.

Another incumbent progressive Democrat not endorsed by the Democratic party of Rhode Island is Marcia Ranglin-Vassell:

Ranglin-Vassell lost the endorsement in her reelection bid to Holly Coolman, a Providence College professor who doesn’t support abortion rights or, locally, the Reproductive Health Care Act. She told the Providence Journal she considers herself a “traditional Democrat,” though some counter that’s a euphemism for conservative Democrat.

“Not so random thought -speaking the truth has consequences, speak the truth nonetheless,” Ranglin-Vassell tweeted yesterday.

In 2016, Ranglin-Vassell upset Majority Leader John DeSimone, a close ally of conservative-leaning House Speaker Nick Mattiello. House speakers traditionally condone, or recruit, primary opponents against legislators who veered from the speaker’s agenda. Ranglin-Vassell and Walsh have both been outspoken advocates for sharp increases to the minimum wage and codifying abortion rights in Rhode Island law, both of which Mattiello opposes. The pair represent at least the third time a liberal-leaning female legislator from Providence has attracted a conservative primary opponent since Mattiello has been speaker of the House.

On the Senate side, Calkin will have to defend her seat in a primary against Mark McKenney, who won the state party’s endorsement. Calkin is a Bernie Sanders supporter who upset longtime Senator William Walaska in 2016. McKenney and Walaska, who died a year after losing his legislative seat, are friends and McKenney had long fancied Walaska’s Senate seat.

Incumbents aren’t the only women who were passed over in the Party’s endorsement process. In spite of being active with her town party and the state Party’s Women’s Caucus, Bridget Valverde, of North Kingstown, lost the party endorsement to Greg Acciardo, a former state senator from Johnston who has been charged with drunk driving on several occasions

The point for women donors:  it’s important to know about these local legislative candidates in Rhode Island.  These are the women leaders who most need and deserve to hold their seats as our state legislatures grow their female leadership base.

Philanthropy Women will be featuring more information about women candidates in the run-up to the primaries and the general election. To learn more about these three women running in Rhode Island, please visit their candidate websites:

Moira Walsh, Democrat for House of Representatives in Rhode Island

Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, Democrat for House of Representatives in RI

Jeanine Calkin, Democrat for Senate in Rhode Island


For #RIGivesDay, Invest in the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island

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This Women’s Foundation is Fueling Social Change in DC and Israel

The Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation makes grants to organizations in both Washington D.C. and Israel.

A new round of grants from the Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation demonstrates how the foundation is employing its strategy of reaching girls and women both in the Washington D.C. area and in Israel.

The Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation was created in 2004 to improve the lives of Jewish women and girls, both in Washington D.C. and in Israel. Co-founders Robin Hettlemen Weinberg and Liza Levy realized that in order to make an impact, they needed to combine their efforts and coordinate more with other philanthropists to accomplish their goals. Their mission, to change and better the lives of women and girls, both locally in Washington D.C. and in Israel, is being carried out in diverse ways through their grantmaking.

Since inception, Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation has given away over $1 million in grants to more than 42 organizations, particularly focusing on  women and girls in Israel, impoverished immigrant women in metropolitan Washington, D.C., and Jewish women and girls in the D.C. area. The foundation has been awarding grants since 2006.

From the press release, here are the 2018 grants from Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation:


Building Advocacy on the front lines of emerging issues

Avodah: $12,000

This grant for Avodah DC provides funding for the Jewish Service Corps as well as alumni of the program who continue living and working for social justice in the Washington, D.C. area.  The Service Corps, comprised primarily of female participants, trains and supports young social justice leaders.  Participants emerge from the program with a nuanced understanding of the ways that domestic poverty intersects with gender, sexual orientation, race, and other factors. 

Jews United for Justice: $15,000

This grant funds A Better Social Contract: Paid Family Leave, Affordable Housing, and a More Just Montgomery County.  Through their campaigns In DC and Montgomery County, JUFJ works to bring about a more just DC region by working for policies that disproportionately support women.  They develop strong feminist leaders as women grassroots volunteers drive most of their programs and work bringing systemic change to our region.

Prevent re-emerging gender segregation in Israeli society

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI): $14,000

Desegregating Public Spaces in Israel aims to eradicate the increasing barriers that are infringing on women and girls’ participation in the Israeli public sphere through litigation and raising public awareness.  The increased gender segregation in public life has resulted from the increasing integration of the ultra-orthodox population in academia and the workforce. 

Israel Women’s Network: $14,000

Fighting Exclusion—Increasing Equality seeks to halt and eliminate all forms of exclusion of women from public spaces in Israel, focusing on the IDF. IWN will promote policy, legislation and enforcement policies which eliminate the institutionalized exclusion of women in the IDF, participate in a coalition which encourages educators to publicly come out against exclusionary policies, present information regarding cases of exclusion in the IDF to members of the Knesset and other policy makers, and raise public awareness. 

Developing women political leaders

We Power: $14,000

This project, Local Councils 2018—Regional College for Politics, aims to ensure that more women leaders are elected by providing them with training, support and the tools and know-how during and after the election process. Through a Coalition of major women’s organizations, We Power seeks to mobilize more than 3,000 women and successfully encourage them to compete for political office in the municipal elections.  Once elected, they will provide training, support and networking for them to be successful in the political sphere. 

Adva Center: $14,000

Numbers Are Not Enough:  Women Politicians Need a Progressive Feminist Agenda is a new initiative to train incumbent and aspiring female politicians on feminist thought and provide them with an understanding of the implications of policies on women and girls so they will be equipped with the knowledge to work for changes to benefit the diversity of women. 

Providing training and tools to support women advocates

Anu – Making Change: $10,000

This grant supports the Women’s Activist Forum: “Achot, Shtayim, Shalosh” which was established in 2017 to consolidate a visible and influential feminist activist community to take action in solidarity for joint causes.  Through the provision of training and Anu’s action toolkit, Forum participants will advance their campaigns addressing a broad array of issues and bring about long-term improvements.


Protecting Rights of Immigrant Women and Girls

Tahirih Justice Center: $20,000

Protecting Immigrant Women and Girls Fleeing Violence provides access to justice for low-income female asylum-seekers fleeing gender-based violence.  Attorneys represent women and girls and their cases may help set legal precedent. They provide training for professionals in the community who, particularly in an environment with rapidly changing administrative policies, often lack current information and understanding of the legal remedies available.

Freeing women from abusive relationships

Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (JCADA): $15,000

The AWARE program teaches young people to recognize and avoid unhealthy relationships.  AWARE uses interactive models to create an open environment for discussion while teaching young people, parents and educators the signs of unhealthy relationships and the tools to help themselves or friends.  The goal of the program is to break the cycle of abuse.  Dating violence prevention workshops are presented at public and private schools, camps, and other youth organizations. 

Freeing women from sexual and physical abuse

Sacred Spaces: $18,000

Safeguarding Synagogues aims to empower a cross-denominational cohort of DC-area synagogues to become healthy spaces where sexual abuse and assault are actively prevented and immediately addressed.  Sacred Spaces will provide the participating synagogues with the tools and guidance to develop and implement substantial abuse-prevention measures and develop protocol for responding to complaints.   Their focus on changing institutional culture through concrete policies and training helps to  opportunities for abuse and helps synagogues respond appropriately. 

Asian Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project: $12,000

The Voicing the Unspoken: Addressing Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in the Asian/Pacific Islander Community program addresses domestic violence and sexual assault in the metropolitan DC area’s Asian/Pacific Islander community by leveraging culturally and linguistically accessible and appropriate outreach strategies, including workshops and presentations, while enabling survivors to rebuild their lives.  The outreach program focuses on preventing domestic abuse and sexual assault by shifting community dialogue and traditional beliefs through education of adults and youth, training and promoting awareness in the community. 

Kayan Feminist Organization: $14,000

Ending Violence Against Arab Women in Israel From a Holistic Grassroots Approach addresses the root causes of violence against Arab women in Israel.  The project aims to break the taboos for open discussion, empower women to report violations, create a supportive environment for women to speak out against violence, support women and youth being community leaders in the effort to end violence against women, and put eliminating violence against women on the agenda. 

Haifa Rape Crisis Center: $3,000

#FreeConsent: Teen Leadership Talking About Sexual Violence encourages teenagers to become leaders in their community in condemning sexual violence and working with their peers to end it.  The teen-led advocacy focuses on bettering the lives of girls by fighting gender biases and gender-based violence. 


Improving civil discourse in a politically polarized society

Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom: $12,000

Responding to Hate: Training Muslim and Jewish Women in Spiritual Activism is a one-day workshop for the Jewish and Muslim members of local DC chapters to develop the skills and confidence to respond to hate through spiritual activism.  Spiritual activism is creating social change with a spirit of compassion and a faith-based platform. 

Together Beyond Words: $3,000

Together Beyond Words uses a theater ensemble to enable young Israeli Arab and Jewish women to work as change agents for peace.  Funding of the program From Stage to Change lll: Cultivating Young Jewish and Arab Women Students’ Leadership in Working for Women’s Empowerment and for Intercultural Understanding in Israel supports implementation of the program building relationships and trust between young Arab and Jewish women college students, and empowers them with leadership skills. 


Providing girls with life skills training to break the cycle of poverty

Florence Crittenton Services of Greater Washington: $10,000

Positive Youth Development Programs for Immigrant Teen Girls in Montgomery County, MD provides school-based, positive youth development programs for 6th-12th grade girls from low-income, largely immigrant families that enable them to break the cycle of poverty.  The programs encourage girls to stay in school, avoid pregnancy, graduate from high school, and go on to college and careers. 


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Innovation Symposium Will Look at Gender-Based Giving, Participatory Grantmaking

Innovations in International Philanthropy is sponsored by Fidelity Charitable, Veris Wealth Partners, the Boston Foundation, and many other notable partners in the corporate and nonprofit sectors.

Good news for the philanthropic sector, as mainstream philanthropy appears to be embracing key concepts and strategies related to gender equality and a more relational way to do grantmaking.

The latest example of this trend? New England International Donors (NEID) and The Philanthropic Initiative’s Center for Global Philanthropy have gotten together to co-host  the 2018 Innovations in International Philanthropy Symposium at MIT’s Samberg Center September 6-7, 2018. The goal of this event is to “propel forward the capacity and impact of internationally-oriented philanthropists, including individuals, families, foundations, investors, and corporate funders.”

But here’s the really good part: this symposium will involve systems strategizing, gender-based giving, and participatory grant-making, all key concepts to feminist philanthropy. Lisa Jackson, managing partner of Imago Dei Fund, will be facilitating a workshop on  “Introducing a Gender Lens to Your Philanthropy.” Jen Bokoff of The Foundation Center and Diana Samarasan of the Disability Rights Fund will workshop the subject of “Taking a Participatory Approach to Grantmaking.”

Impact investing will also be discussed, which aligns with feminist philanthropy in that it encourages the use of alternative models for funding social change like Limited Liability Corporations and funding start-up businesses.

The two-day event has an impressive lineup of speakers and workshops. Check it out:


Thursday, September 6, 2018 – at The Boston Foundation

2:00 pm Registration

2:30-2:45 pm Welcome and Opening

Paul Grogan, President, Boston Foundation

Ina Breuer, Executive Director, New England International Donors

Maggi Alexander, Partner and Director of TPI’s Center for Global Philanthropy

2:45-4:00 pm Keynote: Innovations in Global Philanthropy

Raj Panjabi, co-founder and CEO of Last Mile Health

(More to be Announced.)

4:00-5:00 pm Collaborative Exercise

5:00-6:00 pm Welcome Reception 

Friday, September 7, 2018 – at the Samberg Conference Center, MIT

8:00 am Registration

8:30-9:15 am Breakfast

Keynote: Connecting Local and Global Philanthropy

(Speakers To be Announced.)

9:15-10:45 am Funder Workshops

  • Ramping Up Your International Philanthropy
    Maggi Alexander, Partner and Director, The Philanthropic Initiative’s Center for Global Philanthropy
    Rebecca Miller, Global Philanthropic Advisor, The Philanthropic Initiative

  • An Action Plan for Launching Your Impact Investing Strategy
    Vilas Dhar, Social Impact Investor and Founder, Next Mile Project

  • Taking a Participatory Approach to Grantmaking
    Jen Bokoff, The Foundation Center, Diana Samarasan, Disability Rights Fund                                                                                   

  • Understanding Philanthropy’s Role in Launching & Scaling Solutions
    Ina Breuer, Executive Director, New England International Donors 

10:45-11:00 am Coffee Break

11:00 am-12:30 pm Funder Workshops 

  • Building a Culture of Engagement in Global Companies
    Joe McGrail, Chief Operating Officer, State Street Foundation, Inc; Managing Director, State Street Corporation; Leslie Pine, Managing Partner, The Philanthropic Initiative; Lauren Ryan, Employee Community Engagement & Strategic Programs, Global Human Resources & Corporate Citizenship, State Street

  • Leveraging Philanthropy and Impact Investing to Support Social Change
    Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO, Acumen

  • Revolutionizing Relationships with Your Grantees
    Andy Bryant, Executive Director, Segal Family Foundation
    Tory Dietel Hopps, Managing Partner Dietel Partners

  • What is Systems Thinking – What Is It and How to Apply It to Your Philanthropy?
    Robert Ricigliano, Systems and Complexity Coach, The Omidyar Group

12:30-2:00 pm Lunch

Keynote: (To Be Announced.) 

2:00-3:30 pm Funder Workshops 

  • Developing a Roadmap for Your Next Steps: Models for Corporate Philanthropy
    Leslie Pine, Managing Partner, The Philanthropic Initiative​​;                                  Crystal Barnes, Executive Director, Nielsen Foundation; Senior Vice President, Global Responsibility & Sustainability, Nielsen Foundation

  • Aligning Your Philanthropy with the SDGs
    Natalie Ross, Vice President of External Relations, Council on Foundations

  • Introducing a Gender Lens to Your Philanthropy
    Lisa Jackson, Managing Partner, Imago Dei Fund

  • Empowering Community Foundations to Support Their International Donors
    Maggi Alexander, Partner and Director, The Philanthropic Initiative’s Center for Global Philanthropy with Ellen Remmer, Senior Partner, The Philanthropic Initiative 

3:30-3:45 pm Coffee Break

3:45-5:00 pm Closing Keynote: The Future of International Philanthropy

Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, Founder, Deshpande Foundation

Early Bird Tickets are available till June 30 and interested parties can register on the symposium website.

Questions regarding the agenda? Contact Odette Ponce, at 


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Continuing the Legacy of African American Giving: HERitage Giving Circle

Guest Author and Philanthropist, Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew

Editor’s Note: The following guest post is written by Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew, philanthropist and founding officer of the HERitage Giving Fund.

As a child, I saw my parents in Shreveport, Louisiana helping others.  At the time, I didn’t realize that the trips to visit the sick, the donations to those in need or even delivering cooked meals, were part of philanthropy in my community.  My involvement in service began as a teen volunteering and has not stopped.  I have made a life of giving.  I now call myself a philanthropist, something I would not have called myself years ago because I didn’t realize that, like my parents, I was a part of this work.

I discovered in my nonprofit career that so few foundations support  organizations of color. Foundations also often focus on narratives of brokenness, instead of supporting organizations that are already community assets, but may not have everything on the checklist to get approved for funding.

I got more involved in African-American giving through the work of Tracey Webb, the founder of the now defunct blog,  In this blog, Tracey offered a glimpse into everyday individuals who were making a difference through their giving.  I had the pleasure of writing for the blog for a number of years, which strengthened my awareness of the impact of black philanthropy.

Working with Tracey introduced me to the idea of giving circles.  Tracey started Black Benefactors, a giving circle based in Washington, DC, and was wildly successful at bringing a group of African American professionals together to donate not just money but time and talent to African American causes and leadership.  This year, Black Benefactors made grants to The Black Swan Academy and Scholarchips, two important organizations working in the community to enhance youth opportunities, even for the most marginalized.

I got further inspired about black women’s philanthropy after learning about the African American Women’s Giving Circle in DC, and seeing the success they had in supporting causes for African American women and girls.  Black Philanthropy Month (coming up in August!) was also something that inspired me to get more involved in the space of black giving. 

Ultimately, a documentary called the  The Contradictions of Fair Hope, which won for best long documentary at the Newark Black Film Festival’s Paul Robeson Awards, also reeled me in to the world of black giving. The film provides an example of African American giving by highlighting  the Fair Hope Society in Alabama. Formed by freed slaves in 1888, the Fair Hope society helped those most in need: the sick, the hungry, and those who had lost a loved one and needed funds for burial. The society worked as a form of insurance, where members paid 10 cents a month to be entitled to the services, and leftover funds went toward a yearly celebration.

When Akilah Wallace, the founder of the HERitage Giving Circle approached me and Dr. Halima Leak Francis to be a part of creating the first African American Women’s Giving Circle in Texas, I was reminded of our legacy from the past, and wanted to be part of something even more powerful for the future. HERitage Giving Fund was founded August 2017, during Black History Month. The mission of the HERitage Giving Fund, a giving circle at Dallas Women’s Foundation, is to encourage philanthropy in the African-American/Black community, to contribute in a strategic and meaningful way, and to bring a new source of funding to nonprofit organizations serving African-American women and girls throughout North Texas.

Brooch for HERitage Giving Circle members.

HERitage is committed to engaging Black women of varying economic status and backgrounds, who have a heart for investing in organizations, often grassroots, and/or start ups. Often these organizations have limited access to funding sources to support basic operating needs (staff income, supplies, transportation, etc.), help to increase service capacity and reach, and sustain much-needed program services over time. This is why Heritage Giving Fund and other giving circles are so important.

The HERitage Giving Fund awards grants to organizations that are located in North Texas, led by African American women, using a gender lens to frame strategies, and have a sound mission and objectives for impact. HERitage Giving Fund also serves as a hub for social events and discussion on how to build empowerment through philanthropy.

I serve as a Founding Officer and Grants Committee Chair.  To date, we have raised more than $20,000 (and are still collecting funds through the end of July).  We will accept applications in August and announce those selected to receive funds from the members in the late October/November.  We are successful because of our members’ commitment. It has been amazing to work with a group of women who are so committed in their local community.  It is even more impressive that these community role models use their resources to continue this rich legacy of giving.

For more information on HERitage Giving Circle and ways that you can get involved, please email us at


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Supporting Women-Led Enterprises in South East Asia: Root Capital Partners with Australian Government

Root Capital is partnering with an Australian Program to provide loans for women in agriculture in South East Asia.

While some feminist thought leaders such as Chief Executive of Women’s World Banking of Ghana, Charlotte Baidoo, are calling on microfinance institutions to do more when it comes to lending to women, Root Capital is beginning a new partnership with the Australian Government to do just that.

Root Capital will partner with the Australian Government’s program,  Investing in Women, to deploy $2 million AUD (approximately $1.49 million U.S. dollars) in a ten-year program to support women business owners in South East Asia.  As a partner of Investing in Women, Root Capital plans to bring in private sector co-investments for women’s small and medium-sized agricultural businesses in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

Microfinance in general has seen a large increase in funding over the past year, with reports of a 40% surge in capital in the microfinance markets. Now, organizations like Root Capital are taking the lead in helping women enter the economy and succeed in business.

“This is a major step forward for the impact investing and agricultural finance sectors,” says Root Capital’s Founder and CEO, Willy Foote. “Together with Investing in Women, we will catalyze the growth of women-led businesses throughout South East Asia—and in so doing, will significantly improve the livelihoods of both women and men in rural communities.”

The initial investment from Root Capital will fund new loans for women in Indonesia, where the organization has had a presence for the past three years. Root Capital’s work in Indonesia has resulted in more than $23 million in loans to ten agricultural businesses, improving incomes for more than 10,000 producers.

Root Capital launched its Women in Agriculture Initiative in 2012 and has since reached more than 270,000 women producers per year. This new partnership with Investing in Women will help to bring more women into leadership of agriculture in South East Asia. While women make up 50% of the agricultural workforce in South East Asia, they are less likely to be in leadership positions and lack access to training and resources like fertilizer and farm machinery.  According to a press release announcing this new partnership, if access for women to key components of the agricultural business were equalized, “farm yields would increase by up to 30 percent—growth which could significantly increase rural incomes and reduce global hunger.”

Root Capital is a pioneer in both gender lens investing and in feminist philanthropy.  An editorial published on Philanthropy Women last year, written by Charlotte Wagner of the Wagner Foundation and Catherine Gill, Executive Vice President of Root Capital, articulated key concepts in feminist philanthropy that guide the work.


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Praising the Deeds of Women: How Gender Equity and Reconciliation Can Change the World

Women encircle men during a closing ceremony at the Gender Equity and Reconciliation Initiative retreat in Framingham, MA.

When I told my husband I was going to a three-day retreat on gender reconciliation, he was genuinely excited for me, but he couldn’t help getting in a sarcastic reference to cliché. “Are you going to hold hands and sing kumbaya?” he asked.

I thought for a moment, and then my eyes lit up. “I think so!” I said.

The Gender Equity and Reconciliation International (GERI) retreat held in Framingham, MA did indeed involve some hand-holding and song-singing. But it also did much more, traveling into a realm of meaningful communication and understanding where I have never been before.

And yes, the singing and holding hands were a part of that. We sang traditional Christian ballads like Amazing Grace and Taize chants like Ubi Caritas, as well as songs and mantras from different parts of the world. My favorite song, and the song that has stuck with me since the retreat (I taught it to my children, and now we chant it every so often) was a South African Khosa song with the refrain, “Igama lama kosi kazi Malibongwe,” which translates roughly as, “Let us Praise the Deeds of Women.”

Cynthia Brix set the tone for the three days early on, helping the community of 48 women and men understand that their full participation in the retreat program would help provide a protected environment for everyone. We agreed to a list of community rules, including the necessary protocols of maintaining confidentiality and taking responsibility for one’s own experience, and also not engaging in any intimate relationships with people we met on the retreat. All of this helped to establish a shared sense of trust, safety, and healthy boundaries for the three days.

It wasn’t all comfortable, this three days of being in a diverse mix of Evangelical Christian leaders and progressive liberals, plus two young adults who grew up in a community-based orphanage in India who are training as GERI facilitators. Some were there from Rwanda and Lebanon, while others came from Florida and New York.

Some issues were talked about openly, and others were discussed more privately. One woman spoke with me privately about how difficult it was working in a Christian church in New England, after spending most of her career working in media in the southern United States. The mostly male clergy of the church she worked for didn’t seem to hold her in the same high regard as some of their other male colleagues, she said. It was an experience she was accustomed to in other professional settings, but had hoped would be different when working for the church.

For some, I imagine it was much more difficult engaging with people who were colleagues at the retreat. Afterward they would be returning to the hierarchies of their workplaces, so everything they said here at the retreat had to be measured against that. And yet it didn’t feel like people were shutting down or not going into the deeper places in their sharing of experiences. But some were certainly proceeding with more caution than others.

Origins of Gender Equity and Reconciliation International

William Keepin and Cynthia Brix have been facilitating gender equity and reconciliation programs for 26 years, and both come to the work with rich and complex professional histories that bring both science and religion into the mix. Earlier in his career, Keepin was heavily involved in scientific research on global warming and sustainable energy, and his research influenced environmental policies in many countries. Keepin discussed his earlier life in science and gave a presentation on how science and spirituality are related, with pictures of fractals and mini-fractals inside of them. “Fractals are the most complex mathematical structures ever discovered, yet they are precisely ordered by the simplest of principles,” writes Keepin in his 2016 book, Belonging to God: Science, Spirituality & a Universal Path of Divine Love.

Similarly, in a phone interview following the retreat, Cynthia Brix spoke with me about how gender equity and reconciliation facilitates a seemingly simple process, and yet the process reveals deep complexities in human relationships, and gives us the opportunity to shift our perspectives on large categories of thought and behavior. Some of the most in-depth research findings on GERI were presented in 2016 by Dr. Samantha van Schalkwyk, who found that students who participated in GERI programs shifted their underlying “gender ideologies” in a positive direction.

Brix comes to the work as Co-founding Director of GERI after being a campus minister at the University of Colorado-Boulder. She completed seminary at Iliff School of Theology, and has trained extensively in meditation, which definitely showed in how she facilitated the retreat. Along with conducting over 120 gender reconciliation workshops in nine countries, she has also led interfaith spirituality retreats for women and has supported projects for women’s empowerment in India.

Deepening the Conversation with the Home Group

My home group, a randomly-chosen group of four people that would meet several times throughout the workshop, consisted of two male clergy from the same church and a female professor of theology from a seminary in New York. When we were invited to share about how our early lives were shaped by gendered messages, one of the clergy talked about how he did not feel athletic enough as a boy and that this was a difficult challenge for him. We all shared stories like this, some in more general terms and others in more substantive or vulnerable terms, with the end result that we created a sense of community that grew and deepened over time.  

On the evening of the first night, we did group skits to explore some of the toxic dynamics we’ve all experienced in gender relations. I played a pregnant secretary being harassed by a male boss, and tried to look shocked as he told me I would be fired because I wasn’t good enough. We had designed the skit so that an African-American woman advised me to go to Human Resources, but I wouldn’t listen to her. Then an older white woman would give me the same advice, and then I did listen, which highlighted the intersectionalities between gender and racial oppression. Others took roles in the workplace of encouraging me to “go along to get along,” and just get accustomed to the way the boss talked to me. We could all feel ourselves becoming more comfortable with one another as we engaged in the improv, and the process served to validate that sometimes boundaries of behavior could be played with for fun, especially in the service of understanding and transforming these dysfunctional patterns.

Day Two: Wading into More Troubled Waters

On day two, things got a little heavier, as we separated into male and female identifying subgroups. In her own reflections on the retreat, donor-activist Emily Nielsen Jones talks about the power of encircling our gender pain, and on day two we really delved into that process. These separate women’s and men’s groups afforded another level of gender safety, and we each unravelled a story from our lives that continues to have emotional impact related to gender.  One woman spoke of a relationship with a man where he failed to commit to her and how it made her feel both angry and deeply sad.  Another talked about her difficulty expressing anger. As a professional in church, she felt there was little room for her to reveal the full range of her emotions and their intensity.

In the afternoon and evening of day two, the process went more deeply into men’s groups and women’s groups witnessing each other, as we told the stories of how gender had impacted us emotionally. At one point one of the male members got into a little trouble, coming into the women’s group and doing something silly, probably trying to lighten the mood, but a woman called attention to the inappropriateness of this. The man took full responsibility for his faux pas, and ended up impressing me with how carefully and thoroughly he apologized, promising to reflect on the situation and his actions, and do better in the future.

Day Three: Celebration

The last day was the most celebratory. I don’t want to divulge too much about it, but I’ll just offer a tease by saying it involved both singing and chocolate. Throughout the process, both the men and the women created unique ceremonies to praise each other, and to help each other shed toxic cultural ideas about gender identity.

Brix and Keepin generally like to keep to the three-day length of the gender equity and reconciliation work. “We have a variety of program offerings, with the three-day process as our primary introductory program,” said Brix. “Witnessing the transformation that can happen in community in the short space of three days is awe-inspiring, and is something desperately needed in our troubled world today.”  

“We’ve worked in diverse sectors ranging from universities, prisons, NGO’s, and religious organizations to Members of Parliament in South Africa,” said Brix. They have also done more targeted work, helping a group of therapists in Florida specializing in recovery from sexual trauma. “There’s an intimacy that has been lost in our cultures across communities and across the globe, and people are longing for a deeper more meaningful connections.”

Others who attended the retreat also had powerful words for their experiences. “To call my experience transformational is not overstated,” said Jorge Rico, a corporate consultant and trainer who attended the retreat. “I left with a deep and passionate commitment to play an active role in bridging the divide between women and men.”

Craig Parker, a member of the clergy who attended the retreat also spoke about its impact. “Rarely have I experienced such vulnerability, rawness, empathy and grace as I did on this retreat. I will treasure the stories I heard from you, and I plan to implement the lessons learned as I engage with students, young professionals, prisoners and fellow ministers.”

Philbert Kalisa, the Founder and CEO of REACH in Rwanda, had this to say: “The sharing from women to men touched my heart deeply and pushed me to repent for not speaking out some of the injustices I see often in our churches and societies connected with our culture that doesn’t consider women as equal as men. I made my decision not to keep quiet anymore. I will advocate for women created in the image of God as our mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and nieces.”

For me, the process of immersion back into the real world was gradual. I felt I carried the energy of being at the retreat with me for well over a week, imparting bits and pieces of it to my family and my clients — using new words, new phrases, practicing different techniques for facilitating new thinking both in my own life and in my therapy work.

Who Funds Gender Equity and Reconciliation International?

Of course, this work would not get far without funders who recognize its deep value and potential to impact lives. In 2017, those funders include philanthropic foundations including the Novo Foundation ($50,000), the Imago Dei Fund ($50,000) the Kalliopeia Foundation ($50,000), the International Community Foundation ($60,000), the S.C. Rain Foundation ($20,000), and the Roy A. Hunt Foundation ($5,000).  A number of individual donors also contribute substantially.  

Divine Duality: The Power of Reconciliation Between Women and Men, authored by William Keepin with Cynthia Brix and Molly Dwyer, also references foundation support from the San Francisco Foundation, the Shaler Adams Foundation, the Hidden Leaf Foundation, the Cunningham Family Grant Fund, the Tides Foundation, the Giant Steps Foundation, and the Rockwood Fund.

For the recent retreat in Framingham, funders included Imago Dei Fund, where co-founder Emily Nielsen Jones is pioneering new ways to create a more gender-equal world.


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More Sports Funding for Girls? Yes, Please!

Take it from Phaidra Knight, retired professional rugby player, who speaks in the above video about the value of funding initiatives like Sports 4 Life:”It really doesn’t matter your speed, your size, it’s just what you bring, your unique self, to the game,” said Knight. She went on to emphasize that with sports, young people have the opportunity become part of a team, which can lead to personal growth and improved self-confidence. “I think it’s so important, especially that girls from disadvantaged backgrounds have that opportunity. That is sometimes their ticket and access to greater things across the board.”

The Sports 4 Life Initiative is particularly aimed at increasing and retaining African-American and Hispanic girls in youth sports programs. Sports 4 Life was cofounded by the Women’s Sports Foundation and espnW in 2014. This year, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation also joined the initiative, providing regional support to eight organizations in Southeast Michigan and Western New York.

The Women’s Sports Foundation was founded by Billie Jean King in 1974 with guiding mission of strengthening and expanding access for girls and women to all sports.  As many of us know, sports participation can be an important window of opportunity for young girls, but there is such a huge gap in attention given to girls in sports versus men and boys. Every day, just for fun, I scroll through all the sports sections of the news online, just to see how many times I see a woman or a girl. It’s probably less than 10% of the time. How often do I see a woman or girl of color? Probably 5 to 10%. A sliver of a sliver.

Programs like Sports 4 Life are aimed at providing more parity for girls of color across a wide range of sports. “Even more than we believe in the power of sports, the Women’s Sports Foundation believes that all girls – regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, ability, zip code or family income – deserve equitable access to the lifelong benefits of sports,” said Deborah Antoine, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Since Sports 4 Life began in 2014, the Initiative has awarded 200 grants totaling more than $1.1 million, and reaching more than 50,000 girls nationally. This year, the Initiative’s community partners were particularly successful in increasing opportunities for girls of color, with more than 85% percent of girl participants being African-American or Hispanic.

Learn more about the 2018 grant recipients here.

The Women’s Sports Foundation will begin accepting applications for 2019 this fall. For further information and timelines for the 2019 grant cycle, please visit


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New Prize Awards $1 Million to Create a Safer World for Women

The team from Leaf Wearables, winner of the $1 million prize in the Anu and Naveen Jain Women’s Safety competition. The prize was facilitated by XPRIZE, a new platform that specializes in “designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges.” (Photo courtesy of XPRIZE.)

Finding new ways for women to be safe in the community is still a high priority for feminist philanthropists everywhere. Now, with a new competition funded by  Anu and Naveen Jain, more tools will be available for women to access emergency response.

The Anu and Naveen Jain Women’s Safety XPRIZE recently announced the winner of its $1 million competition:  an Indian company called Leaf Wearables, which created a new device for triggering emergency response. The low-cost device, called SAFER, is aimed at making as many as one billion families safer.

“Safety is a fundamental human right and should not be considered a luxury for women,” said Anu Jain, who, along with her husband Naveen is co-founder of InfoSpace and is a Community Relations leader at Viome. The focus of much of Anu Jain’s philanthropy is centered on empowering women and girls. “With so many advances in innovation and technology today, it was unacceptable to us that we didn’t have a solution to help curb this sexual assault pandemic.”

Statistics about the high levels of harassment women face in India are startling. As many as 92% of women in New Delhi report experiencing some form of violence in public spaces over the course of their lives.

“We have been working tirelessly to solve the problem of safety using technology,” said Leaf Wearables team leader Manik Mehta. Leaf Wearables comes to the prize with the advantage of having significant market experience and success with an early version of SAFER that has aleady sold thousands of units in Indian markets.

“Women’s safety is not just a third world problem; we face it every day in our own country and on our college campuses. It’s not a red state problem or a blue state problem but a national problem,” said Naveen Jain, co-founder of the Women’s Safety XPRIZE and board member for XPRIZE. Naveen is the founder of multiple tech companies including Moon Express, Viome, Bluedot, TalentWise, Intelius and InfoSpace.

The competition launched in October of 2016. Eighty-five initial teams engaged in the competition, coming from 18 countries worldwide including the United States, India, Switzerland, Canada, Spain, Germany, China and United Arab Emirates. Prototypes for the competition were submitted in April of this year, and the five finalist for the prize engaged in a process of testing their solutions to see how the devices would function in diverse environments including high rise office buildings, college campuses, in public transit, and at home. Importantly, all of these devices are designed to work in areas where no cellular connection is available.

XPRIZE is a platform that specializes in helping nonprofits conduct competitions aimed at solving big world problems. Active competitions include the the $15M Global Learning XPRIZE, the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE, and the $5M IBM Watson AI XPRIZE.

From the Prize Announcement:


  • SAFER Pro from Leaf Wearables (New Delhi, India) – Led by Manik Mehta, a smart safety device that sends emergency alerts with location details to a users’ guardians when they sense danger. SAFER Pro is a small chip that can ultimately be put into any device or jewelry with a discreet emergency alert button. When the alert is received, it additionally lets you record audio from the time of the alert.


  • Artemis (Lausanne, Switzerland) – Led by Dr. Nicee Srivastava, Artemis is developing a device that can be used to trigger an alert not just by a gesture, but also by seamlessly tracking emotional threat levels.
  • Nimb & SafeTrek (Los Altos, CA and St. Louis, MO, United States) – Led by Leo Bereschanskiy and Nick Droege, Nimb collaborates with SafeTrek to provide their customers an option to call for professional emergency services with just a touch of the thumb. The company was founded in response to rising concerns about safety on and off campus. Both teams work together to make the world a safer place.
  • Saffron (Bellevue, WA, United States; Tsinghua, China) – Led by Nicholas Becker, Saffron is a collaboration between the University of Washington and Tsinghua University through the Global Innovation eXchange (GIX), focused on developing wearable sensors and machine learning algorithms to create inconspicuous technologies that improve the safety and well-being of women around the world.
  • Soterra (Bethlehem, PA, United States) – Led by Lena McDonnell, Soterra used a combination of global positioning services, cellular data and bluetooth to build a versatile, reliable and affordable network to connect women to emergency support systems.


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