Year-End Thoughts and My Interview for Women’s Fund of Rhode Island

Happy Holidays from Philanthropy Women Editor and Publisher Kiersten Marek

One of the main reasons I started Philanthropy Women was to shine a spotlight on women givers, because I noticed that knowing more about them made me feel better about the world. Rather than logging on to Twitter and reading the toxic political discourse, I decided to fill up my Twitter feed with women’s funds and other feminist philanthropy thought leaders. The result was astonishing — I was suddenly getting new information about so many issues related to women — their health, their money, their professional lives. The process of turning my attention to progressive feminist philanthropy also turned me into a feminist donor, as I realized how well women’s giving to gender equality aligned with my own social justice interests.

As a specialty publisher in the feminist philanthropy field, Philanthropy Women strives to contribute significantly to the pool of stories about gender equality givers. Our guiding belief is that publishing these stories helps other people activate their own change process and do more to address gender inequality in their own lives and in the world around them. 

The stories we cover on Philanthropy Women are enjoying more attention all the time, and are also subsequently getting attention on larger platforms, both within philanthropy and in the mainstream media. In addition, more of our content is now making it into the real time news on Google, Bing, and other large search engines. This means we are doing exactly what the Women’s Philanthropy Institute’s research says we need to do if we want to create more gender equality givers — adding to the information about how individuals and groups are giving to this area of philanthropy. By your joining us in watching and learning about feminist philanthropy, you are aiding in the process of creating more donors for the sector.

I’ll be taking a break here for a few weeks, to more fully be present for the holidays with loved ones, but before I go I’d like to share the interview I recently did with the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, since I think it does a good job of distilling my beliefs about feminist philanthropy and why it is so important in the world today.

Peace and joy to you and yours as we head into the New Year!

My Interview with Women’s Fund of Rhode Island

How did you come to know about the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island? 

WFRI first came onto my radar when I saw the work you do with educating legislatures about issues important to women. I followed WFRI’s leadership on this from the fund’s founding Executive Director, Marcia Coné, to later Jenn Steinfeld, and now on to Kelly Nevins. It is inspiring to see how WFRI researches and articulates such critical information that helps guide public policy.

What is the background of Philanthropy Women and what is your mission?

I started Philanthropy Women after two and half years of writing for Inside Philanthropy with David Callahan, who introduced me to the world of feminist philanthropy. I soon realized that I was overflowing with story ideas about feminist philanthropy and decided to develop my own platform to ensure the news and information I was publishing was making it into public discourse. Our mission at Philanthropy Women is to shine a spotlight on strategies for creating a more gender equal world, as well as the history of women’s giving for gender equality, so that more people know about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

At Philanthropy Women, we believe that feminist philanthropy has the capacity to change the game for so many facets of living — for the economy, for politics, for relationships, for corporations, for nonprofits, for animals, for the environment. It is a philosophy and a strategy that we believe could help humans live more peacefully on earth, as it influences all systems to be more inclusive and relational.

How do you see the work you do with Philanthropy Women intersecting with the work of WFRI?

On the most practical level, we are quite related — sort of like cousins in the feminist philanthropy ecosystem. The Women’s Funding Network, of which WFRI is a member, is the fiscal sponsor for Philanthropy Women, which means they help me access grant funding to produce our content. Also, as a publisher focused on women’s funding, I am always keeping an eye on WFRI, and I’ve written several posts about your grant-making and other activities. I enjoy attending WFRI events and meeting other members, so it feels like my local chapter of the women’s funding world.

What advice do you have for women who want to engage in philanthropy, and in particular support organizations like ours?

Forgive me for quoting a corporate slogan, but just do it! I really enjoy being in the community of women givers, and have had some wonderful experiences going to conferences and retreats. Everyone has to find their tribe at some point, and I definitely feel like I found my tribe with progressive women givers. We are concerned with solving big problems that will make the world a better place, and it’s working. Women are moving into leadership in greater numbers. Men are openly proclaiming that they are feminists and are doing more to support gender equality. People are beginning to recognize the negative impacts of inequality, domination, and exploitation at all levels of society.

Is there anything else you feel is important to note about the current environment of women in philanthropy?

It’s encouraging to watch women figure out how to leverage their personal and financial power in order to address gender equality. If you are interested in knowing more about women givers, or in sharing a story about women’s philanthropy and how it has impacted your life, I would love to hear from you.


Research Reveals Common Traits for Gender Equality Givers

Small But Mighty: Women’s Fund of Rhode Island Makes New Round of Grants

Women’s Funds Deploy $58.4 Million in Funding in Two Years

Kathy LeMay on Regenerating Courage as a Social Change Agent

WFN Launches New Resource and Community Hub for Women Entrepreneurs

WPI Study: What Influences Men Vs. Women to Give to Gender Equality?

WPI’s new report has important implications for both fundraising and the role of philanthropy media in spotlighting gender equality giving.

The phenomenon of watching others do something before we do it ourselves: it’s a process that seems hard-wired into humans. And in fact, prior research from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy shows that when we see others giving to charity, we are more inclined to engage in that same giving behavior ourselves.

Now, new research from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute investigates how the process of observing giving behavior in others plays out differently for men and women, particularly when they are considering making a donation to women and girls.

Takeaway for Fundraisers: Men Need to See Men Giving

This new research, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, uncovered a significant gender difference: women only need to see other women as role models in order to be influenced toward gender equality giving, whereas men need to see both men and women as role models in order to be influenced toward the behavior.

“Women’s and girls’ organizations and fundraisers in general can use this research to take concrete action to increase their fundraising,” said Debra J. Mesch, Ph.D., the Eileen Lamb O’Gara Chair in Women’s Philanthropy at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

One solution to this problem: showcase men giving to women’s and girls’ causes alongside women. This research suggests that fundraising professionals can potentially reach more male donors by featuring testimonials and donor stories from men about their decision to fund women’s and girls’ causes.

The study also notes that fundraisers across philanthropy would do well to apply this finding to any other group of donors that may not be giving to their fullest capacity. The research validates that testimonials and donor spotlights on a diverse range of givers may help more people envision themselves as givers to any cause. “Apply this ‘visibility’ strategy to any group that typically gives less frequently to your organization,” advises the infographic that accompanies the report.

Implications for Philanthropy Media: Showcase Diverse Givers of All Genders and Backgrounds

This study affirms that having visible role models is key for any social movement. As more stories of gender equality giving make it into the mainstream media, more people are able to find role models to envision themselves giving in this way. While publishers in the philanthropy sector like The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Inside Philanthropy all cover gender equality giving, it would be helpful if they shared more stories that feature a wider range of givers to gender equality, so that the public has more examples of how different people arrive at gender equality giving as a priority.

Takeaway for Feminist Philanthropy Media (Like Us!): Keep Sharing Stories of Gender Equality Giving 

The reports speaks to the role that social media sites like Facebook and crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe play in increasing the visibility of people giving. We here at Philanthropy Women would argue that another important part of the landscape for social visibility and discourse around feminist philanthropy is specialized publishing on the subject. Many philanthropy media sites feature stories of gender equality giving, but Philanthropy Women is the only publication specifically dedicated to profiling this uniquely powerful work.


Research Reveals Common Traits for Gender Equality Givers

Ripple Effect: Longtime Expert to Cultivate Giving Circles Worldwide

Priming the Pump: Exploring Ways to Grow Women’s Giving

New ED and Board Chair of Women Moving Millions Bring Financial and Legislative Power

Empowering Women by Changing Men: Promundo’s Global Fight for Gender Equality

NYWF Receives $300 K for Artistic and Gender-Based Justice Reforms

The Art for Justice Fund has awarded the New York Women’s Foundation $300,000 to pursue criminal justice reforms that will keep women and girls out of jail and prison.

What is the capacity for art to influence social change? The New York Women’s Foundation and its Justice Fund now have more funding to explore this question, particularly as it relates to women and girls involved with criminal justice. Recently, The New York Women’s Foundation  (The Foundation) announced receiving an  award of $300,000 from the Art for Justice Fund.

The grant will go to support The Justice Fund, a seven-year initiative launched under the umbrella of the foundation in fall 2018. The goal of the Justice Fund is to decrease mass incarceration and overcome the negative impacts of incarceration on women and girls. The Justice Fund is working toward this goal by supporting organizations using art to promote justice, safety, and well-being in the community.

“We’re so thankful to Agnes Gund, the visionary and transformative philanthropist, who founded the Art for Justice Fund,” said Ana Oliveira, President and CEO of the New York Women’s Foundation. Gund is also one of the first members of the Foundation’s Justice Fund collaborative, and was one of the earliest supporters of The New York Women’s Foundation.

The Art for Justice Fund is a five-year initiative created by Agnes Gund and dedicated to reducing mass incarceration through the collective action of artists, advocates, and donors. Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and the Ford Foundation are also partners in the endeavor.

One unusual aspect of The Justice Fund is its family-centered approach. “Women and families are seldom at the center of criminal justice reform and when women are incarcerated, the ripple effect on their dependents is profound,” said a press release announcing the $300,000 donation.

The Justice Fund is working at the crosshairs of art and social justice in an attempt to influence public systems, including the courts, health care, housing, child welfare and immigration. Through artist expression, advocacy and coordinated giving, the Justice Fund is advancing a strategy that is aimed at the root causes of social and economic inequality.

“We are at a unique moment in time to drive meaningful, long-term change,” said Helena Huang, project director for the Art for Justice Fund. “This is why the Art for Justice Fund exists: to support the work of artists and advocates to seize this moment and accelerate the movement. And this movement is a defining movement of our time.”

A full list of grantees can be found at the Art for Justice website.


New #MeToo Funding Fuels Empathy and Justice for Survivors

New York Women’s Foundation Announces Additional $4 Million in Grants for 2017

Women’s Funds Deploy $58.4 Million in Funding in Two Years

NYWF Report Stresses Urgency of Addressing Child Care, Housing

As Gender Lens Investing Grows, the Social Impact Dividends Expand

Impact Alpha is a digital media company that describes its mission as “redefining business journalism around social and environmental value.”

Recently, I listened in on a call hosted by Catalyst at Large Suzanne Biegel, and author David Bank of Impact Alpha. Guests on the call included Luisamaria Ruiz Carlile of Veris Wealth Partners, which specializes in gender lens investing and research.

The call provided fascinating insights into the world of gender lens investing. Though in its early formative years, gender lens investing is a growing area of financial investment that is destined for big things.

Biegel began the call by giving an overview of both the expanding language and the expanding financial investments in the gender lens investing sector. “Gender lens investing is still small in the relative scheme of things, but it’s so much bigger than it was,” said Biegel. She shared the latest statistics from Project SAGE at the Wharton School of Business Social Impact, which turned up a record 87 funds that are now investing with a gender lens, with 46 of those funds being new creations that occurred between 2017 and 2018.

Biegel described how these funds are more geographically diverse than ever, and also semantically diverse. Along with gender lens investing, the terms used to described this evolving market have branched out with  “gender effect, gender smart, and gender alpha,” and the range of approaches being used have also expanded, with the number of different strategies being used going form 12 in 2017 to 35 in 2018. Across all strategies that include at least one factor of gender analysis, VERIS wealth partners are reporting an estimated $843 billion in money manager assets being devoted to gender-based investing.

Luisamaria Ruiz Carlile of Veris Wealth Partners joined the conversation by recognizing that “we are early on in trying to capture the gender alpha” since the investment sector is so young. Carlile suggested that as more prominent pension funds take on forms of gender lens investing, this could be an important signal to the market that these funds are growing in value and mainstream influence. She gave the example of State Street’s signaling when they unveiled the fearless girl statue on Wall Street as they announced the new ticker for their gender lens ETF.

Carlile talked about how funds managers are listening more to women on the ground running successful businesses, and this is adding to the ability of women to function more powerfully as business owners. To expand on this point, Sharron McPherson joined the conversation and talked about the organization that she helped co-found  —  Winde (Women in Infrastructure, Development, and Energy) —  a collective of 2,000 women construction and real estate professionals in Africa.

The call also highlighted the importance of gender lens public initiatives such as the one taking place in the New York City Economic Development Corporation under the leadership of Eric Clement. This initiative is providing $10 million to back women entrepreneurs in New York City and help build a more gender diverse procurement pipeline for public sector projects.

While gender lens grantmaking and gender lens investing are separate areas of feminist activity, it’s important to recognize that the two have some overlapping purposes. Biegel emphasized how gender alpha investing provides a value dividend across multiple domains — by growing women’s leadership in government and business, for example, while also addressing issues that disparately affect women and girls such as education and health care, or women’s leadership in steering efforts that address water access and climate change.


Women’s Growing Financial Power: Gender Lens Investing Explodes in 2017

Reasons to be Thankful: Gender Alpha and Record Voter Turnout

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

New ED and Board Chair of Women Moving Millions Bring Financial and Legislative Power

Gender Matters All the Time: 9 of Philanthropy’s Most Powerful Gender Lens Investors

WFN’s Cynthia Nimmo Reflects on 2018 and Future of Feminism

Cynthia Nimmo, CEO of the Women’s Funding Network, shares her epiphanies about this past year, and her vision of a more feminist future to come.

Like many organizations in the women’s funding community, Women’s Funding Network had a robust year of working on the issues most important to women, including financial empowerment, collaborating with men as allies, and strategic leveraging as a donor and an advocate.

To go a little deeper into this past year of activity in feminist philanthropy, we decided to talk to Cynthia Nimmo, CEO of the Women’s Funding Network, and hear about what it felt like to run one of the most important organizations in the women’s funding space.

By operating regionally or at the state level, women’s funds add an essential level of leadership to gender equality work, since they are not controlled by government or corporate entities. This gives women’s funds the freedom to speak and act on issues that impact women, with less fear of political or corporate retaliation. By forming large collaboratives like the Women’s Funding Network, women’s funds are able to advocate for progress on the issues that women are dealing with on the ground — harassment, for example, or lack of access to health care — and support ways to address issues systemically through partnership between all sectors of society — business, nonprofit, and government.

This is why I support Women’s Funding Network as a donor. This year, I am urging all feminists to support WFN as a way to address gender issues and help us build a healthier world for all. In Cynthia Nimmo’s responses below, you will hear how WFN increased knowledge and strategy for gender equality on so many critical issues this past year.  I am confident that WFN brings added strength to gender equality movements both in the U.S. and globally, and I hope you will join me in supporting the critical role they play in moving toward a more gender equal world.

And now, some questions and responses with Cynthia Nimmo:

Kiersten Marek: What were some of the highlights of this year at WFN? 

Cynthia Nimmo: Bringing together leaders in gender equity is what we do best, and this year we hosted three powerful summits across the U.S.:  Women + Money; Women and Men as Allies; and Women + Power.  Each were sold-out and drew influencers from sectors beyond philanthropy, including fashion, finance, technology, and sports.  It’s been an absolute highlight to widen our circle to include the ever-growing audience of those who invest in gender equity.

There’s an alchemy that takes place at our summits, and it doesn’t end when the day is over.  Beyond programs and grantmaking, a majority of the members and allies within our network are advocating successfully for policy changes to improve the lives of women and girls.  This multi-pronged approach is what creates lasting change, and this year they asked for opportunities to use their voices together.  Members signed a joint statement decrying the separation of children from their parents on the U.S. border, as an example.  When foundation leaders representing $50 – 80 million/year in grantmaking stand together, it’s meaningful. 

KM: What epiphanies about gender equality came up for you or your staff this year?

CN: The epiphany came around how many people are involved in gender equality, men and women, from within philanthropy and beyond.  Another is about necessity of including a racial equity lens in gender equity work.   One cannot exist without the other.  For those of us working within philanthropy, tasked with funneling resources, we need to be ever-vigilant about who we partner with, how we partner with, and whose leadership is present.

KM: What inspires you most about WFN’s work? 

CN: On the days it feels like there is a backslide for women and girls, I am energized and inspired by the massive number of women using their voice, their money, and their influence to be a part of the universal demand for gender equality.  This wasn’t the case 15 years ago when I joined a movement that many considered to be outdated or unnecessary.  The work was being done by nonprofits, researchers, and others. It wasn’t part of the mainstream conversation. 

Now, women from all walks of life and in all professions are looking at aspects of their lives – from their paychecks, to childcare, to the ads they see – and are asking for something different.  If the change isn’t forthcoming, they themselves are taking up the mantle.  Making the case for gender equity, highlighting ways to get there, and creating opportunities for others to be involved has been our mission for 30 years.  It’s always inspiring!

KM: In the next 10 years, where do you see gender equality movements taking us?

CN: The conversation will become far more nuanced than a general push for equal rights.  We’re already seeing the beginnings of this, from why it’s important to have more women in the corporate boardroom, to why having a representative government is critical for our democracy, even down to things like the authors of books being taught in public schools and the faces on our currency. 

In 10 years, women’s leadership will be visible in every facet of society.  Advances in technology will support immediate sharing of information and opportunity for collective response in real time, in ways we can’t imagine. The programs that are being piloted now to educate boys on gender norms, will become commonplace. Women economists will be in demand, as they will have brought a deeper understanding to the general public about the policies and structures which have created the long-established wealth gap that is detrimental to the health of our families and our countries.   


WFN Summit Explores What it Will Take to Get More Women Elected

Feminists Everywhere: Seattle Hosts WMM and WFN at Same Time

#MeToo and the Power Shift Women’s Funds Helped Create

Support Journalism about Feminist Philanthropy by Subscribing to PW

Rebecca Traister Comes to Rhode Island for Women’s Fund Benefit

New ED and Board Chair of Women Moving Millions Bring Financial and Legislative Power

Sarah Haacke Byrd, Executive Director of Women Moving Millions, played a key role in addressing gender-based violence and the backlog of unprocessed rape kits in the U.S.

After an extensive search and interview process, Women Moving Millions (WMM) recently announced the appointment of Sarah Haacke Byrd as its new Executive Director. Byrd is an influential rising star of the feminist philanthropy community known for being a “joyful warrior” in the ongoing battle for gender equality. Byrd also comes to her new position at WMM with a history of leadership focused on legislative changes that would make the processing of rape kits a necessity in all police investigations of sexual assault.

As the former Managing Director of the  Joyful Heart Foundation, Sarah Haacke Byrd has played a critical role in movement-building around ending sexual violence.  With her work at Joyful Heart, Byrd helped to convene a national community of sexual violence survivors, legislators, law enforcement, and major funders, to shed light on the frightening fact that rape kits frequently go untested. Byrd helped raise an estimated $169 million in new funding to address this lack of testing of rape kits, resulting in the passage of 35 laws in 26 states.

Founded in 2007 by sisters Helen LaKelly Hunt and Swanee Hunt, Women Moving Millions is focused on supporting women donors who are making large-scale investments in women and girls that are aiding in the global fight for gender equality. By taking on this key leadership role at WMM, Byrd will be steering one of the most significant and powerful networks for funding gender equality worldwide.

Earlier this year, Byrd testified before the California Legislature regarding legislation to mandate the processing of rape kits.  This legislation passed in the House and Senate in California, and is only being held up by the Governor’s veto for budgetary reasons, so will likely proceed to a full pass in the near future. Byrd’s testimony is a powerful sample of how effectively she communicates within the political realm, and how well this bodes for the future leadership of Women Moving Millions. It’s also an excellent example of how philanthropy can aid in the process of gathering and disseminating critical information about a public safety issue, such as sexual violence, and push for needed reforms.

New Board Chair of Women Moving Millions Bring Financial Expertise

Mona Sinha is the incoming Board Chair of Women Moving Millions and is leading efforts to create a new education curriculum for feminist philanthropists.

Along with WMM having a new Executive Director, the organization also has a new Board Chair: Mona Sinha, who is a passionate and longtime advocate for women and girls and the recipient of Smith College’s 2018 Development Award for Exemplary Leadership. Sinha is also very involved in efforts to end sex trafficking, and received the The Last Girl Champion award in 2017 from Apne Aap, an organization working globally on the issue.

Sinha brings particular expertise from the corporate worlds of finance, marketing and business restructuring.   She is also is co-founder of Raising Change, which coaches mission-driven organizations to raise resources for social change.

As incoming Board Chair at WMM, Sinha is looking forward to launching a new education curriculum for members, who will spend several days together to work on three areas of development: impact, influence, and investment.  “Each pillar will be taught in small cohorts that do a deep dive into the subject matter and enable robust reflection and discussion about practices and innovative ideas that are emerging in the world of philanthropy,” writes Sinha in a recent brief on the education curriculum launch entitled Why Women’s Philanthropic Education Matters

Sinha sees this new education curriculum as having the potential to fulfill a prediction by the Stanford Social Innovation Review that the impact of gender equity efforts will add $28 trillion to the global economy by 2025.  “Match that with the fact that women will control over $72 trillion in wealth by 2020,” writes Sinha, and she sees many more large-scale investments from women aiming to close the gender gap on pay and improve health and safety for women.

But Sinha recognizes that women philanthropists making these large-scale investments need support and education to achieve this goal. Within the new education curriculum, donors will have an opportunities to clarify and amplify their strategies, bringing greater integrity and influence to feminist philanthropy.  “We have found that WMM members benefit from learning in community,” she writes. In the upcoming education curriculum launching in February of 2019, Women Moving Millions members will have the chance to more deeply investigate and structure their giving for women and girls. The development of the leadership curriculum was led by Jessica Houssian at WMM and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, including a detailed assessment before a full rollout of the program. 

Sinha also serves several other organizations in the gender equality sphere including, Breakthrough (ending violence against women), Direct Impact Africa (empowers women to be leaders in the lower Zambezi) the Advisory boards at the Museum of Natural History (sponsors science education for inner city girls), Columbia Business School Tamer Center Social Enterprise Program (building awareness of social justice in future business leaders), Women Creating Change at Columbia University, and Columbia Global Mental Health program (promoting mental health as integral to overall healthcare around the world).  


Feminists Everywhere: Seattle Hosts WMM and WFN at Same Time

Kathy LeMay on Regenerating Courage as a Social Change Agent

Empowering Women by Changing Men: Promundo’s Global Fight for Gender Equality

This Social Enterprise Helps Women See Strategies for Giving Up-Close

How the NFL’s $10 Million Investment in Ending Gender-Based Violence is Activating Youth

For Giving Tuesday, Join Us in Giving to Women’s Fund of RI

Donating to WFRI is a great way to fuel gender equality movements in Rhode Island.

There are so many reasons to support your state’s women’s fund. Here in Rhode Island, our women’s fund plays a critical role in addressing gender equality with grantmaking, legislative advocacy, and in-depth research. All of this work helps to guide social change strategy and increases public awareness about gender equality in the state.

On Giving Tuesday, our household is pledging $500 for the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island. We support all of the goals of WFRI, but in particular, we are interested in supporting the organization’s legislative advocacy. According to WFRI, $500 will pay for “14 hours of written and verbal testimony for legislative hearings on Fair Pay, Reproductive Freedom and Freedom from Sexual Harassment.”

This is money well-spent. Every time we discuss the issues related to gender equality in a legislative setting, we may not win immediately, but we teach our legislators important lessons about the issues that need to be addressed. Sometimes it takes several lessons before change can occur, but every lesson increases the likelihood of that change.

Now is a great time to donate to WFRI, because the organization has a $10,000 match pledge. From WFRI, read on:

We have a $10,000 challenge match to meet.

A founding board member has offered a $10,000 challenge grant for us to relaunch our Women’s Policy Institute, which trains women to advocate for issues that affect women and girls in Rhode Island. She’ll match $.50 on the dollar when we raise $20,000 to relaunch this powerful program. Donate today towards WPI and have a direct impact on gender equity in Rhode Island.

But Wait! There’s More! Every dollar you give to WFRI has a direct local and statewide impact. Together with our supporters, WFRI is working hard to impact issues affecting women and girls statewide. With your help in 2018, we’ve:

  • Supported research on working women of color and the unique challenges they experience in the workplace, taking a deeper dive into the data of last year’s Status of Working Women in Rhode Island report
  • Provided training to nearly 200 women in salary negotiation skills, finding mentors and learning to advocate for causes that impact their lives
  • Hosted six Cocktails and Conversations panels on topics such as Feminism is a Male Issue and Intersectionality in Feminism
  • Made $50,000 in grants with a gender lens focus
  • Advocated for Reproductive Freedom, Fair Pay, a $15 Minimum Wage and Freedom from Sexual Harassment

Now is the time to donate to WFRI!


Interview with The Woman Project: “Reproductive Freedom is Essential”

Women’s Funds Deploy $58.4 Million in Funding in Two Years

Happy Day for RI Progressives as Women Prevail in Primary Polls

Reasons to be Thankful: Gender Alpha and Record Voter Turnout

This is just a quick post before taking a few days off to enjoy time with family and friends. We will be covering several important events in upcoming posts, including a fascinating call on Gender Alpha with Suzanne Biegel and David Bank, where they discussed how “Gender Alpha” is all about identifying the specific dividends that gender lens investing yields. Biegel and Bank are co-producers of November’s Gender-Smart Investing Summit in London. Guests on the call included Luisamaria Ruiz Carlile of Veris Wealth Partners, which specializes in gender lens investing and research.

And one other quick note to acknowledge the significance of the recent elections, where voter turnout was higher than it has been in 104 years. That’s right — the last time voter turnout was as high as it was in 2018 was in 1914, before women even had the right to vote. Now that women and millennials are getting into the driver’s seat with social change, we hope to see even better voter turnout in 2020. I don’t know about you, but I am mighty thankful that people are finally getting the message (it seems!) about the importance of civic engagement. That could mean in 2020 we elect a President that gets us back on track in terms of valuing safety, diversity, and systems change to address inequality.

Coming up soon, we’ll also be providing some news on Women Moving Millions and its new Executive Director, Sarah Haacke Byrd, and will be sharing and discussing WMM new Board Chair Mona Sinha’s Education Curriculum for WMM members, which will be launching in February.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


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High Net Worth Women Who Drove Progressive Giving in the Midterms

Women, and particularly women of color, made historic gains in the 2018 elections. Much of this new political activity was driven by progressive women donors.

The election of Donald Trump has sparked a wave of political activism never seen before, particularly among progressive donors.

According to the Center for Responsive Politic’s data, the top 154 donors spent a combined total of over $700 million this election cycle, with Democrats and progressives spending an estimated total of $327 million in this election, and Republicans and conservatives spending an estimated $350 million.

While the Center for Responsive Politics is reporting that this year’s midterms were by far the most expensive in history, with a large share of that spending coming from the right, another large share of that spending involved progressive women donors opening their wallets to fund the protection of key civil liberties including reproductive rights, health care, and social inclusion.

Taking the most recent data from the Center for Responsive Politics, I’ve parsed out the top women donors to progressive causes and candidates. Most of these women gave with their partners, so their decisions to give to progressive causes likely ranged in terms of how much the giving was driven by one or the other in the partnership. The important point here is that women are getting more influential in political giving, both within couples and independently, and in no other election cycle has that been more evident. Women donated an estimated 36% of the funds that fueled the 2018 midterm elections, and yes, that is a big deal.


1. Katherine A. Taylor (Kat Steyer): Along with husband Tom Steyer, Kat Steyer contributed over $50.7 million in combined hard and soft money going to Democratic and liberal causes and candidates. Tom and Kat Steyer are the founders of the TomKat Foundation, which focuses heavily on financial inclusion (they also run one of the most progressive banks in the nation lending to those who might not otherwise be able to get capital). Kat Steyer also focuses on food and nutrition and funds FoodCorp, which goes into public schools across the nation to help them improve food quality and teach about nutrition and healthy eating habits.

2. Marilyn Simons: In partnership with her husband, James Simons, Marilyn Simons contributed $18.9 million to progressives and Democrats this election cycle. In their foundation work, Jim and Marilyn Simons focus on science and math as well as issues related to Autism (they have family members who have struggled with Autism).

3. Deborah J. Simon:  Ms. Simon gave $8.9 million to Democrats and liberal causes for the midterm elections. The daughter of a real estate company magnate, Ms. Simon chairs the Simon Youth Foundation (, a public charity that operating in 13 states to help at-risk high school students stay in school.  Ms. Simon is also the founder of The Deborah Joy Simon Foundation, a private foundation making grants for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, and educational purposes.

4. Cari Tuna: Along with partner Dustin Moskovitz (co-founder of Facebook), Cari Tuna made $6.3 million in donations to Democrats and liberal causes for the midterm elections.  Tuna and Moskovitz are the co-founders of Good Ventures, where Tuna oversees the Open Philanthropy Project, which seeks to improve grantmaking with more effectiveness.

5. Marsha Z. Laufer:  Along with spouse Henry, Marsha Laufer contributed $5.68 million to progressive causes and candidates in the midterm elections. According to Open Secrets, the Laufers have recently made many large donations to women’s election causes, including  $100,000 to Women Vote! in September of this year. According to Forbes, Marsha Laufer and her husband Henry contributed an estimated $2 million to Hillary Clinton’s recent campaign for President. 

The full list is here, so you can do more research to discover who the women are behind the big bump in political giving this election cycle.

From my parsed data, here are the top Democratic/progressive givers:

And here are the top Republican/conservative givers:




WPI Study: Rage Giving is Driven by Progressive Women Donors

Priming the Pump: Exploring Ways to Grow Women’s Giving

Research Reveals Common Traits for Gender Equality Givers

Empowering Women by Changing Men: Promundo’s Global Fight for Gender Equality

Post Election Buzz: Women’s Funds Welcome New Reflective Democracy



Seattle: 2018 Global Nexus for Feminist Giving? WDN Also Meets There

Senator Kamala Harris spoke at WDN Connect 2018, the yearly gathering of Women Donors Network members and allies.

I can see the travel brochures now: Come to Seattle, home of some of the biggest feminist funding gatherings in recent history!

Not only did the Women’s Funding Network and Women Moving Millions convene in Seattle this year, but now the Women Donors Network has also paid a visit to Emerald City, making Seattle a central destination for feminist philanthropists in 2018. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored Women Moving Millions for their event in September, and hosted the Women’s Funding Network for an evening event at the same time.

Women Donors Network’s gathering began just two days after the mid-term elections, offering a unique opportunity for women donors to analyze how a more reflective democracy will influence key issues including climate change, health, and gun violence.

Speakers at WDN Connect 2018 included LaTosha Brown, Donna Hall, and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.  (photo credit: @wholeadsus)

The three day gathering of Women Donors Network members also delved into studying the transformative movements of our time, including #MeToo and #Familiesbelongtogether. Sessions also focused on building inclusiveness in divisive times and working with WDN’s 501(c)4 sister organization, WDN Action, to discuss next steps for community advocacy. Senator Kamala Harris spoke at the conference and outlined a 2019 call to action for progressive advocacy. In the evening, The Seattle Foundation co-hosted an event called “Progressive Power Happy Hour” which allowed time for connecting with local leaders.

All of these meetings in Seattle suggests that there is more to come with women donors collaborating with large foundations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in order to supercharge feminist philanthropy. And, in fact, the Gates Foundation recently made one of the largest global pledges ever for the health of women and children, with its $200 million pledge to the Global Financing Facility, in conjunction with the Government of Norway and other international partners. This $200 million was joined with $360 million from the Government of Norway as the two largest gifts in the Global Financing Facility’s $1 billion dollar pledge for improving the health of the world’s neediest women and children.


Ashindi Maxton: Fund with Radical Trust to Redefine “Expertise”

How WDN Connects Women and Cultivates Progressive Giving

Empowering Women by Changing Men: Promundo’s Global Fight for Gender Equality

Feminists Everywhere: Seattle Hosts WMM and WFN at Same Time

Rapid Response for Resistance: How These Funders Came Together to Fight Injustice