Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work in Cranston, Rhode Island, and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.
Last year when I was writing for Inside Philanthropy, David Callahan and I co-authored a list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in U.S. Philanthropy. It was a big hit. This year, I have decided to follow up and develop eight shorter lists. The lists will start with Emerging Most Powerful Women.
Why start with emerging? Using emerging women leaders as our starting point helps us get a sense of how these women are influencing some of the changing dynamics of philanthropy. Some of the emerging women are quite different from the more established women leaders in philanthropy. Many of these emerging leaders take a strong stance on the need for philanthropy to be more integrated into the economy and inclusive of marginalized groups. A heightened awareness of the need for collaboration across sectors to achieve systemic change is also a key point for many of them.
Speaking of inclusiveness, we want to make the process of establishing this list more inclusive, by asking for nominations from the public. So please, use this contact page to send me your nominations or leave them in the comments below. Make sure to say which category you are nominating someone for.
The point to all this list-making? I believe that the more women in philanthropy can be seen by the larger public, and the more their strategies can be known and replicated, the stronger movements for women’s leadership and gender equality will become. So please join me in identifying and celebrating this growing trend in social progress.
Categories for the Most Powerful Women in U.S. Philanthropy
Emerging Leaders — These are women leaders who have not yet ascended to a highly visible position in the landscape of philanthropy, but appear destined to do so.
Network and Collaborative Giving Leaders — The donor network and giving circle women leaders who are forging new paths for philanthropy.
Thought and Strategy Leaders — Women leaders in academia, media, or journalism who are helping to conceptualize and amplify the world of women’s giving.
Corporate Giving Leaders — Women leading our corporations who are putting gender equity high on the agenda and working it into the fabric of the corporation as thoroughly as possible.
Foundation Leaders — Women who are making gender equity a priority in the country’s largest and most influential foundations.
High Net Worth Givers — Women of substantially higher net worth who are also very active in the world of giving.
Feminist Foundation and Women’s Fund Leaders — Women who are making feminism part of the central platform of their funding work.
Celebrity Women Leaders — Women who use their stardom as well as their philanthropic prowess to move the needle on gender equity.
“When you think of the big gala events, you have to scratch your head and say, ‘why do people go to all that effort?’ I mean, those can be effective fundraisers, if done responsibly. But when they net very little or fail to break even, doing nothing but raising awareness, I don’t buy into that.”
These are the words of Jacqueline Caster, founder and president of the Everychild Foundation, and master of the art of creating women’s giving circles—an effective and increasingly popular way to raise money.
The Everychild Foundation model has had a significant impact, and not just locally. It has been replicated by over 15 organizations, including two in London, some in other states, and many throughout California.
So how did this model arise? In part, it was a reaction to the grind of other approaches, especially galas, that were a common way for women to raise money for causes they care about—but which Caster and many other women did not find to be the best use of their time, treasure or talent. Caster writes eloquently of the different nature of her philanthropy in an essay in the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. “For a growing number of contemporary women, particularly the highly educated, arranging fundraising events is often not, in fact, fulfilling or stimulating. For many, it under-utilizes their intellect, talent, education, professional skills, and general life experience.”
So what’s a highly educated contemporary woman to do? She might consider starting or joining a giving circle.
“Giving circles can be created at any price point, for any cause, and with any demographic as the membership,” said Caster in a recent interview. “You can do it with no paid staff and a tiny percentage of operational costs, compared to bigger foundations.”
Inside Philanthropy has covered giving circles before, including ones raising money for niche areas, like the Asian American LGBT community, or nonprofit work in specific locales like Philadelphia. Giving circles play to women’s strengths as networkers and collaborators, and they offer a way for smaller donors to be part of something larger—but not so large they have no meaningful voice.
Caster developed her alternative approach for giving in Los Angeles in 1999, and incorporated Everychild Foundation as a 501(c)(3) the following year. The model is relatively simple. The foundation’s mission is to ease suffering of Los Angeles-area children whether due to disease, disability, abuse, neglect or poverty. Each member makes an annual $5,000 tax-deductible donation. The money is then pooled to fund a single, targeted $1 million grant to a local organization with a dream project. The project ideally involves an innovative prototype that can be replicated, thereby leveraging the dollars even further.
Less than 10 percent of the funds collected are used to operate the organization. There is no rent or salaried staff. Caster and all the other members donate all of their hours. However, there are some accounting, bookkeeping and a few other miscellaneous costs, plus the services of a professional grant consultant who advises the grant board.
Starting with 56 members in 2000, Everychild has now grown to its target of 225 members, giving it the financial muscle to make $1 million grants each year since 2006.
One of Everychild’s earliest grants tells an interesting story about impact. The foundation made a 2001 grant to Queenscare to fund a mobile dental clinic staffed by the University of Southern California School of Dentistry. When dentists started serving large numbers of low-income children in the first months, they uncovered such a huge unmet health need in the community that Queenscare sought out funding from other major local foundations; three more dental clinics were added, for a total of four clinics, all still operating today.
Each member of the Everychild Foundation donates the same amount and is permitted one vote on the million-dollar grantee for the year, so there is no inequality between the donors. “Members have frequently expressed how refreshing it is to participate in a charity without the typical hierarchy of donors who are treated differently according to their gift size,” said Caster.
The Everychild Foundation begins soliciting proposals at the end of each calendar year. From January through May, the grant screening board narrows that pool of proposals down from roughly 25 to about six or eight. The board then evaluates items such as their financials, success handling other large grants and sustaining new projects. Next come site visits to each group in this final pool in May. “We meet the board, see the facility. We send questions before and after the site visit,” said Caster.
“We eventually vote on two finalists who spend the summer putting together a full proposal. The presentation to our membership takes place in October. About half the members attend the hearing every year.”
Members then mail in their ballots in the following two weeks. “Some discuss the choice in online chat groups. They talk it over at the dinner table with their families and partners,” said Caster. “It becomes a really interesting period as the final proposals are discussed.”
The model affords a great deal of latitude for participation, from not much at all to active involvement in the grantee review process or grant monitoring after the grants have been awarded. Some members don’t even vote for which grantee is chosen, trusting that the group has done its due diligence. Interested Everychild members also have the opportunity to advocate for a variety of children’s issues at the county, state and federal levels as part of the Public Policy Committee.
The Everychild Foundation’s level of due diligence in selecting the finalists has become legendary in the Los Angeles community. “Directors at other prestigious local foundations have said that if a project can survive Everychild’s rigorous review process, it must have merit,” said Caster.
Consequently, not only do Everychild’s chosen grantees receive $1 million, but the runners-up in Everychild’s process often see significant dollar support, either from Everychild members, or other foundations, not infrequently, even receiving the full million.
Which brings us to this year’s winner and runner-up.
The winner is Richstone Family Center, which will be creating a new healing arts center with the $1 million grant. “Richstone serves the areas of L.A. County experiencing the highest concentration of gang violence, child trafficking, drug-related crime, prostitution, and poverty,” said Caster in a press release about the winner. “The Everychild Foundation Healing Center has the ability to change the life trajectories of at-risk and abused children and their families.”
The runner-up this year is also providing vital services in the community, and is ripe for scaling up with additional funding. Jovenes, of Boyle Heights, helps homeless and at-risk children and families. The project it pitched will provide housing and other supportive services for hundreds of homeless community college students, many of whom are aged-out former foster youth. Caster acknowledged the difficult letdown of not getting the Everychild grant, but sometimes being the runner-up can actually surpass winning the Everychild Foundation’s grant. “One year, the runner-up received $2 million from another funder,” said Caster.
“We work really hard to help find funding for the runner-up,” said Caster. This year, after announcing the winner, she sent out an email about the runner-up, and already heard back from one funder who wanted to provide a five-figure grant and another who might be interested in funding the whole thing.
I am making my plans to be at Dream, Dare, Do in Chicago, the 2017 Symposium of the Indiana University Women’s Philanthropy Institute, happening on March 14-15. Why? Because I believe it is more necessary than ever to pay attention to women’s leadership, particularly in philanthropy.
I believe women’s leadership in philanthropy is an essential key to social progress, and an important way to grow that leadership is by valuing it more and making it more visible to the public. So I will be there — raising the visibility of women like Ruth Ann Harnisch, founder of The Harnisch Foundation, Hali Lee, Founder of the Asian Women’s Giving Circle, and Marsha Morgan, Vice Chair of the Community Investment Network.
So go to the website and take a look at the 27 different speakers for this conference. Then consider how amazing it would be to attend an event that will enhance our understanding of the power of women’s leadership in philanthropy, feeding what is already an exciting trend for social progress.
Last evening, I had the pleasure of listening to Take the Lead Women’s Happy Hour with guests Rebecca Traister and Alyson Palmer. The preeminent Gloria Feldt, founder of Take the Lead Women and longtime leader for women in reproductive rights, moderated the discussion. All three women said things that not only lifted my spirits, but gave me some new directions to consider as I continue to develop Philanthropy Women.
Rebecca Traister, author of All the Single Ladies and writer for New York Magazine and The Cut, talked about how she came to feminist journalism, starting with a job at Salon in the early 2000’s, where her editor was a woman and much of the staff was comprised of women. She started to write more from a feminist perspective at Salon, and that work gained traction online.
Traister also talked about how attention to gender equality on the left grew during the Howard Dean campaign for President of 2003-2004, when women writers called attention to the gender equality deficits on the Left. “In the years that followed I got to surf a wave of feminist journalism.”
Alyson Palmer, feminist activist and band member of BETTY, talked about her journey to a feminist awareness. Palmer referenced a formative experience in her teen years when she faced down her father as he was mistreating her brother. “You will never do that again,” she recalled telling her father. “Something about that moment changed me forever.”
Another formative experience Palmer referenced was in college, when she worked helping to book bands. A partner in the work kept wanting to book bands that Palmer felt “put me down,” and so she began to articulate a critique of how some music treats women. “I kept challenging him about that, and my feminism grew more from there.”
She then discovered playing the bass, and soon after met up with her fellow band members. “Once I found this little pod of females, that’s when I found my feminist voice.” Palmer has been part of the band BETTY now for thirty years. She advised women to “find at least two girl friends,” in order to grow their feminism and valuing of their own ideas and visions. “Have a small group of women you can turn to.”
Palmer is the mastermind behind a campaign called “1 at 1,” which calls all women to spend one minute at 1 pm EST on January 21 to “envision a world of gender equality.”
“The first thing we have to do is go beyond the bubble,” said Palmer. “What if the march could somehow go to you? What if every women who believes in equality could do the same thing at the same time?”
“What if all of us stood up in complete silence, and had a vision of women’s equality?” Palmer started telling people about 1 at 1, and the campaign has been catching on and growing quickly.
“It’s the simplicity of it,” she said. “I truly believe we need a structuring from the bottom up of how we see ourselves, and how we believe in ourselves.”
Initially, Palmer expected she might get 1,000 or 2,000 people interested, but the interest in 1 at 1 has been growing dramatically. Sister marches across the country are planning to participate in One at One and now, Gloria Steinem has signed on to do the countdown to the event. International interest is also growing. Women’s groups in Iraq, Norway and Israel are all planning to participate in One at One in some way. More information about the 1 at 1 campaign is available here.
Palmer also talked about other movements for women happening internationally. In India, women are organizing against “Eve Teasing” — the harassing of Indian women at night. To fight back, women in India are marching on multiple evenings.
Feldt posed a question from a listener in Brooklyn, Kiera, asking about what women need to do in order to rise up and press on for gender quality. “What is the one thing women should say to themselves at the beginning of every day?”
Palmer responded by sharing a question she asks herself every day. “One of the best things you can ask yourself is: what am I going to do for myself today? It gives me a sense of value, and a sense of time and place for myself within the day.”
Traister responded by speaking to the “untold diversity” of women and the enormous task of trying to represent women’s experiences. “I also think there are lots of women who could stand to think about what they’re going to do for other people, too,” she said. Traister referenced the unexpected voting patterns of white women in the recent election, with more white women still aligning with Republicans. She noted that, for women, “itcomes down to where you put your gender and interest in other women in comparison with where you put your interest in race or your connection to men.”
Feldt brought up a significant pattern that has emerged in the history of feminism in the US. “What we see is a pattern of having gotten started and making some big steps forward, and then voluntarily stepping back, often to let another group go first.”
“Zigging and zagging,” observed Palmer. “That is what we do. It’s very hard when your culture is always telling you to put others first.”
“We don’t want to lose the positive value of putting others first, but it’s a tricky balance,” said Feldt.
Traister made the point that there have been an enormous shift in marriage patterns in the US, contributing to cultural shifts that need more attention. She noted that for most of US history, “Women as a class were dependent on men economically. Women had to kick off their adulthoods with marriage for hundreds of years in this country.”
But that is no longer the case. Starting in the early 1990’s, that marriage pattern began to change dramatically. “For women who did marry, the median age of marriage rose. Starting in 1990 it jumped to 23.9. Today it is over 27, and in many cities, it is now over 30.”
“There are now more unmarried women in the US than there are married women. I was fascinated by that,” said Traister, which is a big part of why she wrote All the Single Ladies.
“Housing policy, tax policy, the way that government has supported men’s participation in the workforce” were all designed around the idea that women would marry in early adulthood. “Now that we have women participating in the world differently, and we need a completely revamped set of public policies” to address that change, said Traister.
Traister said she recently learned that Hillary Clinton had put together an economic team for her presidency that “was going to redefine infrastructure to be about not just bridges and tunnels but about the infrastructure of care work — child care and elder care, those things were going to be right at the center.”
Traister expected that more women would vote for Clinton, based on how much her agenda planned to center around their concerns. “I did expect more women would vote for that. Women of color did. White women did not.”
Next up in the happy hour came a question from none other than me. “Kiersten in Rhode Island wants to know: what role can philanthropy play for creating optimism for women?” asked Feldt.
“Women are gaining power as they gain more wealth,” said Traister. “Philanthropy can play a role in terms of giving women direction about how to help, and it’s exciting to think about putting your energy and your dollars toward getting closer to equality.”
But Traister cautioned that philanthropy cannot be a stand-alone remedy for big social issues. “I also want to see philanthropy push for those policy shifts we are going to need. Don’t let up the pressure on the state institutions that are supposed to be providing for all of us.”
Palmer added that philanthropy happens at many levels in society and is not just about high net worth women. “There are people at all levels who are giving a percentage of their wealth who have very little money, but who are still giving at the same percentages. That fuels American progress, always.”
“It’s one of the things that has been characteristic of our culture in the US,” added Feldt. She noted that the philanthropic strain is more pronounced in American culture, and that government doesn’t tend to take on issues unless the grassroots, much of it supported by philanthropy, pushes for change. “Government doesn’t tend to take that responsibility unless we at the grassroots are setting the tone.”
As the economy and job market shift further toward globalization, we see more and more corporations amping up their attention to women and girls. An important new example of this is the Vodafone Americas Foundation, which in March of 2016 announced a fourth core focus: empowering women and girls in the technology field, and helping women use technology to live healthier and more prosperous lives.
One form of Vodafone’s grantmaking that intersects with its work on women’s empowerment is its Wireless Innovation Project (WIP), which is currently open for applications. WIP provides funding for new uses of wireless technology to address social issues. Many of the past winners have been women, and projects frequently focus on addressing issues that impact women’s lives. One 2014 winner of a $300,000 grant was MobileODT, a smartphone application which can turn any digital camera into a device capable of detecting early signs of cervical cancer. Since winning the WIP grant, the use of MobileODT has expanded to be used in 21 countries around the world. On December 19, 2016, this life-saving application also received FDA approval in the U.S.
“Mobile has been the leverage at critical junctures in solving health problems, particularly ones that impact women,” said June Sugiyama, Director of the Vodafone Americas Foundation, in a recent conversation with Philanthropy Women.
Empowering women and girls in tech is an area of funding that Vodafone Americas Foundation has been involved in for a while now. The foundation has supported projects like Girls Who Code and TechGirlz that are helping to build the future generation of women in tech jobs. With Girls Who Code, the foundation is helping to provide computer science education and exposure to one million young women by 2020. TechGirlz is focused on providing middle school technology and education that will keep girls interested in technology and get them geared up for programming classes in high school.
Through its women’s empowerment grantmaking area, the Vodafone Americas Foundation is also partnering with Internews, an international non-profit “working at the intersection of media, information, and development to ensure people are fully empowered with the information they need.” With a grant from the foundation, Internews launched a campaign entitled “Secure” which provides a toolkit to help women prevent and recover from online harassment such as doxing, trolling, and other instances of online gender-based violence. The goal here is to help women take better control of their privacy and mobile security and reduce the high rate of harassment of women online.
All of this points to an increasing awareness among funders of the role that mobile technology can play for women in accessing education, economic opportunity, and security. Nevertheless, Sugiyama noted that most foundations focused on technology are not led by women, and there is still much work to be done to change that. One way the Vodafone Americas Foundation works to address this problem is by providing funding to support tech conferences focused on building women’s leadership in the field.
As a clear signal of its commitment to women’s empowerment, in 2015, Vodafone became one of the first organizations in the world to set forth a mandatory minimum maternity benefits standard. Vodafone has also made a commitment to increase women in leadership roles to 30 percent within its company.
As more women use mobile technologies, their experiences are being collected, understood, and valued in new ways, and companies like Vodafone are becoming more aware of the needs and priorities of women both as employees and as citizens. By providing more ways for women to learn tech skills, get STEM education, and move into leadership roles in tech companies, Vodafone is joining other global corporations like Coca-Cola and Walmart in pivoting further toward women’s empowerment.
Welcome again to Philanthropy Women. I am glad you are here. Given the new political climate, some of you may be worried about funding for women and girls. But, particularly in the area of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), the grant funding to support women and girls has been growing over recent years and looks like it will continue to do so.
Supporting more women and girls in STEM became an early priority of the Obama administration, and this interest and activity continued steadily for the years of the Obama presidency. 2016 was no different. This past year saw funding flowing for STEM programs for women and girls like never before. The ever-growing list of corporations and sponsors of education and opportunity for women and girls in STEM is staggering. It suggests a rampant popularity for philanthropy focused on engaging women and girls in preparing for STEM education and careers.
Let’s take a look at some of the funding efforts for women and girls in STEM. Many of the funders on this list support Girls Who Code, one of the largest efforts at getting more women and girls into STEM fields. Others are doing work in a different way, such as The Robotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation, which sponsors teams for robotics competitions, and is particularly reaching out to form more teams with girls.
There are so many partners in STEM for girls. We are going to start at the beginning of the alphabet, providing more information on as many efforts as we can find. Today, if we’re lucky, we’ll get through the names of supporters starting with A. Like I said, it’s a long list and will take several posts to cover them all. In fact, there are about 120 corporate sponsors of STEM funding for women and girls that I am planning to write about.
Accenture: Accenture is a supporter of Girls Who Code’s Summer Immersion and Club Partners programs. It has strong corporate policies around diversity, including an emphasis on increasing supplier diversity. For more information, check out this page.
Adobe: This past July, Adobe hosted a Girls in Tech Summit in the UK. Adobe is also a sponsor of Girls Who Code. In addition, the Adobe Spark website features a list of some of the most impressive women leaders in tech called Women Who Dare.
Amazon: In 2014, Amazon hosted the first Girls Who Code class in Seattle, WA. It also hosts summer immersion programs for girls to learn more tech skills.
AOL Charitable Foundation: AOL is another supporter of Girls Who Code, and also in 2016 became one of the partners for MAKERS, a network of companies “celebrating and empowering their game-changing female employees.”
AppNexus: This firm partners with Girls Who Code, Hack NY, the Flatiron School internship program, NYC Tech Talent, Pipeline, and Jopwell to provide internships for students, particularly women and girls, who want to go into tech careers.
AT&T: This past year at the Clinton Global Initiative, AT&T launched a new partnership with Roadtrip Nation aimed at empowering young girls interested in STEM fields. Roadtrip Nation received $2.2 million from AT&T in 2016. The telecom giant has been investing millions in a broad array of efforts for improving diversity in STEM. For a more comprehensive view, go here.
Autodesk: Autodesk is another supporter of Girls Who Code and MAKERS. Its Project Ignite learning platform enables teachers to help students design and code into the classroom.
Funders Starting with B
Bank of America: Bank of America inspires and encourages young women to pursue a career in STEM by partnering with Code First: Girls and STEMettes, along with sponsoring Girls Who Code. Additionally, Bank of America joined in sponsoring the 2017 Summer Immersion Program.
Barclays: Barclays’ Untapped Unicorns project is meant to show them how girls can become leaders. They bring in some of the UK’s most powerful women entrepreneurs who address the issue of why so many women-led businesses are less successful than men-led corporations.
Best Buy Foundation: The Best Buy Foundation has enabled many girls to learn STEM by giving a grant the Youth for Technology Foundation, so they can afford new equipment and technology. Along with this support, the Best Buy Foundation is a Clubs Program sponsor for Girls Who Code.
Blizzard Entertainment: Blizzard Entertainment is a sponsor for Girls Who Code. Providing between 250k and 499k in funding. They also sponsored the 2017 Summer Immersion Program for Girls Who Code.
Booz Allen Hamilton: Booz Allen Hamilton is a sponsor for Girls Who Code. They sponsor from 50k to 149k and are an Alumnae Network Founding Sponsor for Girls Who Code.
CA Technologies: Along with being a partner of the Clubs Program for Girls Who Code, CA Technologies sponsors and supports both Girls Who Code and Pratham to advance girls’ and women’s education in STEM.
Cadence: Cadence is a Clubs Program Partner for Girls Who Code. In addition to this, Cadence sponsors from 50k to 149k to Girls Who Code.
Capital One: Capital One hopes to close the gender gap in computer science and technology by sponsoring companies like Girls Who Code and hosting event and programs within their company, too. While doing this, they are also an Alumnae Network Founding Sponsor and a Clubs Program Partner for Girls Who Code.
Cheryl Saban Self-Worth Foundation for Women and Girls: In addition to being a sponsor for the 2017 Summer Immersion Program, the Cheryl Saban Self-Worth Foundation for Women and Girls works with other organizations to start programs for girls’ and women’s STEM.
Citrix: Citrix has sponsored between 50k and 149k for Girls Who Code, and also sponsored the 2017 Summer Immersion Program, like many others on this list.
Cotton Bureau: Cotton Bureau has a program called Black Girls Code that helps girls or color pursue a career in STEM fields. They wish to encourage and inspire girls to be powerful and strong like Oprah Winfrey, the role model of Black Girls Code.
Craiglist: Craigslist sponsors from 50k to 149k for Girls Who Code.
Dell: Dell believes girls should be able to have a STEM education to help the world thrive in the future, thus it is a Clubs Program Partner for Girls Who Code and sponsors from 250k to 499k to Girls Who Code. Dell also works with the Girl Scouts of America to get this STEM education to many girls.
ESPN: ESPN is a Clubs Program Partner and sponsor of 50k to 149k for Girls Who Code. Likewise, ESPN granted hundreds of thousands of dollars to different charities during their Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards in 2016.
Facebook: Facebook sponsors from 50k to 149k to Girls Who Code. Along with this, they were a partner of the 2017 Summer Immersion Program.
First Data:First Data worked alongside KKR and Girls Who Code in the 2017 Summer Immersion Program to impact young women and girls and to inspire them to pursue a career in STEM.
Ford Motor Company: As well as sponsoring the 2017 Summer Immersion Program and being a Clubs Program Partner for Girls Who Code, Ford’s STEAM Experience worked with Karlie Kloss to host free STEM summer camps for girls to get more women into STEM careers.
General Electric: T0 help get more women in STEM, General Electric has sponsored between 250k and 499k to Girls Who Code, participated in the 2017 Summer Immersion Program, and set up their own program that’s purpose is to close the gender gap in STEM.
General Motors: General Motors Canada is a Clubs Program Partner for Girls Who Code. To inspire and motivate girls and women to have a career in STEM, General Motors Canada has a 1.8 million dollar fund for girls’ and young women’s scholarships and other STEM programs.
Goldman Sachs: In August 2016, Golden Sachs hosted an event to introduce young girls to influential women in STEM to encourage them to pursue a career in those fields. Like many other companies on this list, Golden Sachs also was a 2017 Summer Immersion Program Sponsor.
GoDaddy: GoDaddy was a 2017 Summer Immersion Sponsor. Additionally, they sponsor from 50k to 149k for Girls Who Code.
This speech by Meryl Streep is an amazing testament to the power of women’s voices to cut through all the crap and get right to the heart of things: calling out Donald Trump for emboldening a culture where disrespect invites disrespect and violence begets violence. Streep renders supreme judgement on Trump for his incredibly toxic behavior, particularly his mocking of a disabled journalist.
Streep supports several causes specific to women and girls, and a wide array of causes that intersect heavily with women, including rape and sexual abuse, slavery and human trafficking, and human rights.
Streep’s Philanthropy Focused on Women and Girls
Girl Up: As part of the the United Nations Foundation, Girl Up is one of the largest and most influential global organizations focused on girl empowerment. In collaboration with Girl Up, Streep co-narrated the film Girl Rising, which explored the experiences of girls in Haiti, Nepal, Ethiopia, India, Egypt, Peru, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan on their journey to education, revealing the many barriers they face and how they overcome them. Streep also served on a panel with other luminaries at the April 2015 Women in the World Summit, helping to set the direction for Hollywood around gender equality.
National Women’s History Museum: Streep is the spokesperson for the National Women’s History Museum, and has been a significant donor there, with her gifts to the organization including the $1 million she made for her role in The Iron Lady.
The Writer’s Lab: In April 2015, Streep funded a screenwriters lab for female screenwriters over forty years old called the Writers Lab. Run by the New York Women in Film & Television and a collective called IRIS, the Writers Lab is the only known initiative in the world for female screenwriters over forty.
Other Gender Equality Activism and Philanthropy by Streep: Streep signed an open letter in 2015 created by the ONE Campaign, addressed to Angela Merkel and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, urging them to focus on women as they served as leaders of the UN summit in September of 2015. Also in 2015, Streep wrote to Congress urging them to support legislation for equal pay and sent every member of congress a copy of the book Equal Means Equal: Why the Time for the ERA is Now by Jessica Neuwirth. In March 2016, Streep also signed onto another ONE Campaign calling for gender equality on International Women’s Day.
Streep’s Own Foundation — Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts
Streep also has her own foundation called Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts. Started in 1983 and based in Morristown, NJ, the foundation is a joint effort of Meryl Streep and her husband Donald Gummer, a well- known sculptor.
A 2012 report by Forbes found Streep has given away millions to charity through her foundation, with support going to many organizations including Oxfam America, New York’s Meals on Wheels, the Coalition for the Homeless, and the National Women’s History Museum. The report also found that no one at Streep’s foundation is paid a salary.
Locally speaking (because I’m a Rhode Islander!), Streep has also been influential. In 2012, Streep supported Rhode Island’s Segue Institute for Learning, a charter School in Central Falls, and Upward Bound, a nonprofit which prepares low-income students for college.
One of the most fascinating trends in women’s philanthropy is the advent of women’s giving circles. In fact, I got so interested in this trend, that I decided to start a giving circle of my own. More about that later. First, let’s take a look at some of the amazing things that giving circles have done over the past year in the U.S.
While the idea of giving circles as a vehicle for growing grassroots philanthropy has been around for over a decade, with the new platforms and technologies available for crowdfunding and online donating, the progress on giving circles has really sped up. Giving circles are now propagating in so many forms and varieties, that I get overwhelmed every time I google it and try to write about it. But, just to get us all started, check out the giving circle page at the Women’s Foundation of California. They have developed a number of different ways to use the giving circle. Other signs that interest in giving circles is increasing: Community foundations like The Rhode Island Foundation are offering matching funds for giving circles that meet certain criteria.
One expert in giving circles that has made impressive strides in developing the form is Jacquelyn Caster, Founder and CEO of The Everychild Foundation. Check out our article about that work here.
The Explosion of Women’s Giving Networks
And while it’s not a giving circle, per se, we want to give a big shout-out to Women Moving Millions, which has mobilized at least $500 million to date in funding specifically for projects and programs benefiting women and girls. That group has big plans for the future. Other major women’s donor networks include Rachel’s Network, the Women Donors Network, the Women’s Funding Network, and High Water Women. All of these collaborative efforts are what make women’s philanthropy so unique and powerful. We look forward to covering this work in depth in the coming years at Philanthropy Women.
In 2016, we saw the power of women grow in society like never before, and their influence in philanthropy continued to increase simultaneously. Women Give 2016, the yearly research series from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, revealed how Millennial women are coming to philanthropy with a different mindset, and are influencing strategies and dollar amounts of giving in new and important ways. Additionally, the study found that women’s participation in the labor force has increased, resulting in heightened power for women in financial decision-making both independently and for their households.
Major developments for women and philanthropy continue to evolve, even as the U.S. faces its most openly misogynist President, and gender equality movements brace for the implications of this shift in power. But President Trump would be foolish to ignore or discount Generation X leaders like Melinda Gates and Millennial leaders like Priscilla Chan, and the growing influence of their philanthropy. These women, and legions of others like them on different levels in philanthropy, will be important partners in leading the country in the coming years.
Over the next few posts, I will be reviewing some of the significant trends and emerging topics in women and philanthropy from 2016. Let’s start with one of the most important new trends first.
Women Championed the Fight for Equality and Inclusion and Broke New Ground for Women and Girls of Color
Some of the boldest philanthropy of 2016 came from foundations openly taking on new feminist agendas, including widening the lens for inclusion of women and girls of color. In late 2015, NoVo Foundation made its $90 million dollar commitment in this grant space and began a series of intensive listening tours across the country to help identify strategies for addressing inequality for women and girls of color.
At the same time, women’s funds across the country came together to fund Prosperity Together, a five-year $100 million commitment to improve economic security for women and girls. In December of 2016, the collective of 29 foundations and women’s funds announced it had exceeded its first year commitment by 46%, with funders like the Women’s Foundation of California adding an additional $2 million in 2016.
The biggest winners in my book for women’s giving in 2016: the many foundations and women’s funds that came together to make Prosperity Together happen. These women’s funds broke new ground on gender and racial equality with this work. For a full list of the partners, Visit the Women’s Funding Network here.
We’re hiring. We are looking for a few good writers who want to delve into the world of women’s giving. If you are a writer with a passion for this area of philanthropy and would like to apply, please go here for next steps.
We have a free daily update called Giving for Good, which aggregates the news from a select group of progressive foundations, nonprofits, and media outlets that focus on inclusiveness, equality, and social justice. If you want to know what is happening in this funding space which includes women’s funds, feminist foundations, and corporate foundations with a focus on gender equality, check out Giving for Good. And relatedly, if you are a nonprofit or foundation that wants to be included in the Giving for Good feed (free publicity!) please message me with a request and I will consider it. There is a contact form link in the right sidebar.
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I have resigned from my position as Senior Editor at Inside Philanthropy. I am a huge fan of the work being done there, but the truth is that my priorities need to be a) my private practice, and b) launching Philanthropy Women. I am grateful for my two and a half years of experience writing for that fine publication, and hope to find ways to collaborate with them in the future.
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