Taking Cues Globally from Leaders of Women’s Empowerment in Philanthropy

Cherie Blair, Founder, The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women

With the change in leadership in the U.S. toward a more conservative, white nationalist mentality, it’s a good time to look around the globe and discover other leaders of women’s empowerment who are outside of the U.S. political sphere.

One impressive leader is Cherie Blair and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, which is doing work internationally to help women develop business skills and earn income. Next year, the foundation will even be expanding its work to reach some of the most marginalized women in the world, those impacted by war in the Bekaa Valley, an area heavily impacted by the flood of refugees across the border of Syria.

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Building Out Funding for Women and Girls in Anti-Feminist Political Times

Gender equity work will continue, though the U.S. may no longer be world leaders on that front.  (weep, weep)

Let’s face it: it’s going to be a rough time for gender equity over the next four years, if not longer. In my private practice as a therapist, just days after the election, I saw a clear uptick in violent and threatening behavior toward my domestic violence clients. This may have just been coincidence, but I wondered. Suddenly, a very old threat was a new threat again.

This article from ReutersWomen’s Rights Face a Daunting New Year Worldwide, Campaigners Warn, lays out clearly where and how movements for gender equality will be hurting in the coming years. Work to end violence against women is going to face major challenges, as will work to keep access to contraception and abortion available. And the list goes on.

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Welcome to Philanthropy Women, a New Home for Donor Activists

Hello again, world. It’s me, Kiersten. I’ve decided to develop a new website to help you become a healthier, more peaceful, and more secure place. It’s called Philanthropy Women. 

philanthropy women
That’s me! Kiersten Marek, Founder and Editor, Philanthropy Women

For the past two years, I have been writing about women in philanthropy for Inside Philanthropy. It has been a wonderful and eye-opening experience, and has inspired me to take my own interest in women and philanthropy to a self-sustaining level.

More women are discovering the value of their perspective in philanthropy and are leading the way with better solutions to big social problems. Philanthropy Women seeks to magnify and amplify these women and their allies, so that we can help guide efforts at making our world more sane and whole.

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New Ways to Lead the Charge: What’s Donna Hall Doing for Women?

I wrote this profile of Donna Hall, President and CEO of the Women Donors Network, in February of 2016, but now it seems truer than ever. With the recent news that the Women Donors Network is partnering with Solidaire to lead a funding effort aimed at defending vulnerable people against a hostile government, the Women Donors Network is, again, not picking the easy fights, and going boldly into terrain that other, larger foundations seems to be approaching more hesitantly.

Donna Hall
Donna Hall, President and CEO, Women Donors Network, speaking at the WDN 2015 conference in New Orleans.

Related: Women Donors Network and Solidaire Join Forces to Create New Fund

Listening to Donna Hall, who has been leading the Women Donors Network (WDN) since 2002, you quickly get the sense that she’s someone who has weathered many battles on the frontlines for women’s equality, and that she doesn’t choose the easy fights. It’s like being with someone who wants you to understand the cold, hard truth of continued male dominance, while at the same time giving you a chance to consider what the future may hold if we keep trending in the right direction with women’s leadership.

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Women Donors Network and Solidaire Join Forces to Create New Fund

Many of us are wondering on a daily basis what will happen to marginalized communities under a Trump administration. Now, the Women Donors Network and Solidaire are teaming up to do something with that concern: raise money to defend and include.

With a goal of raising $500,000 between now and Inauguration Day, January 20, The Emergent Fund will work to fund organizations that defend marginalized groups particularly threatened by a Trump presidency. The populations they will work to protect include “immigrants, women, Muslim and Arab-American communities, Black people, LGBT communities, and all people of color.”

From the press release:

We don’t know exactly what will come, but we must be prepared. We do know that there are strong leaders and organized movements on the ground in these communities, and we know that their work has been historically under-resourced. Now is the time for us to use our collective power to stand with them and support them in what they are doing, to listen to what they need, and to fund the new strategies that will emerge over the next 2-4 years.

Now is the time to give big and bold. Organizations like Cosecha are looking for additional funds to exponentially increase their ability to organize sanctuary cities and sanctuary campuses. Groups like MPower Change are doing communications work around the unconstitutionality of a Muslim registry, and building bridges between Muslim, immigrant, and Black communities.

Source: Launching: The Emergent Fund | Solidaire

I interviewed Donna Hall about the Women Donors Network this past year and was amazed at what this network of women funders is doing. The work of the Women Donors Network is particularly nimble and responsive to community concerns and emergencies, so it is great that they are forging the path on new funding to defend vulnerable people in the coming years.Read More

Empowered Women are Changing Philanthropy. These Experts Explain How

Debra Mesch, Director, Women’s Philanthropy Institute

Some big trends are happening in America for women, and these trends will likely be snowballing in the near future. The first trend: the growing financial muscle of women. The second: women’s growing leadership. Add to this mix the upward trajectory of women’s role in philanthropy, and you may have the makings of a paradigm shift.

In conversing with Debra Mesch, director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, and Andrea Pactor, its associate director, I came away with a sense of how forces are aligning, now more than ever, for women to take the lead in philanthropy and beyond, and shape public policy for the common good.

Let’s review the case for women’s growing financial muscle. “Women are becoming the recipients of a massive transfer of wealth,” said Mesch. A quick review of the numbers: $10-million-plus, women-owned firms increased by 57 percent in 2013. Forty-five percent of American millionaires are now women, and 48 percent of estates worth more than $5 million are controlled by women. In 2013, an estimated 60 percent of high-net-worth women made their own fortunes, and by some estimates, as much as two-thirds of all wealth in the U.S. will be controlled by women by the year 2030.

And the case for women’s growing leadership? We are seeing more and more breakthroughs for women’s leadership across the board, from religion to politics, from business to nonprofit, from the household to the White House. Hillary Clinton is the most obvious example of the perfect nexus of women’s leadership and philanthropy, with her dual role as both a political and a philanthropic leader. This presidential race may yield the first female president, and it’s no accident that she has a strong history in philanthropy, a field that has been ahead of the curve in pushing for promising social policy changes for women for several decades.

Add to this the women in communities forming giving circles. Scholars in the field are calling this process “the democratization of philanthropy,” and the results of this massive cultural shift have yet to be fully realized.

But wait a minute. Let’s back up. Where did all this momentum for women and philanthropy come from? Andrea Pactor traces the study of gender and philanthropy back to the very practical pursuits of two leading women fundraisers. Sondra Shaw-Hardy and Martha Taylor, who started the National Network for Women as Philanthropists in 1991, perceived a critical difference in the way women approached giving. They also recognized a huge deficit in the field of fundraising that needed to be addressed—cultivating women donors.

“The two women (Shaw-Hardy and Taylor) who created this work did it not only to help women come into their own in philanthropy, but also to change the way fundraisers perceive donors,” said Pactor. “So this particular strand of women’s philanthropy study emanated from a very pragmatic approach to fundraising.”
Andrea Pactor, Associate Director, Women’s Philanthropy Institute
In 1997, the National Network for Women as Philanthropists became the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, and then became part of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in 2004. The program functioned mainly as a home base for the lectures and presentations that Shaw-Hardy and Taylor made about gender and philanthropy across the country, and why it was such an important factor in fundraising. In its early years, the program functioned primarily to provide donor education to women donors about their power and influence in philanthropy, and at the same time to guide fundraisers to engage women as donors.

Debra Mesch came on as director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute in 2008, and helped the Institute gain traction by establishing a volunteer leadership council. In 2010, WPI began its signature research series Women Give, and each year, this research has built out the picture a little more on how gender is influencing philanthropy, and what we can do to maximize the return on women’s positive influence. As we recently reported, that research just got a major boost from the Gates Foundation.

Mesch and Pactor both see a lot of transformation happening on the ground for women in philanthropy. “Pockets of very powerful women at the community and grassroots level are forming their own giving circles, their own collective giving models, their own modes of engaging in philanthropy, to make powerful changes in their own communities and across the globe,” said Mesch.

Pactor agrees that giving circles are not just a trend, but a cultural phenomenon that is growing steadily—and an important way in which people are participating in society, as people organize their own giving campaigns and groups for giving. “There are giving circles for everybody out there.” Pactor pointed to the Women’s Collective Giving Network, an association of 47 giving circles, with more than 10,000 women philanthropists in the mix.

Pactor also sees an important new development in the Prosperity Together Initiative, which launched in November 2015 and brings together 28 women’s funds and foundations to provide $118 million in funding for women and girls of color. “This represents a new direction for the women’s funds. What Prosperity Together did is, it reframed the conversation, and it took existing dollars and pooled them to get more traction and bandwidth.” Pactor sees this move significantly increasing the visibility of women’s funds, which work to address inequality for women and girls.

Pactor also sees great potential for the new generation of women leaders in philanthropy coming up through these women’s funds. “They are bringing a lot of new momentum and ideas, leaders like Jennifer Lockwood- Shabat at the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, Liz Vivian out of the Women’s Funding Alliance. These women have the potential to take the state women’s funds in new and important directions.” Pactor also talked about the strength of Lee Roper-Batker from the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and Roslyn Dawson-Thompson of the Dallas Women’s Foundation, more longstanding leaders of the women’s funds who have laid the groundwork for the younger generation.

Mesch sees big things happening in the near future with our understanding of women’s role in giving at the micro-level—how individual households are influenced by their female members. “We know women are much more interested in the idea of legacy, and leaving a legacy to their children and grandchildren. That’s another area of potential new findings that will influence practice.”

Pactor and Mesch talked about the example of Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s giving, and how it has evolved since the couple’s marriage in 2012. “The recent giving that they have made, particularly in the Bay Area, to us, clearly reflects the research in the sense that she is a full partner in helping to craft their giving plan,” said Pactor. “We think that kind of high visibility of women’s role is another way that people like that will influence other people in their giving.”

Mesch also cited the giving of Bill and Melinda Gates as an example of a couple negotiating its philanthropic giving. She referenced Nicholas Kristof’s recent article on the 15th anniversary of the creation of the Gates Foundation, which describes how Melinda Gates has taken a stronger role recently in advocating for women to be central to the Gates’s giving.

“She [Melinda Gates] has a strong belief that giving to women and girls really makes an impact in the community, and changes the status of women and girls. She is a full partner with Bill, but she has also started her own track, now, on funding for women and philanthropy.”

And where do Mesch and Pactor see things going in the future for women and philanthropy? “Technology,” said Mesch. “Women seem to connect better with a lot of the technology around philanthropy, so we want to see where that can go in terms of further developing and amplifying giving.”

Pactor sees two other big trends: public policy and impact investing, both areas where women are becoming more strategic in terms of spending their money. “As more women come into philanthropy, they are realizing that they need to work on the legislative level and focus more on public policy.”

She also sees women as having an edge when it comes to reinventing philanthropy with financial tools like impact investing. “The concept of impact investing appeals to a lot of women,” she said. “So I think we’re going to hear a lot more from women about that.”Read More

Giving Circles Get New Attention from The Rhode Island Foundation

How great to see The Rhode Island Foundation embracing giving circles and offering to provide matching funds to six giving circles that meet their criteria. From the Foundation’s website:

The Rhode Island Foundation seeks up to six informed and engaged community leaders who are interested in forming, leading, and facilitating small groups of peer networks organized around charitable giving. Giving circles are groups of people who pool their donations and decide together how to distribute them. Groups typically have a shared interest or connection, but it’s not required. Individual giving circles will have the ability to set their own member requirements and giving levels.

Each circle will identify its own needs and design the appropriate goals and structure. This initiative is meant to inspire philanthropy throughout the community and to provide an opportunity for groups of people that might not otherwise come together around a fundraising effort – to do just that. It is not about giving to the Rhode Island Foundation. Likewise, the Rhode Island Foundation will not solicit gifts for your giving circle.

Source: Giving CirclesRead More

BCF Announces New $2.3 M for Orgs Serving Youth, Girls of Color

Today, Brooklyn Community Foundation announced $1.9 million in new grants through its Invest in Youth initiative, bringing the Foundation’s total funding for youth-serving nonprofits in Brooklyn to $2.3 million in 2016.

BCF launched its Invest in Youth initiative in 2015 as a 10-year, $25 million commitment to improve Brooklyn’s social and economic opportunities and outcomes for 16- to 24-year-olds, particularly young people of color.“We believe that a stronger and more equitable future for Brooklyn depends upon the success of its young people today—especially those who are growing up in our poorest communities.” said Brooklyn Community Foundation President and CEO Cecilia Clarke.

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Pivoting Toward Power: How Melinda Does Gates Giving Differently

By World Economic Forum [CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

Many experts have argued that nothing is more important for global development than empowering women to play an equal role in all societies. Lately, that view has growing sway at the world’s biggest foundation.

Signs have been emerging for a while now that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is giving more attention to women’s empowerment, with Melinda leading this shift—while also becoming more independent in her philanthropy. This could be a very big deal over the long term.

Here are some of the tea leaves we’ve been reading.

First, Melinda Gates has recently raised her profile as a leader on women’s issues. In the past 18 months, she’s given interviews to several national media outlets, including Fortune and Elle, about her increasing focus on women’s empowerment, and authored an opinion piece for CNN about the need for more data on women.  She even recently said she would like to see a woman become president. No clear endorsement here, but that’s a pretty big hint about how this powerful female leader sees the world. She is making more videos in which we hear her voice and see her face. She’s making it crystal clear that one of the richest women in the world is also a huge believer in women’s empowerment.

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Star-Studded Event “Women in Philanthropy” Happening in Southport, CT Soon!

Wow, impressive lineup for this event on January 12 in Southport, CT. Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children, will be speaking, among other luminaries. Miles also spoke at the last Clinton Global Initiative winter meeting in February of 2016, which I attended to report on the No Ceilings project of The Clinton Foundation.

Many of these presenters will doubtlessly have interesting things to say about how women are influencing philanthropy — making it more collaborative, inclusive, and organically integrated into the economy, to name just a few of the changes that women bring to the field.

Public events and discussions like this will help women in philanthropy shift the conversation and shed light on this fast-growing movement. From the Fairfield Hamlet Hub:

Save the Children and Pequot Library present local philanthropic leaders discussing how women are changing the face of philanthropy and social entrepreneurship, on Thursday, January, 12, 2017 at 7:00pm in Pequot Library’s Auditorium.

Learn about ways you and your family can get involved and make a positive impact in our community and around the world. There will be an Introduction by Stephanie Coakley, Executive Director, Pequot Library, and Mike Tetreau, First Selectman, Town of Fairfield; the program is moderated by Bianna Golodryga, News & Finance Anchor, Yahoo!

The panelists include: Carolyn Miles, President and CEO, Save the Children; Susan Friedlaner Calzone, President and CEO, Foundation Source; Fiona Hodgson, VP for Development and Philanthropic Services, Fairfield County’s Communication Foundation; Emily Tow Jackson, Executive Director and President, Tow Foundation. There will be a wine and cheese reception to follow. For questions and additional information, please contact Amy Sinclair, asinclair@savethechildren.org , (475) 999-3077.

Source: www.hamlethub.comRead More