Olivia Wells: Quality Support for Women Survivors in Conflict Zones

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Olivia Wells, Director of Programs and Communications for Nadia’s Initiative, a nonprofit founded by Nadia Murad that supports “community-driven and survivor-centric sustainable development programs.” 

Olivia Wells, courtesy of Olivia Wells

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession? 

Bureaucracy; you learn about it in school, and you begin to see it when you enter the workforce but you don’t realize how many bureaucratic impediments there are to humanitarian work until you’re in the thick of it. You naively think that at the end of the day, we all want the same thing – to help those most vulnerable – so we should streamline processes to get those in need the help they deserve as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. The humanitarian sector is still saturated with top-down approaches to development. Many government and private funders insist on funding large organizations like the various UN entities, rather than investing in local NGOs. Local NGOs have a direct line to the communities they serve and are often able to implement projects more efficiently and for less money. These are the organizations we should be investing in.

Read More

Catherine Berman: Together, We Can Move Mountains

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Catherine Berman, CEO and Co-founder of impact investment platform CNote.

Catherine Berman, courtesy of Catherine Berman

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

Question what others deem impossible.

2. What is your current greatest professional challenge?

Education. We see values-based investing as a game-changer for both investing and creating a more sustainable, equitable world.  We spend a lot of time helping investors and donors learn about the measurable difference they can make with their investments without sacrificing returns or operational ease. Many of us grew up learning the only way to support the causes and communities we care about was through grants. That is no longer the case. We see impact investing as an important opportunity to double-down on the causes you care about and a way to authentically represent your values with every dollar; where you spend, where you donate, and where you invest.

Read More

Deb Nelson of RSF Social Finance on Activating Money for Good

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Deb Nelson, Vice President of Client and Community Engagement at RSF Social Finance.

Deb Nelson, courtesy of Deb Nelson.

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

I wish I’d known what a powerful tool money can be, and how important it is to understand the way people think about and deal with money. Through my previous work at Social Venture Network, I grew to understand and leverage social capital, but I resisted working with financial capital until I understood how to use it to effect positive change. Women have been socialized to believe we don’t know enough about money and we should just leave it to the experts. But you don’t have to be an expert to use money well. You just need to question assumptions about money, understand what it can do and activate it for good. Now, I love working with money and collaborating with investors and donors.

Read More

Trust Women: Desiree Flores of the Arcus Foundation

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Desiree Flores, Arcus Foundation U.S. Social Justice program director.

Desiree Flores
Desiree Flores, courtesy Desiree Flores

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession? 

I grew up in a large Mexican-American family with farm worker roots in the rural Central Valley of California. I started out as a young program assistant right out of college at the Ms. Foundation for Women, excited for the job but not having a clue what the philanthropic sector was! What I wish I had known is the exact lesson I learned early and often in that position: that those closest to a problem know best how to solve it. We supported women of color organizing their local communities and creating national networks for systemic policy change. Black and brown women know how to shift cultural attitudes in support of reproductive rights, while HIV-positive women know how to structure data gathering to best test, treat and prevent the transmission. Invest in those who live it, and you will change the world.

Read More

Funding the World We Want to See: Sonal Sachdev Patel

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Sonal Sachdev Patel, writer, activist and CEO of GMSP Foundation.

sonal sachdev patel
Sonal Sachdev Patel, CEO of God My Silent Partner Foundation (GMSP) Foundation. (Photo courtesy Sonal Sachdev Patel)

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

So much. I wish I had known to go straight to the grassroots. The civil society leaders on the frontlines know what their communities need and know how to deliver it. But they’re constrained by a funding environment that is too often inflexible, impatient and imperialistic in terms of who drives the agenda. When we started in 2006, we were giving project-based funds. After listening to our local partners, we shifted to unrestricted funding.

Read More

Measurable Pathways to Equity: UNICEF USA’s Cristina Shapiro

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features the President of UNICEF USA’s Impact Fund for Children, Cristina Shapiro.

pathways to equity
Cristina Shapiro (Photo courtesy of Cristina Shapiro)

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

Don’t make perfect the enemy of good — or great. Research shows that women feel like they need to be perfect and fully knowledgeable before they contribute or apply to new opportunities — I certainly did, and it likely held me back at the beginning of my career. 

Another thing I wish I realized was that equality and equity are not the same. Though women may have equal rights in many parts of the world, that doesn’t mean they have the same access to opportunities, resulting in significant inequity. As a Hispanic woman in finance, there were very few role models that looked like me. Now, I know it is up to me to help change that dynamic.

Read More

Riki Wilchins: Gender Norms and Intersectionality

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Riki Wilchins, executive director of the nonprofit TrueChild and author of, “Gender Norms & Intersectionality: Connecting Race, Class and Gender.”

Riki Wilchins, courtesy: Riki Wilchins

What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

I wish I’d realized how difficult and slow social change is. I think when you’re younger, you’re a bit more optimistic. But, any kind of real change takes years, maybe decades, of constant effort and attention. 

What is your current greatest professional challenge?

Our goal is getting people to think intersectionally, so they connect race, class and gender norms. The challenge is two-fold: most organizations don’t know how to talk about gender norms, or if they do, they disconnect it from factors like race and class.

Read More

Power to Decide: Ginny Ehrlich on Repro Rights and Access

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Ginny Ehrlich, CEO of the nonprofit Power to Decide, “the campaign to prevent unplanned pregnancy.” 

Ginny Ehrlich, courtesy: Ginny Ehrlich

What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

When I started my career, I really wish I had truly understood the breadth of possibilities available to me. Early on, I had a limited view of what I could achieve professionally. But I have been extremely fortunate to have exceeded even my wildest professional dreams. So, what I have learned is that with grit and vision, anything is possible.  

What is your current greatest professional challenge?

Read More

It’s All About STEM Women: Arianne Hunter and the Privilege of Dreams

“Women can be successful in science.” This is the core message from Arianne Hunter, a chemist in Atlanta. “Our brains can retain, analyze and distribute knowledge just like our male counterparts [so] our ideas and dialogue should be met with the same respect,” she says. 

Arianne Hunter discusses ways to increase opportunities for women and girls in STEM. (credit: Arianne Hunter)

Hunter is a first-generation college student who was a member of the Division I Women’s Basketball Team at Dartmouth College, the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of Oklahoma, and the founder of “We Do Science Too!” — a nonprofit serving girls who have less access to STEM experiences. She is a published and awarded scientist and is currently pursuing postdoctoral training in Forensic Chemistry at the Defense Forensic Science Center.

Read More

Own Your Power: Elizabeth Yntema on Gender Equality in Dance

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Elizabeth Yntema, president and founder of the Dance Data Project (DDP), which promotes “equity in all aspects of classical ballet by providing a metrics-based analysis through our database while showcasing women-led companies, festivals, competitions, venues, special programs and initiatives.” 

dance
Elizabeth Yntema, president and founder of the Dance Data Project (courtesy: Elizabeth Yntema)

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

I wish I had had a female mentor, and she had reassured me that success isn’t defined by a linear path. I have been a corporate attorney, a lobbyist, worked as the Director of Governmental Affairs of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, was employed part-time as a consultant, opened an art gallery and, with three small children, focused on volunteering for a time. Now, I use every single one of my experiences and skills acquired over the decades. 

Read More