I’m always on the lookout for ways that women leaders are doing philanthropy differently — mixing and melding the work into different spaces, finding ways to combine giving with other activities and make philanthropy more accessible to the public. One effort that recently caught my eye was Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation (BTWF) and its collaborating-while-touring work with local organizations.
First, just to clear up a technical detail, BTWF is not actually a foundation, but a nonprofit with the mission of enhancing mental wellness and kindness in the community. This year, rather than using its end-of-year fundraising period to raise money for BTWF, the organization is giving all the money it raised during its partnership with its Channel Kindness Tour to grassroots organizations in communities across the country, many of which are doing groundbreaking work with inclusion as an essential value to building a healthy community.
Last evening, I had the pleasure of being a panelist on Take the Lead Virtual Happy Hour, hosted by Gloria Feldt. The topic for discussion was The Many Faces of Love: How Women & Philanthropy Can Change the World. Here are my responses:
What are the challenges for you in philanthropy?
Like everyone, my challenges are fundraising. I knew when I launched Philanthropy Women, I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed key stakeholders, so reached out for support from women who I knew who wanted to grow the sector of media attention for gender equality philanthropy.
“Major societal change happens through major institutions,” says Martha A. Taylor, women’s philanthropy pioneer and Vice President of the University of Wisconsin Foundation. Taylor doesn’t discount the energy that comes from the streets, and in January she attended the Women’s March with her then 94-year-old mother, who carried a sign invoking both FDR and Obama. Still, Taylor says that for women to effect change, they need to occupy leadership positions in major institutions.
With every day in America bringing news of regressive political changes that will negatively impact women, it’s important for those who want to increase gender equality to explore different strategies for reaching women who need resources. One strategy that recently caught my eye was Grameen America’s announcement that, in celebration of its 10-year anniversary in the U.S., it would enter the fray of impact investing and disburse an added $11 million in capital in microloans to low-income women across the country. With this new fund, over a five-year period, Grameen will make $140 million in loans to low-income women who are struggling to get a foothold in the U.S. economy as entrepreneurs.
How would you turn a moment into a movement? That’s the question that organizations supporting women running for office have been asking themselves over the last year. It’s a hard question to answer in any field. Now imagine trying to answer it while being deluged by an unprecedented number of women ready to run for office.
There are nine national organizations dedicated to training and supporting women running for office. These are long-established organizations like Ignite and Emerge America. In addition, there are newer organizations dedicated to supporting women of color running for office such as Latinas Represent and Higher Heights. Regardless of when they were started or where they focus geographically or demographically, none of these organizations have experienced a moment like this – because, of course, the country has never experienced a moment like this.
2017 was a tremendous year to be writing about gender equality philanthropy. In the wake of Trump’s election in 2016, women in progressive circles rallied their resources for fighting back against the coming regression. Our top ten posts help to recall the many ways that women joined the resistance and continued the fight. At #6, for example, Emily Nielsen Jones delves into the experience of coming together for the Women’s March last January. Meanwhile, at #2, one of the most unusual giving circles in the country celebrates its ability to reach women on the other side of the globe. At #5, we hear from Kimberle Crenshaw, law scholar and fierce advocate for philanthropy to reach out more to women and girls of color.
With Christmas over, it’s now time to get down to business and develop a strong agenda for 2018. At the top of that agenda for progressive donors, in my opinion, is repealing the Trump Tax that recently passed. This legislation does more to hurt the middle class and nonprofits than can be tolerated in a society that still prides itself on equality and freedom.
Here are just a few choice details about how this law will deter giving for the middle and upper middle class. The law’s discouragement of itemized deductions by raising the standard deduction for married couples to $24,000, is estimated to reduce the number of itemized tax returns from the current 30% to only 5%. That means only 5% of people will have enough charitable and other deductions to qualify for itemizing their taxes. This change strikes a devastating blow to families in the $70,000 to $200,000 income level, who often stretch their giving in order to qualify for the charitable tax exemption at $12,000. Between the mortgage interest deduction and the charitable deduction, some middle class families would be able to qualify for the $12,000 deduction threshold. By giving an extra two or three thousand or more, they are often supporting nonprofits in the community (their local church, food bank, or domestic violence shelter) getting a tax break, too.
So much exciting change is happening in women’s philanthropy, but one of the biggest breakthroughs by far has been the overwhelming response to the #MeToo campaign, which helps to break the silence on sexual abuse and harassment. While we all have to measure when and were we choose to tell our stories (and as a therapist I have listened to many accounts, and have helped guide people to make choices about how much they wanted to disclose, and to whom) it is heartening to see so many women willing to take the risk and put their story out there.
I am pleased to announce that the Women’s Funding Network has agreed to serve as Philanthropy Women’s fiscal sponsor for our not-for-profit publishing work. This partnership will help us to raise funds to make Philanthropy Women a more potent force for educating the community about how women in philanthropy are driving social change.
The Women’s Funding Network (WFN) grew out of a 1984 joint meeting of the National Black United Fund and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, where participants discussed creating an organization exclusively for women’s funds. By 2000, WFN had grown into a network of 94 member funds and foundations with over $200 million in assets, deploying $30 million a year in grants. In 2003, WFN received a $5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which enabled significant growth. Today, WFN continues to expand, with over 100 women’s funds and foundations spanning 30 countries, and continues to collaborate with other philanthropic powerhouses like Kellogg, the Gates Foundation, and the Clinton Foundation, to address gender equality globally.
The holiday season means different things to all of us, but one meaning I would like to suggest we share this holiday season is a renewed dedication to self-care.
The idea of self-care can seem trite, but it is definitely not all about getting manicures. When I work with clients in my therapy practice, I like to help them widen their definition of self-care to include acts large and small that we can do to bring ourselves to a healthier place emotionally and physically. Here are a few examples from my life:
Look through the gender lens at your own life, and realize that the holidays might mean extra work for you as a woman. Explore ways to delegate holiday work to those around you who are able to give with their time and attention.
Re-read a familiar book that helps to reset your mind. My book is Diary of A Nobody by George and Weedon Grosssmith. Reading it is like rinsing my brain with a conditioner that take out some of the toxicity and negativity of daily life.
Watch a sit-com or other TV/film that helps shift you into a more neutral state, if you are feeling stuck or overwhelmed. Cute animal videos can also do the trick.
Do 10 minutes of unscheduled aerobic exercise. Get your heart rate up, and then feel how it makes your brain work differently. (If you are in some work environments, this sometimes needs to be done in the bathroom to avoid undue scrutiny. Yes, I did aerobics and yoga in the bathroom at corporate jobs.)
Linger longer over an activity you enjoy. Bake or cook alone or with others. Play games. Go out to dinner. Take a walk. Feel glad about the value of your solitude as well as the value of your relationships, and find time at the holidays to celebrate both.
Take selfies. Paris Hilton may have invented the Selfie, but I’m inventing the selfie for self-care. Be your own model for pictures of good moments in life. Take more selfies at the holidays, to reinforce the experience of enjoying yourself a moment.
In particular for women in philanthropy, an important component of self-care involves investing in and amplifying our vision for a more loving and tolerant world. Use the holiday season to contemplate new ideas for your vision of a better world. Take time to imagine how your ideas might evolve, and allow your intuition to guide you about how to pursue them.