There’s the philanthropy that happens when people invest money to promote social change, and then there’s the philanthropy that happens when people take their money and their talent, and employ them in a way that addresses a social problem. Celebrities, particularly multi-talented and highly educated ones, have a unique capacity to combine their financial capital, talent, and public stature in order to push for needed social change.
That appears to be part of what happened when Israeli-American filmmaker Sigal Avin teamed up with several feature actors including David Schwimmer, Cynthia Nixon and Bobby Cannavale, to film a series of six short films called, “That’s Harassment.” In each of these three to six minute cinéma verité shorts, the viewer is positioned as a cringing voyeur while scenes of sexual harassment unfold. Since debuting in the spring of 2017, these films have been adapted into 30 second public service announcements that are getting wide visibility.
With so much going on in women’s philanthropy, we love it when gender equality thought leaders come together to talk about where the movement for women’s rights has been, and where it’s going in the future.
Riffing on the 1970’s anthology edited by Robin Morgan entitled Sisterhood is Powerful, Union Theological Seminary, in partnership with The New York Women’s Foundation and the Feminist Press, are presenting a conversation on April 11th featuring longtime women’s philanthropy pioneer Helen LaKelly Hunt, and one of Third Wave feminism’s leading thinkers, Rebecca Walker. Hunt and Walker will be focusing the discussion on healing some of the divisions within feminism, particularly related to race and class. The goal of this event is to “offer tools to build an affirmative culture that can contain difference and meaningfully address white supremacy.”
Happy Women’s History Month. There are only a few days left to this month of focusing on the value of gender equality and the arc of its progression throughout time. I spent a lot of time this month researching and thinking about how women’s funds feed social change. Most of what I learned reinforced the theory that women’s funds represent a unique approach to philanthropy that the rest of the sector would do well to replicate.
My last piece for Women’s history month on this topic is published at Daily Kos, a site dedicated to the larger sphere of progressive political change.
As Philanthropy Opens Up, Women’s Funds Show the Way
Something unusual happened recently in philanthropy: Bill and Melinda Gates opened their annual letter by answering 10 “tough” questions from the public about their philanthropy. The Gates’ Q&A is just one example of philanthropists becoming more responsive to the public. Funders are growing more aware of the value of engaging with the communities they seek to serve. The Fund for Shared Insight (FSI) which is dedicated to bringing more openness to philanthropy, is cultivating this trend; it added five new foundations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this past year: Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, James Irvine Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and Omidyar Network, bringing the number of funding partners in the collaborative to 39.
Tomorrow brings us another cool event for women’s history month. From 3 pm to 4 pm EST tomorrow, Prosperity Together will hold a Twitter chat to celebrate the collective impact of their funding.
Prosperity Together is the coalition of 32 women’s funds across 26 states and Washington D.C., which has invested $58 million since 2016 for grassroots organizations growing gender equality and economic security for women.
Philanthropy Women will be there tomorrow, to hear about how these women’s funds are pushing for social change, particularly by using participatory grantmaking strategies and paying extra attention to diversity and inclusion. Women’s funds are also doing some of the most groundbreaking work with supporting youth-led grantmaking and youth-led social movements, so it will be great to hear more about that, too, since we are living in the midst of the largest child-led social movement in America, the movement for gun safety.
Thanks to Daniel Heimpel and The Chronicle of Social Change for publishing my op-ed on the student-led gun safety movement happening all around us today in the world. I am immensely proud of all the young people who are showing us the way today.
From the op-ed:
Ahead of the Curve: Women’s Funds and Youth-Led Social Movements
Are we finally listening to the children? An estimated 185,000 youth walked out of school and onto the streets on March 14 to protest the lack of adequate gun control in America. Thousands more will descend on Washington, D.C., today to raise their voices and most importantly lay out a responsible path forward. Youth-led social movements are demonstrating that they are the force to be reckoned with.
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.