Top 10 Happenings in Feminist Philanthropy for Mid-Summer 2018

Feminism is taking a beating in the summer of 2018, but the fight is far from over.

It’s summer: the time of year when I start feeling like a slouch, like I’m not getting enough done, and may never get enough done again. But then I remind myself of a wise Chinese Proverb: Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.

Relaxation is an essential part of being human. Relaxing doesn’t mean you’re not as rugged as everyone else. It doesn’t make you weak and ineffectual. Relaxation makes you who you are, and who you are becoming. 

So I am welcoming this period of reduced work and enjoying the gorgeous weather this summer in New England. And at the same time, I am keeping my eyes and ears open to the world of feminist philanthropy, where fascinating, and frightening, events continue to transpire.

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Women Donors: Rhode Island Women Candidates Need Your Help

Marcia Ranglin-Vassell took down House Majority Leader, John DeSimone, in 2016. DeSimone was a close ally of House Speaker Mattiello. Now it looks like the party is trying to take Ranglin-Vassell out.

Bob Plain sums up the sad state of affairs in his post, RI Dem Party Doesn’t Endorse Three Progressive Female Legislators, so I’m going to quote extensively from him.  The upshot from my perspective is that the Rhode Island Democratic party’s abandonment of progressive women candidates is a huge misstep for the party, along with their recent endorsement of John Carnevale, who is still on trial for perjury and in 2012 stood trial for charges of first and second degree sexual assault.

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Meet Attica Scott, Democrat for State Legislature in Kentucky

Attica Scott, Democrat running for re-election in the Kentucky legislature.

In 2010, Representative Scott graduated from the first class of Emerge Kentucky which prepares Democratic women to run for office.

In 2016, Attica defeated a 34-year incumbent to become the first Black woman in nearly 20 years to serve in the Kentucky state legislature. Moreover, Attica is the only woman of color in the entire Kentucky legislature. In 2017, Representative Scott was named to Essence Magazine’s list of #Woke100 women in the U.S. She is running for re-election to the state legislature this year.

Attica is an inspiring person and powerful speaker. Here is her Tedx talk:

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Abigail Disney: Feminist Changer, Feminist Changed

Screenshot from a Facebook discussion: Abigail Disney, left, with Rev. Rob Schenck, right, on the release of his book, Costly Grace.

An email arrived from Fork Films. Who can open and read the mountainous volume of emails one receives these days? This one, however, I opened.

There was Abigail Disney sitting with Rev. Rob Schenck. He is the center point of her own first directed film, The Armour of Light, released in 2015. In the process of making the film, the arch-conservative preacher wrestled with his position on guns, and came to the conclusion that gun use was contradictory to his position on right to life. He has now formed The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute to combat present social crises. The current special focus of the Institute is on gun violence in the U.S. from a Christian, ethical perspective. Abigail Disney, filmmaker, activist and philanthropist, is a Governor on his Board of Directors.

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That’s Harassment: Avin and Schwimmer Help Us Figure it Out

Screenshot from a scene in “The Co-Worker,” one of six short films directed by Sigal Avin.

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.

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April 11 at Union Seminary: Helen LaKelly Hunt and Rebecca Walker

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.”

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Women’s Funds Show Philanthropy the Way to Transparency, Diversity

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.

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#ProsperityTogether Twitter Chat Tomorrow!

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.

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#MarchForOurLives: Women’s Funds Support Youth-Led Movements

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.

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How Lady Gaga Responded to the Community While on Tour

Lady Gaga’s nonprofit, Born This Way Foundation, conducted a Channel Kindness Tour that coincided with her music tour and raised funds for 35 local organizations.

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.

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