The nation’s oldest public women’s foundation recently announced that it will steer in a new direction over the next five years — toward growing its commitment to low-income women and women of color by more than $25 million.
In addition, the Ms. Foundation will form its first-ever political fund, which will support the legislative agenda for women and girls both nationally and locally.
With Teresa C. Younger at the helm, the Ms. Foundation for Womenis joining other big funders in the feminist philanthropy space, including the NoVo Foundation and Prosperity Together (the national coalition of women’s funds focused on low-income women and women of color) in making economic, social and cultural equality for women and girls of color a central feature of its strategic plan. “Women of color are a political force to be reckoned with,” said Younger, in a press release announcing the new strategic plan. “In 2018, we delivered unprecedented electoral wins in Alabama, Georgia, and New York — yet we are sorely underrepresented in philanthropic investment, with only 2% of that spending going to women and girls of color.”
Last Wednesday, the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island (WFRI) announced its 2018 grant recipients. This year, the fund was able to provide $50,000 in grants to invest in several local organizations. While WFRI is not as big as some women’s funds in other states, the fund still does important grantmaking to support gender equality advocacy and female leadership development. Thirty-four nonprofits applied for grants this year, all being asked to address one or more of WFRI’s priorities in feminist advocacy.
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.
A new report from Oxfam takes a hard look at our growing inequality problems, and outlines steps that governments and businesses can take to work toward a more equitable and healthy economy.
Endorsed by several experts in development and labor, the report also has a section devoted to addressing the overlap between “economic and gender inequality” that looks at how the gender wealth gap plays out in women having less land ownership and other assets, and observes that “the neoliberal economic model has made this worse – reductions in public services, cuts to taxes for the richest, and a race to the bottom on wages and labour rights have all hurt women more than men.”
An article in the November 2017 issue of Geographical, a print publication out of the UK, does an exceptional job of summarizing the current research on gender equality globally. Geographical came to my attention after having the opportunity to talk with staff at Oxfam Great Britain (Oxfam GB), in order to learn more about the way Oxfam has approached integrating gender and development for the past two and a half decades.
The article points to research showing that making gains in gender equality could add as much as $12 trillion to the economy, but also quotes some experts who are dubious about using economic arguments for achieving political gains for women. Dr. Torrun Wimpelmann says that it’s unproductive to argue with social conservatives using this economic data. Another expert, Dr. Jeni Klugman, author of a high level UN report called Leave No-One Behind, says there is room for the economic argument, since it comes at the issue pragmatically.
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.
“The Emergent Fund started as a plane built in mid-air. We moved faster than comfort allowed in developing a funding response to the new threats posed by the 2016 election because the scale of the crisis that loomed was so large, multidimensional, and immediate. Resources were urgently needed in many places and without much time for deliberation.”
So begins Visionary Resistance, a new report reviewing how several donor networks came together to invest $ 1 million rapidly for efforts to protect those most marginalized and targeted by a Trump presidency. Aptly named the Emergent Fund, this new resource is funded through a partnership between the Women Donors Network, Solidaire, Threshold Foundation, and the Democracy Alliance.
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.