Recently when checking in with the Obama Foundation, we learned that they are highlighting the Women’s Global Education Project (WGEP) and its work in helping global communities end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). To find our more about how this work takes place, Philanthropy Women spoke with Amy Maglio, Founder of WGEP. Maglio founded WGEP over 14 years ago after she was a peace corp volunteer in Senegal, where she lived for three years.
“When I got back from Senegal, I thought about all the girls I knew who weren’t in school,” said Maglio. She was particularly concerned with the reasons that girls weren’t going to school, and wanted to find more ways to ensure that girls got into school and stayed in school in Senegal. Maglio began partnering with local community-based organizations in Senegal that were already working on these questions. Local organizers in Senegal identified that girls ended their education often because of healthy, safety, and cultural issues.
One important role that the Women’s Philanthropy Institute plays is producing research that drills down on the data about women’s giving, adding more demographic detail, including race, to the picture of how and why women give.
In its most recent research, WPI has identified ways that donors differ across race, and ways they appear to behave in relatively similar fashion. All of this data points to the fact that philanthropy is growing more aware of its diversity, and funders and nonprofits would do well to find ways to maximize engagement with donors of all backgrounds. By doing so, philanthropy as a social domain can help recognize and empower donors from historically oppressed or marginalized groups.
Women’s leadership is getting more strategic support to improve gender equity in journalism. Recently, Take the Lead announced a new program that is launching with support from both the Ford Foundation and the Democracy Fund. The program is called 50 Women Can Change the World in Journalism, and is aimed at “harness[ing] the collective power of women in journalism to build a more just and equal world,” according to a press release announcing the new endeavor.
Starting this year, 50 women journalists will engage in online and immersive learning with the program. The cohort will work to “re-envision journalism,” a profession dominated by women, but where women rarely make it into the top spots or earn as much as men.
“Women represent more than half of the journalism workforce, but are chronically underrepresented or misrepresented in journalism leadership,” said Gloria Feldt, Co-founder and CEO of Take the Lead. “Inequities within journalism must be rectified.”
To chip away at this inequity, the new journalism program will provide support and ongoing partnership with its first cohort of fifty professional journalists stationed around the country in publishing outlets. “Cohort members for this first #50WomenCan journalism program include many leading figures in communications,” says Feldt. “From The New York Times to The Center for Investigative Journalism to NBC News, our attendees are coming from the industry’s top media outlets.”
The Ford Foundation’s support for this project grows out of its mission to address equality in society. “Gender equity in journalism, as it is in any profession, is needed to ensure that all voices and viewpoints are heard, reflected and respected,” said Farai Chideya, Program Officer for Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation. “50 Women Can Change the World ensures this will happen.”
So much of what I worry about with corporate philanthropy is just how much it is used to grease the pill, so to speak, of the public swallowing all the damage that corporations do in the world. Corporate philanthropy asks us to believe, for example, that Nike cares about gender equality, even as much of its subjugation of labor in developing countries puts added pressure on women as both workers and providers, with very little given in wages in return.
The book makes a convincing argument that many corporations are not coming at gender equality in their philanthropy with a genuine interest in changing the circumstances for women. It also shows how much corporations continue to apply pressure to women’s lives, sometimes by demanding that they don’t have children so that they can put work first on their life agenda, or convincing women to take loans and enter into small business, even though they lack the supports and the know-how to ensure that the business has the best chance of success.
I would recommend that anyone interested in women’s empowerment read Moeller’s book, to recognize that the agenda for women’s equality can be seriously skewed by corporate interests.
While we continue to highlight and encourage corporate giving for women and girls here at Philanthropy Women, Moeller’s book helped me develop a more critical eye for where the corporate pressure for profits might be bleeding into the corporate do-goodism.
Similarly, in a recent issue of the New Yorker, Moeller has an essay called The Ghost Statistic that Haunts Women’s Empowerment.With this essay, Moeller brings much of her argument from the book into a more succinct narrative. She questions how one particular statistic came to be: the statistic that says that when women have control of money, they give 90% of it to their children and community. According to the essay, the reliability of this statistic is non-existent, which begs the question of how much we need to do in order for the data on women to become more detailed, validated, and replicated, in order to prove its value.
But Moeller also makes another valuable point. Even if the statistic is true, is that necessarily the recipe for a robust global economy? If women tend to give much of what they have away, how will they accumulate the capital necessary to sustain and grow business ventures? And will they end up in situations where they are simply the conduit for money that goes into the hands of more powerful and controlling entities in their families and communities?
Moeller’s book is provocative and in league with other sharp critiques of philanthropy circulating these days including Anand Giridharadas’Winners Take All and Edgar Villanueva’sDecolonizing Wealth. It’s a must-read for feminist philanthropists who want to take an approach to their work that will truly transform lives and avoids replicating, or further empowering, subjugating corporate systems.
Admittedly, I am not a philanthropist. But managing the money of philanthropists for progressive social change has given me a unique appreciation for the essential role of people and organizations that connect philanthropy and political strategy.
I’ve spent most of my career as that staff person expected to change the world $1,000 at a time, one issue at a time. In roles such as manager of young organizers, volunteer coordinator, lobbyist to fickle legislators, major gifts director, and Executive Director, I have worked to change political decision-making systems, often while holding up woefully under-staffed legislative and advocacy initiatives. As a single person Public Affairs or Program Director, I sometimes served in the role of five people, and was seen as a savior if I could project-manage a couple coalitions on the side – you know, for the good of the cause.
This is the plight of nonprofits that attempt advocacy with small staffs and fledgling budgets. We have magical unicorns among us, but we burn them out and don’t recognize the real opportunity and economic costs for these staff. We fund the sexy here-and-now social reform initiatives, but forget the critical connective tissue organizing that brings nonprofits together around one long-term plan. We short-change the outreach and engagement positions who partner in real ways to build political and community change that our charitable and direct service provider groups require to carry out their work. We cut short the operatives who know how to respond to and build power in spite of the political volatility and public narrative shifts.
But it doesn’t have to remain that way. Women philanthropists are demonstrating their systems change muscle and some are looking to build out connective tissue among women’s and girls issues. Because women understand that communication, collaboration and shared strategy is essential to effective movement building, women philanthropists are uniquely positioned to invest in this work.
So what does this connective tissue look like? It is a matrix of nonprofits designed to develop digital, narrative and community pipelines for leadership and action. We call it infrastructure. These nonprofits are legally and structurally set up to carry the message and deploy civic engagement tactics so that elected bodies move toward public policy changes.
“Social Welfare” or 501(c)4 nonprofits are an overlooked tool for moving the public narrative and elected leaders. Although sometimes scorned as “dark money,” particularly since Citizens United, 501(c)4s are a critical part of the larger investment strategy to achieve social change. If your passion is environmental justice or reducing maternal mortality rates- it IS political. The same state lawmakers that are blocking attempts to codify Roe V. Wade are the ones working to deter voting rights and further cripple structural democracy as we know it.
Women and girls issues do not exist in a silo. They exist inside a complex struggle for power among partisans – some of whom govern and some of whom are paid to work against women’s and girls causes. Service providers must be funded to provide their services, and social welfare organizations must be funded to build political power for women and girls. It is a moral and ethical imperative of the modern political era.
So here are my recommendations for how to be courageous:
Be a bold board member. Discuss how your 501(c)3 charity can partner with other nonprofits doing voter registration and mobilization programs. Ask your executive directors what 501(c)4 and infrastructure organizations help them the most and explore opening a connected 501(c)4 to allow your organization to be a stronger advocate for your core mission work.
Identify if there is an infrastructure donor alliance in your state or community. These are often 501(c)4 and 501(c)3 hybrid affinity groups that invest in long term, connective tissue strategies that bring single issue groups together around shared community organizing goals and a shared set of message, civic engagement and even litigation goals.
Endow entire staff roles and teams to focus on civic engagement partnerships. Make it acceptable for charitable nonprofits to have a seat at voter and community mobilization tables.
Reconsider your mix of giving. If you give $1 million a year to 501(c)3 causes, consider tithing 10% to 501(c)4s that are providing the teams and tactics to respond to deep societal and political crises (like government shut downs, as one recent example).
Educate your philanthropist friends. Help them understand that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. Have tough conversations about diversifying how you invest in the charitable and social welfare sectors.
Paula Hodges is founder of Anchor Strategies, which works with individual donors and organizational funders to re-think their philanthropic giving by layering on political and advocacy funding and joining state based progressive infrastructure donor alliances. She was the founding Executive Director of New Hampshire Progress Alliance, New England’s first pooled investment fund for incubating durable, permanent progressive infrastructure.
It’s an election like no other, with record numbers of women running for office at the local, state, and national levels, and women everywhere becoming activist voters who want to see themselves represented in government.
It’s a great time to be publishing about women’s philanthropy, as more women take on funding nonprofits that are supporting gender equality, not only in the U.S. but also globally. So far this year we’ve seen significant growth in new organizations committing to addressing gender-based violence and education for girls worldwide, including Girls, Inc, the Obama Foundation, and the #MeToo Fund headed by Tarana Burke.
And yet so much more can happen to enlarge gender equality movements, and integrate new awarenesses into our daily lives about how we can treat others with less gender prejudice. Tomorrow, I’m excited to be sponsoring a Safe Conversations workshop for licensed mental health professionals at my offices in Cranston, Rhode Island. This is one way that I am trying to enlarge the gender equality practices that we all have the capacity to change — the ways that we speak to and support one another in our communities.
I will be holding subsequent workshops in Safe Conversations over the coming months. Please contact me if you are interested in enrolling in a future workshop.
According to a new study by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, giving by women to progressive causes after the election of Donald Trump took off like never before. In fact, the study shows that women’s giving to progressive causes outstripped men’s by six-fold.
These findings add significantly to the growing evidence that women are using their financial power to drive political change. More from WPI:
Two themes are popping up more frequently these days in the gender equality sphere: fearlessness and rage. We’re going to explore both of these themes more here at Philanthropy Women in the coming weeks and months. Tomorrow, I will be interviewing Jean Case, Co-Founder of the Case Foundation and author of the forthcoming title, Be Fearless. Later in October, I’ll be attending a reading and book signing for Rebecca Traister, author of Good and Mad: the Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, and will be writing more about her work.
But today, on the subject of fearlessness, I want to share a piece written by Kathy LeMay, who is serving as Interim Executive Director for Women Moving Millions. LeMay read this piece at the Women Moving Millions Summit, and I can imagine how it helped to establish a unique tone for the event. Very few people have the courage to admit their vulnerability the way Kathy LeMay does, and admitting this kind of vulnerability is a big part of being a feminist in my mind, because it’s about including all parts of yourself in the conversation of change, including the vulnerable and wounded parts.
A week ago this morning, I woke up and I couldn’t quite breathe. My breath was shallow and thin. I wasn’t sick. I didn’t have a summer cold. But I couldn’t fully breathe. My chest felt as though it had been filled with weighted, wet cement. I wasn’t surprised. The signs and indicators had been there for months. I thought I had outrun them. How about the hubris of imagining you can outrun loss and grief? I held court, convinced I outmaneuvered, outwitted, and dodged pain. I even smiled one day thinking that I had successfully sidestepped compounded losses. I knew. Of course, I knew. Yet, lying there on my bed not able to move my body or limbs, my mind which had so often been my source of liberation, fought the grief that had arrived at my doorstep and let itself in.
“Wait,” I thought, “I’ve always been strong, capable, competent. Shouldn’t that protect me from despair? I’ve built a full, productive, purposeful life. Wasn’t that enough?” I laid there trying to find a deeper breath, trying to find my resilience, trying to locate my courage. “Get up, Kath.” I couldn’t. The only thing I could feel was relentless surges of loss. I felt angry at myself, at what I perceived to be a petulant self-indulgence. I didn’t want to feel what I knew it was time to feel. Running through my head were the words of Joan Didion, “Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.” I was also thinking of C.S. Lewis, who wrote, “No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.”
Quietly inside my mind I whispered words I don’t remember having said before in my life: “I am scared.” This doesn’t mean I haven’t felt scared. I have. The only difference was on this steaming hot August morning I admitted it to myself, for the first time. Quietly, then aloud. Saying those words, in that moment I thought I had lost my courage. I didn’t realize that by admitting that I felt broken, I had finally found it. […] Read more here.
In the wake of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, reproductive freedom appears to be more threatened than ever. So what’s a pro-choice advocate to do?
One thing that some feminist activists are doing is incorporating their art into their activism. And in Rhode Island, the smallest state in the nation, these art-activists are pushing hard for the state to codify abortion rights so that the service will remain in place in the state even if the federal courts overturn Roe v. Wade.
These art-activists call themselves The Woman Project (TWP), and starting in 2017 as a nonprofit 501(c)4 organization, they are angling to make sure that women’s rights are protected at the state level, starting with access to reproductive services.
The manifesto for TWP begins by appreciating art and creativity, and recognizes the necessity of both inclusion, justice, and environmental work in building a better world. The groups is also doing a bang-up job of collaborating with other activists networks in the state to make sure that the issue of reproductive freedom is on the table legislatively in the upcoming session. The group is working one of the most important tenets of feminist philanthropy — networking — to bring together groups including Planned Parenthood, Emerge RI, Adoption Inequality RI, the Unitarian Universalist Community in RI, Indivisible RI, the Cranston Action Network, the Women’s March Huddles, and RI NOW.
Rhode Island as the Testing Ground for Protecting Reproductive Freedom State by State
Rhode Island is an interesting state. Born on the principle of religious freedom, it continues to be known for its tolerance and open-mindedness. At the same time, the General Assembly is largely populated by Catholic men, who still adhere to the pro-life tenets of their religion and appear to be particularly influenced by the state’s Bishop, an outspoken (some might say even bullying) religious leader who considers LGBTQ people to be immoral and abortion to be a sin.
At the same time, much has been said about Rhode Island’s capacity to serve as a kind of “laboratory state.” With its small-scale legislation and population (1.06 million), Rhode Island is a place where it is possible to test out new theories and approaches to problems. Currently, the state is being hailed for its groundbreaking strategy for treating opioid addiction.
The same kind of breakthrough might be discovered by using Rhode Island to test out strategies for defending reproductive rights. Rhode Island could serve as a kind of “beta” for passing state legislation that protects reproductive services and, if successful (and it’s still a big if) this model could be scaled up and used in larger states.
This is where The Woman Project (TWP) comes into the equation. Along with advocating for women’s rights, TWP builds on Rhode Island’s reputation as an artsy state in the approach it uses to take activism to the streets. Currently, TWP is adding signers to a petition that will be published in The Providence Journal on September 30th, which will implore legislators to pass the Reproductive Healthcare Act introduced last year. The letter already has a significant number of signers and is still taking more up until September 14th.
With 63 percent of Rhode Islanders supporting safe, legal abortion, organizations like TWP are providing a vital service by calling on our legislators to represent the majority of the voters. “We brought together a community of people who are moving forward with supporting access to reproductive health care for all Rhode Islanders a priority, who are in support of this legislation and [are] going to do everything to get it passed next year,” said Jocelyn Foye, an artist and one of the founding members of TWP.
I asked Foye about what unique challenges and opportunities Rhode Island presents to the movement for reproductive freedom. “Other states have passed somewhat similar legislation Delaware, Illinois, Oregon and Massachusetts,” said Foye. “So this really builds on that momentum. I think what is different about Rhode Island than these states is that we have Gender Assembly leadership that is right-to-life endorsed, we do not have a NARAL branch, and Emily’s list isn’t active here. Without some of the national forces at play in other states, we have to get creative to get our message out, to be heard and work towards change. That is what is cool about how small Rhode Island is.”
As local activists creating new social policy, The Woman Projects definitely means business. In 2017, the group convinced their own local town Council in South Kingstown to pass a resolution in support of the Reproductive Health Care Act. Now they are seeking support to go statewide. Foye described how, among other strategies, the group might be launching a series of videos to increase support for passage of the Reproductive Healthcare Act this fall.
We’ve made the point here before, but we’ll make it again: the research is looking quite promising for supporting the idea that women make better political leaders. Some new findings recently published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization could become a big deal in today’s gendered political world, and could have huge implications for the future of civil society.
The research discovers that when women are more plentiful in the government body, that body tends to be less susceptible to corruption. Women donors would do well to invest in funding more social science research on this finding. With evidence that women are less likely to take bribes and more likely to support efforts for fair competition for contracts, this is big news for movements for gender equality in governments worldwide. More on this from Science Daily:
Study Finds Less Corruption in Countries Where More Women Are in Government