When we last checked in at the newly formed Obama Foundation, the former First Lady Michelle Obama and her husband, President Barack Obama were laying the groundwork for cultivating a new coalition of organizations focused on girls globally.
Through a collaboration with GoFundMe, the Obama Foundation has established the Global Girls Alliance Fund, helping to raise funds for grassroots organizations to make more headway with educating girls. The initiative accepts applications from eligible nonprofits already working to increase educational opportunities for girls.
I am always keeping an eye out for instances of feminism breaking through to mainstream culture. So when Netflix decided to make its biggest payment ever of $10 million to buy the rights to Knock Down the House, I was eager to learn about how this film came about. How did this relatively new film team suddenly find itself poised to reach Netflix’s estimated 148 million subscribers?
Knock Down the House follows four progressive women who made it into the U.S. Congress in the 2018 elections, inviting viewers to witness the progression of their historic journeys into politics. Just weeks ago, it won Best Documentary Film for 2019 at the Sundance Film Festival.
“There’s a time and place just for grants, and there’s a time and place for gender lens investing, but if you can find that sweet spot where they come together, that’s what gets me going,” says Katherine Pease, Managing Director and Head of Impact Strategies for Cornerstone Capital.
For Pease, the two strategies of gender lens grantmaking and gender lens investing can play a complementary role, particularly when using the Donor Advised Fund (DAF) as an investment vehicle. For women’s funds and foundations, Pease sees an expanding use of DAFs to create new ways to reach women at all levels of society with resources to grow their power.
Despite the prevalence of the sexual exploitation of women and girls, gender-based violence funding accounts for just 1.8% of all foundation giving. And even within that small percentage, the majority of funds go to domestic violence, with commercial sexual exploitation often remaining neglected.
To bridge that crucial gap, the NoVo Foundation recently announced a $10 million, 3-year funding commitment for U.S.-based programs. The funding will go to programs that are aimed at “opening exit ramps” and “closing on-ramps” to the commercial sex trade–or, as it’s often called, The Life.
National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) is commemorated annually in the first week of February. According to its sponsor, the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), the day represents “a national observance celebrating the extraordinary achievements of girls and women in sports.”
The WNBA honored female athletes on February 6, and was one of many institutions noting the value of sport in fostering not just fitness and health in girls and women, but also self-confidence and leadership skills. “Lead Her Forward” was the 2019 NGWSD theme, and the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Deborah Antoine noted, “NGWSD is a great time to uplift these girls and women, along with the advocates using their platforms to inspire greatness in female athletes. We are also more committed than ever to protect Title IX, along with strong policies and safeguards for women in sports and all industries.”
“Funny Girls is a philanthropic investment in building the pipeline for female leadership,” says Jenny Raymond, of the Harnisch Foundation’s (HF) program employing improv techniques to build girls’ leadership skills.
Raymond, who is HF Executive Director, and Carla Blumenthal, Funny Girls Program Manager, spoke to me by phone from the HF offices in New York.
It’s an auspicious time for a program devoted to building the next generation of female leaders as 2018 saw a historic number of diverse women elected to political office. “That didn’t happen overnight. It was brewing for a long time,” says Raymond, who sees Funny Girls as a tool to build on these gains.
CBS corporation announced today that 18 organizations will receive $20 million in funding to address sexual harassment in the workplace. Many of these organizations are longtime players in the women’s rights space, including New York Women’s Foundation, Women’s Media Center, and the National Women’s Law Center, while others are brand new to the field, like TIME’S UP. These grants are part of CBS’s separation agreement with former CEO Les Moonves, which stated that the donations would be deducted from his severance pay.
Despite the myriad challenges that young Black women face in the U.S. South, only 5.4 percent of all foundation funding in this region is focused on women and girls, and less than 1 percent on Black women and girls. To address this imbalance and empower southern Black females, LaTosha Brown of TruthSpeaks Consulting is coordinating a new initiative called the Southern Black Girls and Women’s Consortium (the Consortium), with support from the NoVo Foundation (NoVo). Brown has a clear, creative vision for this work, which she plans to orient around listening to Black girls and “Black joy.”
Like many organizations in the women’s funding community, Women’s Funding Network had a robust year of working on the issues most important to women, including financial empowerment, collaborating with men as allies, and strategic leveraging as a donor and an advocate.
To go a little deeper into this past year of activity in feminist philanthropy, we decided to talk to Cynthia Nimmo, CEO of the Women’s Funding Network, and hear about what it felt like to run one of the most important organizations in the women’s funding space.
The New York Women’s Foundation distributed a record $8 million in 2017 for undertakings in line with its mission to create “an equitable and just future for women and families.” A vital part of this 31-year-old foundation’s work is drawing on local expertise to create and disseminate research on the needs and circumstances of women, girls, LGBTQI, and gender-nonconforming people.
In the fall of 2018, the foundation released part of a series called, Voices from the Field, which explores challenges and support strategies for low-income women in NYC during four major developmental periods: ages 0-8, 9-24, 25-59, and 60 and up. The newly released “Blueprint for Investing in Women Age 25 – 59” draws on data and expert interviews across academic, policy, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors to identify systemic barriers and potential solutions for these populations.