The 12 Most Promising Trends in Women’s Philanthropy

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 3, 2020.

Since I launched Philanthropy Women in 2017, and even before then, I have been paying close attention to the trends, as well as the big plays and strategy shifts, happening in feminist giving. For that reason, I thought it might be helpful to enumerate some of those gender equality giving trends and other happenings, and flesh out what they mean both now and for the future of philanthropy.

feminist giving trends
State-based women’s funds such are getting more powerful as large foundations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation begin to recognize the value of their existing infrastructure to leverage social change. (Image credit: Women’s Foundation California)

1. Women Funders Are Getting More Ambitious With Their Strategies

I see women funders getting more ambitious with their strategies in many different ways, both in terms of the subjects they will fund as well as the approaches they are willing to try. This means they are doing bolder things with their money, which often translates into helping our culture to become more inclusive and knowledgeable about difference. For example, Mona Sinha, Chair of the Women Moving Millions Board, has done some amazing work lately supporting the documentary Disclosure. This film does groundbreaking work in terms of exploring the growing world of gender transition, helping this community to be seen and valued by society. Being unafraid to cross the barrier and fund the LGBTQ community is just one of the many bold strategies that more feminist funders are adopting more frequently.

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Which is More Important: Women on the Moon or Gender Equity on Earth?

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 8, 2020.

Is repeating space/moon travel a more pressing issue than addressing gender equality on earth?

Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos shared a video of his rocket engine on Instagram, with notes about the “thrust” and “deep throttling” of the machinery. (Image credit: Jeff Bezos Instagram)

Jeff Bezos seems to think so. The world’s richest man appears to be in something of a billionaire space-nerd contest with Elon Musk to see who can make the biggest cyber-splash with their private space travel enterprises.

Meanwhile, here on earth, we’re having much more pedestrian problems, such as mass deaths due to a preventable disease ravaging our populace, largely due to the extreme negligence of our country’s leadership.

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Returning to the Stage: “Prothero” at Great Salt Lake Fringe

For a group of self-described “theater kids”, putting away onstage personalities and shutting the door may have been more difficult than most. But as we move closer to “normal”, one of the first returns we’re eager to see is the return to the stage — and not just the return of the classics, but the start of something new and incredible building its way out of the pandemic.

At The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival, held this July and August in Salt Lake City, Utah, the return to the stage is more than just a celebration of live performance. Fringe, as an arts movement, is known for themes and stories on the edges — and this year, the rise of marginalized directors, all-female casts, and feminist narratives is more apparent than ever.

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Shira Ruderman: Show With Actions, Not Just Words

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Shira Ruderman, Executive Director of the Ruderman Family Foundation, a private family foundation that invests in three primary areas of focus: advocating for and advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout our society, strengthening the relationship between Israel and the American Jewish community, and modeling the practice of strategic philanthropy worldwide.

Shira Ruderman is the Executive Director of the Ruderman Family Foundation. (Image Credit: Ruderman Family Foundation)

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

I wish I knew philanthropy is a life journey that you cannot get separated from. I view it like parenthood, you learn as you go. Philanthropy makes you recognize your passions, skills, views on life.

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Kimberlé Crenshaw: How to Fund Women and Girls of Color

Editor’s Note: This interview was originally published in July, 2017.

I have spent the past few years observing, writing about, and getting more involved in the world of women’s philanthropy. During that time, multiple experts have referred to the work of Kimberlé Crenshaw as being essential to the changes we now see going on in philanthropy, with more efforts to apply both a gender and race lens when framing problems and funding new strategies.

Kimberle Crenshaw
Kimberlé Crenshaw, Professor, Columbia Law School and UCLA Law School, Co-Founder, African American Policy Forum

Indeed, with her scholarship, advocacy, and legal expertise, Crenshaw has helped build and disseminate whole new areas of knowledge including critical race theory and intersectional theory. These concepts have helped philanthropists like Peter Buffett and organizations like the NoVo Foundation apply an inclusive gender and race lens that values and addresses the needs of women and girls of color in the United States.

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Janeen Comenote on How Native Feminist Values Can Guide Giving

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Janeen Comenote, Executive Director of the National Urban Indian Family Coalition and Marguerite Casey Foundation board member.

Janeen Comenote, courtesy of Janeen Comenote

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

When I first started working in the nonprofit sector over 20 years ago, the concept of philanthropy was completely foreign to me and, frankly, intimidating. I wish I would have known then that my lived professional, personal, and cultural experience is an important story for philanthropy to hear. I think there is real power in sharing our stories with one another and philanthropy needs to hear our collective stories. When I first started my career, it was in a sort of silo, I was unaware of how invisible the Native community was in the larger philanthropic, and American, diaspora. I think, had I known then how profoundly that realization would shape my career, I may have utilized additional messaging about it earlier.

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After the Forum: How Do We Ensure Results from #GenerationEquality?

This summer saw the return of events around the world dedicated to feminist funding, and chief among them was the annual #GenerationEquality Forum, held online and in Paris from June 3oth to July 2nd.

generation equality
Image Credit: UN Women, Facebook

Topics ranged from progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the pandemic’s impact on women’s empowerment to notes on our progress from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The ultimate attitude of the Forum was one of anticipation and excitement: as the impact of the pandemic lessens around the world, we can look forward to a time of progress toward #GenerationEquality goals and recoup the social losses from COVID-19.

Over the three days of the #GenerationEquality Forum, a combination of fundraising efforts, corporate pledges, nonprofit campaign announcements, and other donations resulted in a total of $40 billion pledged to women and girls.

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Rajasvini Bhansali: Democratic Future of US Not Guaranteed

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Rajasvini Bhansali, Executive Director of Solidaire Network.

Rajasvini Bhansali
Rajasvini Bhansali, Executive Director of Solidaire Network (courtesy of Rajasvini Bhansali)

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

I wish I had known to counter any external and internalized messages about individual leadership accomplishments with the recognition that we are deeply interdependent on others for our success. I would have been even more vulnerable and drawn strength from my community and led in a way that created conditions for even greater connectedness amongst different organizations, networks, and alliances. Sometimes I focused on my own team and organization’s needs over all sectoral, movement building and ecosystem level concerns.  But if the ecosystem doesn’t thrive then each organism within it also suffers. So as feminist leaders, we have to continuously nurture the whole ecosystem.

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A Leader in Women’s Health Urges Donors to Lean Into Discomfort

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Dr. Anu Kumar, President and CEO of Ipas, an international reproductive health and rights organization.

Anu Kumar
Dr. Anu Kumar, courtesy of Dr. Anu Kumar

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

That the issues that I have chosen to work on, reproductive health and rights including access to abortion, are ones that will take generations to resolve. I naively thought that since Roe v. Wade was decided well before I came of reproductive age and the public health data were so clear about the health benefits of contraception and abortion for women, families, communities, and countries that logic would prevail and I would simply be running programs to scale up these programs. Little did I know that I would become a warrior for abortion rights!

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Sex Workers in India Need Our Help. Here’s What Donors Can Do

Editor’s Note: The following post from Katarzyna Rybarczyk, a Political Correspondent for Immigration News, details the increased danger for sex workers in India, and provides ways for donors to step in with support.

Despite India being home to some of the most significant populations of sex workers globally, sex workers in India have very few protections and are alienated from the government’s responses. Even before the pandemic, sex workers in India would face unfair treatment, discrimination, and poverty. Now, these problems have intensified to the point where for the majority of sex workers every day is a struggle to survive. 

sex workers in India
Photo by Sara Bakhshi on Unsplash

The Pandemic Exacerbated Sex Workers’ Vulnerabilities

Because of the nature of their profession, sex workers rely on physical contact and in-person meetings with clients to earn a living. As red-light districts have been recognised as one of the primary sources of new COVID-19 infections, they have experienced repeated closures and a significant decrease in the number of people using sex workers’ services. Their former clients not only fear contracting the virus, but many have also lost their jobs because of the pandemic and thus can no longer pay for regular meetings. 

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