Powerful Men Backing Feminism: Obama and Bill Surprise Melinda

In a video appearance, Barack Obama talks with Bill Gates about how to surprise Melinda Gates at the end of her book tour. “Please tell Melinda I’m committed to the Lift. We’re gonna do everything we can to keep pushing until every single girl has the rights and opportunities and the freedom to go as far as her dreams are going to take her,” said Obama in the call. (Image Credit: Twitter video)

Men make great feminist philanthropists, too.

On May 9th, during the final stop of the tour for Melinda Gates’ new book, The Moment of Lift, audience members in Seattle got a surprise video visit from former President Barack Obama.

In an introductory speech that shocked Melinda herself, her husband Bill Gates revealed that he had been unsure how best to introduce Melinda for the most important event of her tour, so he began “secretly scheming” with the former President to decide on the best method — and posted their “brainstorming” session on Twitter.

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Knowing When to Say No: Sometimes Leaving Money on the Table Sends the Strongest Message

The Haitian Project President Deacon Patrick Moynihan (right) stands with Louverture Cleary School faculty and administration at an all-school morning prayer and meeting. (photo credit: The Haitian Project)

Patrick Moynihan, President of The Haitian Project, a Rhode Island-based Catholic non-profit which educates poor Haitians, has publicly rejected a $100,000 donation offered by a representative of Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots.

In a May 8, 2019 Skype interview given to the GoLocalProv website, and reiterated in a Providence Journal opinion piece published several days later, Moynihan stated that because Kraft has refused to denounce the sex trade and apologize for his participation in it, it was improper for The Haitian Project to accept funds from the Patriots owner.

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Collaborating to Advance Justice for Women: Solidago Foundation

Sarah Christiansen of Solidago Foundation discusses their unique “solidarity economy” approach to funding.

Solidago Foundation might only have $5 million in assets, but you wouldn’t know it from their leadership among social justice funders, especially when it comes to supporting women at the grassroots.

“We are small, we don’t move a lot of dollars, but we move big ideas and are deeply committed to being in community in the arena where we hold our positional power,” said Sarah Christiansen, the Program Director for Environmental Justice and Inclusive Economy.

This outsized role is highly visible in the nascent funding for solidarity economy, an organizing framework that often overlaps with new economy, economic democracy, cooperative economy, and/or inclusive economy. It is characterized by economic initiatives and enterprises that are community-controlled, democratic, sustainable, committed to social and racial justice, mutualistic, cooperative, and respectful of diverse approaches.

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Invest for Better: Helping Women Impact Finance, and the World

Ellen Remmer, Senior Partner at The Philanthropic Institute, discusses the launch of Invest for Better, a new platform to help women lead the way in impact investing.

“The deeper I get into impact investing, the more I’m persuaded,” says Ellen Remmer, Senior Partner at the Philanthropic Institute (TPI), after a 25 year career in finance and philanthropy. “Personally, when I changed advisors and started doing impact investing, it connected me to my money in new and different ways, and it was so much more interesting. I was always bored by [traditional investing]. Now it was interesting, because it was about social and environmental change.”

Remmer is part of a minority of women in our culture who has pursued her interest in impact investing to the point of actually doing it. While more women are finally moving into impact investing now, Remmer wants to add to that momentum and make sure they are equipped with knowledge and guidance to do impact investing well.

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Longtime Women’s Foundation CEO to Step Down

Lee Roper-Batker, CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.

The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota has announced the retirement of Lee Roper-Batker as President and CEO, a big change for one of the largest and most influential women’s foundations in the country.

Effective January 3, 2020, Roper-Batker will step down, after leading the foundation for 18 years.

Her service to the sector is significant. Since becoming the foundation’s President and CEO in 2001, Roper-Batker has presided over a period of growth and expansion that included increasing the organization’s grantmaking by 840%. She also helped established groundbreaking programs to protect women and girls from sexual trafficking including MN Girls Are Not For Sale, launched in 2011, a prescient project that helped raise awareness about sexual abuse and trafficking of women and girls before the #MeToo movement.

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50 Women Can: Cultivating Women’s Leadership in Journalism

Take the Lead recently announced the launch of a new program to strengthen women’s leadership in journalism.

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.”

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Jean Case Explores Fearlessness in Business and Philanthropy

Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, and author of Be Fearless: Five Principles for a Lifetime of Breakthrough and Purpose.

Recently I interviewed Jean Case for Inside Philanthropy and learned about how her early years as a survivor of hardship helped her prepare for a lifetime of success in business and philanthropy. We  also discussed how to maintain a fearless attitude in both business and philanthropy, so that you don’t become afraid of all the risks, hassles and pitfalls that drive a lot of people to drop out of pursuing plans in both spheres.

Toward the end of the interview, I asked Case about her perception of women in philanthropy and how their influence is shifting the landscape:

Another part of our culture where Case sees growing fearlessness is in women’s influence on money, both in philanthropy and in the private sector. “It goes way beyond philanthropy and into investing,” said Case.

Case sees a different culture being fostered both in business and philanthropy, in which “women care very deeply about supporting other women,” and are willing to back each other’s work with financial as well as other forms of support. “Our work [at the Case Foundation] in the inclusive entrepreneurship realm is all about that.”

But she was clear that the gender gap still needs to be remedied in order to achieve the diversity needed for a healthier economy. “We need all the players on the field, and today, we don’t have them.”

“Women and millennials are looking at social justice issues and seeing how we can do things differently,” said Case. In the business sector, she recognized that corporations are paying more attention than ever to the Sustainable Development Goals and the need for gender equality to be part of the equation for a healthy global economy.

Read the full interview here. 

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Innovation Symposium Will Look at Gender-Based Giving, Participatory Grantmaking

Innovations in International Philanthropy is sponsored by Fidelity Charitable, Veris Wealth Partners, the Boston Foundation, and many other notable partners in the corporate and nonprofit sectors.

Good news for the philanthropic sector, as mainstream philanthropy appears to be embracing key concepts and strategies related to gender equality and a more relational way to do grantmaking.

The latest example of this trend? New England International Donors (NEID) and The Philanthropic Initiative’s Center for Global Philanthropy have gotten together to co-host  the 2018 Innovations in International Philanthropy Symposium at MIT’s Samberg Center September 6-7, 2018. The goal of this event is to “propel forward the capacity and impact of internationally-oriented philanthropists, including individuals, families, foundations, investors, and corporate funders.”

But here’s the really good part: this symposium will involve systems strategizing, gender-based giving, and participatory grant-making, all key concepts to feminist philanthropy. Lisa Jackson, managing partner of Imago Dei Fund, will be facilitating a workshop on  “Introducing a Gender Lens to Your Philanthropy.” Jen Bokoff of The Foundation Center and Diana Samarasan of the Disability Rights Fund will workshop the subject of “Taking a Participatory Approach to Grantmaking.”

Impact investing will also be discussed, which aligns with feminist philanthropy in that it encourages the use of alternative models for funding social change like Limited Liability Corporations and funding start-up businesses.

The two-day event has an impressive lineup of speakers and workshops. Check it out:

Agenda

Thursday, September 6, 2018 – at The Boston Foundation

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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.

Abigail Disney, also a mother and wife, and a beacon of ever-evolving feminist consciousness, is prepared for action. Unafraid to tackle difficult issues – she was a major advocate against the Trump tax bill, despite the huge gains she would personally receive. The Disney heiress has metamorphosed into a principled actor on behalf of the issues that concern her: peace and social justice. Evolution is her forte. While she comes from a major U.S. media family, she did not set out to become a media maker herself.

In May 2008, Abigail wrote a piece for the Huffington Post about how she came to produce the documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell. The story focuses on the women’s movement for peace in Liberia and its impact on ending fifteen years of war in the country.  In the post, Abigail questions why the mainstream media has been so absent on the job of covering these critical events involving women’s leadership. She wrote: “How was it possible that these Liberian women had accomplished such an enormous feat without having been noticed and reported on by the news outlets I had come to know and trust?”

Her partner in founding Fork Films, Gini Reticker, and director of Pray the Devil Back to Hell, before an audience at the Brooklyn Museum, described early pre-production research on the film. She screened over 80 hours of news footage that captured only a glimpse of the women who daily led peace protests: “I had journalists say to me: ‘I saw the women on the field. But they were so pitiful looking that I didn’t film them,’Reticker recounted. In contrast, boys captured and forced into a warring militia, clutching AK47s, are glorified in hours of footage. I have written before about this egregious gender bias within mainstream media.

One of the key leaders among the Christian and Muslim women who banded together for peace in Liberia is Leymeh Gbowee. Her experience anchors the film. Through the many awards Pray the Devil Back to Hell won and speaking opportunities, Gbowee became widely know in peace circles. The film has had a lasting impact which she believes can inspire more women. Gwobe writes: “This documentary is like a landmark or something that tells other women, ‘People did it before we came, we’ve done it, and they can also do it. It is not a fluke. It can happen. People just need to rise up and rise above the politics that so deeply divide us as women.”

Pre-dawn on a brisk October day in 2011 the Disney-Hauser household was bubbling with excitement. A teenage daughter of Leymeh Gbowee was living with Abigail’s family and attending school in the U.S.  Leymeh Gbowee, too, was in New York promoting her newly released book, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War. News from Oslo swarmed across the Atlantic before first light, announcing that Leymeh Gbowee was one of three women to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The film Disney had produced three years earlier, her first venture in movie making, had given an international stage to the women’s peace efforts in Liberia. The power of film had an indelible effect.

During this same Fall, 2011, Disney and Reticker teamed up with WNET to create a five-part series, Women, War and Peace, for PBS. At the time, Donna Williams, Senior Publicist for WNET declared, “This series is rare in that it puts women at the center of an analysis of conflict and peace.” The five videos from 2011 can be viewed online.

Vessel, a film about the stellar work of Dr. Rebecca Gomperts and her Women On Waves program that brings abortion services across the high seas, is another important work that Abigail Disney has helped deliver to the film world.  Director Diana Whitten in August 2011 joyously wrote me: “Some exciting news! Abby Disney has joined the Vessel crew as Executive Producer!”  Having a dedicated producer is key for successful film completion, and I was thrilled to see Abigail stepping into such a role in advancing other women’s films.

Official funding is listed as 2013 for VESSEL. By 2013, Fork Films had already supported over a dozen films. A more formalized funding program from Fork Films emerged around the time that VESSEL was released in 2014. Another forty films are featured that have been funded through Fork Film since 2013. All totalled, the company states it has “supported nearly 90 documentaries that support peace and social justice.”  Among the list are highly acclaimed works including Cameraperson, Strong Island, and Roll Red Roll. Grants range from $10,000 to $50,000. The next grant deadline will be in the Fall of 2018.

Ninety productions in less than a decade is a sizable collection of works by women supported by one entity. When you leave the darkness of the screening room, you can see that Abigail Disney is on the move, again. She is not resting on these laurels. In late May, she was a speaker on a recent panel about Violence Against Women at the Women+Money Summit organized by the Women’s Funding Network.

Earlier this month she was again with Rev. Rob Schenck, this time at Harper Collins in New York for the release of his book, Costly Grace: An Evangelical Minister’s Rediscovery of Faith, Hope and Love. In promoting the book, they spent an hour via his Facebook page discussing its content, their friendship and work together. He read from the acknowledgments: “Finally, it was Abby Disney who first prompted me to write this book, then nudged me until I had unstoppable momentum. Abby was the angel behind this undertaking.“

They described their first meeting. Disney voiced, “I was looking for someone who was politically different from me in every conceivable way to try to make common cause. I hoped to take the discussion of gun ownership in America back to its roots and talk about it from a moral, ethical and religious standpoint. Who I met instead of a fire-eating dragon was a menschy guy.” The common thread was that they both “crossed over.” Disney’s family was conservative. Schenck’s family of origin was liberal. So, as Disney underscored, “We are both bilingual. That is what this book is about.”

Schenck went on to describe how his work became over-framed by politics and that he lost his spiritual compass. A whole chapter of the book deals with how Evangelicals made a deal with Donald Trump and lost their moral compass. Later, in discussing Dietrich Bonhoeffer and a crisis in the church in Germany in the early 30s, Schenck discussed how Evangelicals had made a deal with Hitler.

Both Disney and Schenck delved into the conundrum of making people mad as hornets in their different worlds. Disney asked, “How do we reach out to them? How do we help them get past their anger…….not only for the people who are angry with us, but the people who we are angry with.”

“Change is hard for all of us….you’ve changed more than I have. I feel guilty about it sometimes.” Disney prefaced as she asked Rev. Schenck a final question. I queried her further on this and she responded: “Yes, for sure, I truly have changed through the meta-partisan work. It’s made me more kind, it’s made me more prone to approach issues with love instead of hostility, and it has widened my networks and spheres of influence. It’s been nothing but good!”

Watch out. Abigail Disney is on the move. Stretching her own mind and moral compass, lifting the minds and experiences of others as a part of her own expanding experiences. Focusing on common cause, she may just be changing more than she knows. And, as I suspected, she assured me she does have “a glimmer” of a new film bubbling up,“But, I can’t talk about it yet.”

ARIEL’S PITCH: Support independent women’s narrative filmmaking with your dollars. A feature, By Now I’ve Lived A Thousand Lives and None of Them Are Mine, is directed by Britni West. Regional filmmaking is vital to cultural diversity. She has $13,000 more to raise by July 20 in Kickstarters’ “all-or-nothing” process. Over on Indiegogo, is Wonderland, a comedy written by and starring Yetide Badaki. Directed by Jessica Sherif, Zodwa, like Alice, stumbles through the looking glass into Hollywood. Will she survive the madness? Only if you assist to raise the remaining $8,400 by July 9th.

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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.”

Biographical notes on both of the speakers from the event page at Union Seminary:

Rebecca Walker

Rebecca Walker is an American writer, feminist, and activist. Walker has been regarded as a prominent feminist voice since she published an article in 1992 in Ms. magazine in which she proclaimed, “I am the Third Wave.” Walker’s writing, teaching, and speeches focus on race, gender, politics, power, and culture. In her activist work, she co-founded the Third Wave Fund that morphed into the Third Wave Foundation, an organization that supports young women of color, queer, intersex, and trans individuals to find the tools and resources they need to be leaders in their communities through activism and philanthropy.

Helen LaKelly Hunt

Helen LaKelly Hunt is one of a small army of women who helped to seed the women’s funding movement. She co-founded The Dallas Women’s Foundation, The New York Women’s Foundation, The Women’s Funding Network and Women Moving Millions. She is the author of Faith and Feminism: A Holy Alliance and her latest release, And the Spirit Moved Them, shares the radical history of the abolitionist feminists. Her private foundation, The Sister Fund, focuses on faith, feminism and relationship, all three intrinsic to women’s wholeness. Helen was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2001. In addition, she has co-authored several books with her partner, Harville Hendrix, on Imago Relationship Therapy. They are now working to disseminate Safe Conversations, a new relational technology, that can help manifest the feminist vision to create a more relational culture.

Philanthropy Women will be there. We hope you will be there, too!  To learn more about the event and register to attend, go here. 

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