And why does it matter? you ask. Why am I prying into the business of a private marriage on Philanthropy Women? Well, as it turns out, we now know that the answer to the question — did MacKenzie Bezos get a fair divorce settlement? — has huge implications for philanthropy. MacKenzie Bezos is one of the newest signatories of the Giving Pledge, committing to give away at least 50% of her assets while living.
Divorcing in a community property state like Washington, where all resources are considered jointly owned in a marriage, MacKenzie was eligible to get as much as $69 billion. Much of the talk before the Bezos divorce was final speculated that it could come out as a 50/50 split, with MacKenzie getting an equal amount. The actual number — $37 billion — is quite a bit smaller than that. Of the $137.2 billion estimated net worth of Jeff Bezos, $37 billion is only 26.9% of that. A far cry from a 50/50 split.
Quite a lot has happened in just a year’s time here at Philanthropy Women. We thought it would be helpful to let readers know about how this initiative is changing and evolving.
The impact of Philanthropy Women has increased significantly. Now in our second year, our writers, including myself, are more experienced and able to explore subjects more deeply and make more connections. Our amplification of content on social media has also increased. We are receiving more requests for media coverage, and our content has been sought for republication on high visibility venues. We have been able to attract top talent for writers, including Julia Travers, Laura Dorwart, Maggie May, and Tim Lehnert.
Recently I read a post on PRI.org by Rupa Shenoy entitled “The US movement against female genital mutilation is at a crossroads,” which discusses how laws to prevent FGM are developing and facing challenges in the US. The article is very informative about the status of the issue at this time, and helps to explore different ways to address the problem including community education and prevention efforts.
A salient point was made by one of the experts interviewed for the article, Mariya Taher, one of the co-founders of the anti-female genital mutilation advocacy group Sahiyo. With regard to the doctor who performed the genital cutting surgery that was the subject of a federal prosecution on FGM, and who justifies the act as part of a cultural practice, Taher said:
Do major league sports leaders have a responsibility to model respect for women in everything they do? This question is fresh on the minds of many due to Robert Kraft, philanthropist and owner of the New England Patriots, being charged with two counts of soliciting a prostitute in Florida, where he was allegedly engaging in sex acts with women at Orchids of Asia Salon.
Through his philanthropy, Robert Kraft has funded initiatives specifically aimed at ending sexual exploitation of women and girls. USA Today reports that Kraft gave $100,000 in 2015 to My Life, My Choice, a Boston-based organization that works on ending child sex trafficking. Some might ask how the same man can be both perpetrating sexual exploitation and funding initiatives to end it.
One of the main reasons I started Philanthropy Women was to shine a spotlight on women givers, because I noticed that knowing more about them made me feel better about the world. Rather than logging on to Twitter and reading the toxic political discourse, I decided to fill up my Twitter feed with women’s funds and other feminist philanthropy thought leaders. The result was astonishing — I was suddenly getting new information about so many issues related to women — their health, their money, their professional lives. The process of turning my attention to progressive feminist philanthropy also turned me into a feminist donor, as I realized how well women’s giving to gender equality aligned with my own social justice interests.
As a specialty publisher in the feminist philanthropy field, Philanthropy Women strives to contribute significantly to the pool of stories about gender equality givers. Our guiding belief is that publishing these stories helps other people activate their own change process and do more to address gender inequality in their own lives and in the world around them.
The stories we cover on Philanthropy Women are enjoying more attention all the time, and are also subsequently getting attention on larger platforms, both within philanthropy and in the mainstream media. In addition, more of our content is now making it into the real time news on Google, Bing, and other large search engines. This means we are doing exactly what the Women’s Philanthropy Institute’s research says we need to do if we want to create more gender equality givers — adding to the information about how individuals and groups are giving to this area of philanthropy. By your joining us in watching and learning about feminist philanthropy, you are aiding in the process of creating more donors for the sector.
I’ll be taking a break here for a few weeks, to more fully be present for the holidays with loved ones, but before I go I’d like to share the interview I recently did with the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, since I think it does a good job of distilling my beliefs about feminist philanthropy and why it is so important in the world today.
Peace and joy to you and yours as we head into the New Year!
My Interview with Women’s Fund of Rhode Island
How did you come to know about the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island?
WFRI first came onto my radar when I saw the work you do with educating legislatures about issues important to women. I followed WFRI’s leadership on this from the fund’s founding Executive Director, Marcia Coné, to later Jenn Steinfeld, and now on to Kelly Nevins. It is inspiring to see how WFRI researches and articulates such critical information that helps guide public policy.
What is the background of Philanthropy Women and what is your mission?
I started Philanthropy Women after two and half years of writing for Inside Philanthropy with David Callahan, who introduced me to the world of feminist philanthropy. I soon realized that I was overflowing with story ideas about feminist philanthropy and decided to develop my own platform to ensure the news and information I was publishing was making it into public discourse. Our mission at Philanthropy Women is to shine a spotlight on strategies for creating a more gender equal world, as well as the history of women’s giving for gender equality, so that more people know about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.
At Philanthropy Women, we believe that feminist philanthropy has the capacity to change the game for so many facets of living — for the economy, for politics, for relationships, for corporations, for nonprofits, for animals, for the environment. It is a philosophy and a strategy that we believe could help humans live more peacefully on earth, as it influences all systems to be more inclusive and relational.
How do you see the work you do with Philanthropy Women intersecting with the work of WFRI?
On the most practical level, we are quite related — sort of like cousins in the feminist philanthropy ecosystem. The Women’s Funding Network, of which WFRI is a member, is the fiscal sponsor for Philanthropy Women, which means they help me access grant funding to produce our content. Also, as a publisher focused on women’s funding, I am always keeping an eye on WFRI, and I’ve written several posts about your grant-making and other activities. I enjoy attending WFRI events and meeting other members, so it feels like my local chapter of the women’s funding world.
What advice do you have for women who want to engage in philanthropy, and in particular support organizations like ours?
Forgive me for quoting a corporate slogan, but just do it! I really enjoy being in the community of women givers, and have had some wonderful experiences going to conferences and retreats. Everyone has to find their tribe at some point, and I definitely feel like I found my tribe with progressive women givers. We are concerned with solving big problems that will make the world a better place, and it’s working. Women are moving into leadership in greater numbers. Men are openly proclaiming that they are feminists and are doing more to support gender equality. People are beginning to recognize the negative impacts of inequality, domination, and exploitation at all levels of society.
Is there anything else you feel is important to note about the current environment of women in philanthropy?
It’s encouraging to watch women figure out how to leverage their personal and financial power in order to address gender equality. If you are interested in knowing more about women givers, or in sharing a story about women’s philanthropy and how it has impacted your life, I would love to hear from you.
I’m thrilled to announce that Philanthropy Women will now offer Premium Access content. We have been building our database for over a year, and are now confident that opening up this new revenue stream will be a benefit to everyone. By providing Premium Access content, we will be able to raise funds to expand our work, hiring more reporters and researchers, and finding new ways to serve the community of gender equality philanthropists and activists.
Not all of our content will be behind the paywall. We take seriously the role of publishers to provide access to educational content, and will continue to offer free access to content that serves a pressing public need.
While some of our content will now be exclusive to Premium Access subscribers, we’ll also continue to be very public-facing by remaining active on social media, keeping readers updated on events, research, and trends in gender equality giving. To get our daily news on gender equality philanthropy, please subscribe to our Twitter feed and our daily aggregation of news published via Giving for Good.
With more exclusive content on women’s philanthropy and gender equality giving, we will continue building our unique knowledge base for both advocates and donors — helping donors see strategies in the field, and helping those in the field be aware of where money is flowing for new work. This will foster more cohesion, collaboration, and networking in the dynamic world of feminist philanthropy.
Thanks to Daniel Heimpel and The Chronicle of Social Change for publishing my op-ed on the student-led gun safety movement happening all around us today in the world. I am immensely proud of all the young people who are showing us the way today.
From the op-ed:
Ahead of the Curve: Women’s Funds and Youth-Led Social Movements
Are we finally listening to the children? An estimated 185,000 youth walked out of school and onto the streets on March 14 to protest the lack of adequate gun control in America. Thousands more will descend on Washington, D.C., today to raise their voices and most importantly lay out a responsible path forward. Youth-led social movements are demonstrating that they are the force to be reckoned with.
In key respects, many women’s funds have already done groundbreaking work for youth-led movements in recent years. Scaling these movements up could be an effective way to fight back against a government currently held hostage by the powerful moneyed interests of the gun lobby.
Funders ready to acknowledge and bolster youth-led movements are in the right place at the right time to help chart a new path for public safety. Among the funders who are well-positioned for this niche are women’s funds and foundations.
The growth of youth-led advocacy supported by women’s funds started because they recognized the essential value of young women’s voices and experiences. This work was cultivated further in 2016 with the launch of Prosperity Together, a collaboration of 32 women’s funds across the country who have committed to investing $100 million over five years in improving economic security for low-income women, particularly young women.
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.
I love that this is the number one post on Philanthropy Women, since it highlights the importance of progressive women leaders coming together and developing the language and strategy of feminist philanthropy.
Our story on the New England International Donors Giving Circle, which raised and granted $70,000 in 11 months for gender equality organizations in Kenya, Senegal, Rwanda, and Uganda, sent a strong signal about the power of women’s collective giving to effect change both locally and globally.
While attending the Women’s Philanthropy Institute’s DREAM, DARE, DO conference in March, and seeing Tracy Gary speak about her lifetime of devotion to gender equality philanthropy, I began to appreciate how one woman’s work can impact so many. Her profile is one of our highest ranking posts, and speaks to the power of raising up women’s leadership and magnifying effective models of progressive women’s giving.
Jennifer and Peter Buffett of The NoVo Foundation have played a key role in identifying new strategies for moving the needle on gender equality philanthropy. With the foundation’s landmark devotion of $90 million in funding to address the needs of women and girls of color, this article explores how NoVo’s founders are contributing to the feminist philanthropy landscape.
With her ability to identify America’s blind spot when it comes to funding women and girls of color, Kimberlé Crenshaw’s work resonates strongly with liberal strategies seeking to get at structural change. My favorite quote in the article from Crenshaw: “They say we lost the recent election because we paid too much attention to women and people of color, but the issue is that we didn’t pay enough attention to either constituency.”
Emily Nielsen Jones got us all on the feminist train early this year, and she has been driving that train to new destinations ever since. As the co-founder of Imago Dei Fund and Board member for New England International Donors Network, Jones continues to test her mettle as a donor activist. Her essay exploring the many ways that feminism needs to be embraced by both men and women, got a lot of page views this past year.
Another important progressive leader chimed in later in the year on Philanthropy Women: Allison Fine. With four fascinating books on nonprofits, networking, and social change to her credit, Fine also has several years experience as a policy wonk for Demos in New York. She is now Vice Chair of Board Of Directors at NARAL, an essential organization in the fight to protect women’s equality and access to reproductive services. With this thought leadership piece, Fine brings new ideas to the conversation on how women can embrace their power for funding social change.
Few thinkers or leaders have the ability to connect ideas and action quite the way that Helen LaKelly Hunt does. With her new book, And the Spirit Moved Them, Hunt explores the three central passions that drive her work: funding for gender equality, changing the culture of intimate relationships, and rethinking the historical roots of American feminism. These result is a book that retells the history of American feminism in profound ways and calls on progressives to strategize across race, class, and gender lines.
This piece by veteran fundraiser and consultant Kathy LeMay, got a lot of views, and helped explore how a new leader in philanthropy like Ana Morales can connect to the larger scene. My favorite quote from the article: “Morales’ philanthropic focus and confidence didn’t come overnight. It involved risk-taking and networking in unfamiliar territory. ‘I sat myself at dinners that scared the shit out of me and I started asking questions,'” said Morales.
It’s an essential question that doesn’t get discussed enough: who is funding sexual assault prevention? While this article is by no means an exhaustive list of the funders for sexual assault prevention, it describes many important funders in the field and how they are approaching the problem. The article also serves as a reminder of how little focus this area of philanthropy gets.
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.
As a member of the Episcopal church for the past two decades, I imagine many of the families we have known throughout the years qualified for itemized deductions the same way we did. But now that is no longer. It would be impossible for us, on our income, with a daughter in college, to qualify for the $24,000 deduction threshold. We are no longer part of the giving class that can get a tiny break on their taxes by giving more to nonprofits.
Experts are estimating this tax bill will strike a devastating blow to churches, as well as many other local nonprofits that depend on that middle class and upper middle class donor, who were incentivized to give by the previous tax code.
Corporations including AT&T, Bank of America, Comcast, and others, came out with distracting news about how they are going to give bonuses and raises because of the new tax bill and the $1 trillion windfall they expect.
Progressive donors: pay no attention to those distractions. We need to stay on task with our own agenda.
So what should progressive donors, and particularly progressive women donors do? It’s time to pull out all the stops.
Collectively, progressive women donors and the nonprofit sector should come together to strategize on how to get the tax law repealed. Newly established alliances such as The Emergent Fund might be good places to grow a nexus of support and strategy to get the Trump Tax repealed.
Other important allies need to be brought in as well, including political alliances that will work to bring both the House and the Senate back under democratic control.
Give more than ever before to the causes that promote civic engagement for all. The more people we can bring to awareness about the way this tax law will impact them negatively, the more pressure they can exert on their elected representatives.
By now, it should go without saying here at Philanthropy Women, but progressive donors should #FundWomen — meaning plow funding into women-led organizations that are influencing systemic change in representation for our democracy. A particularly good organization to join and support is the Women Donors Network, which has done much of the legwork in exposing the lack of representation in our elected leadership. Other organizations like Higher Heights, which has a specific targeted mission of electing more women of color, is another safe bet for spending your donor dollars effectively.
Electing more progressive women leaders will be a double win for working to get this tax law repealed and working to get our culture more focused on health care, education, and workforce development. That means we all need to get out and distribute flyers and go to rallies and do all those other things that promote democracy and voter engagement.
Other thoughts about what we need to do now to start the tax law repeal, please share below!