Watching the news in 2019 can sometimes be an exercise in self-restraint. So often, we find ourselves gripped by unpleasant stories that have far-reaching implications, particularly for women.
At the same time, women’s voices are heard more widely in 2019 than in previous generations. Just look at the #MeToo movement, Nike’s “they call us crazy” advertisements, or the thousands of women who marched into DC’s Freedom Plaza on January 19th. These movements are a reminder that the world is not limited to what we see on the news — women around the world are banding together to make their voices heard, and when women unite to enact social change, incredible things happen.
If we support a woman in STEM, then she can change the world.
If we support the organizations that support women in STEM, then we can change the world together.
Through surprise, purpose, and meaningful relationships, Lyda Hill is transforming feminist philanthropy as we know it — and her foundation’s $25 million donation to the IF/THEN initiative is the next great chapter in an inspiring lifelong story.
Lyda Hill, the entrepreneur and donor behind Lyda Hill Philanthropies, is no stranger to donations that come with a twist. Her organization is committed to funding meaningful change through her personal philosophy and her personal estate — all of which she plans on donating to charity in full, most of it during her lifetime.
“I recently went to the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice, in Montgomery Alabama. It’s an incredibly powerful place, but the stories of women are not as prominent as they could be,” says Surina Khan, Executive Director of the Women’s Foundation of California (WFC), in a recent interview about the principles guiding her leadership.
The experience of visiting the Legacy Museum reinforced for Khan the importance of gender justice impact assessments — of organizations and institutions regularly assessing whether they are paying enough attention to gender issues. Since returning to the helm of WFC in 2014, Khan has taken an increasingly intentional approach to employing a gender lens to everything they do, meaning from caterers to banking services to program grantees, it’s all about doing business with partners who align with WFC’s values.
The subject of female genital mutilation (FGM) — the practice of removing a female’s clitoris, sometimes accompanied by sewing together her labia — rarely makes it into the mainstream news, so recent public awareness campaigns like February 6th’s #EndFGM campaign are helping to put it on the agenda.
Ending FGM is central to movements for women to be free to direct their own lives both in the U.S. and abroad. Feminist philanthropists have been working on this issue for decades, and now, with legislation passing to criminalize the practice, there is more potential than ever to realize some bigger gains.
“When the Nation Institute was founded more than 50 years ago, we were a modest organization affiliated with the Nation Magazine — but that name no longer reflects the breadth and impact of what we do today,” said Taya Kitman, Executive Director and CEO of Type Media Center, regarding the rebranding of the organization.
Type Media Center, the rebrand of the 52-year old Nation Institute, will be dedicated to “world-class independent journalism and publishing”and will be a nonprofit media company with two major programs rebranded as Type Investigations and Bold Type Books.
For the past several years, there has been a growing synergy between gender lens investing and gender lens grantmaking. The latest example: an upcoming gathering in Austin, Texas, that will explore ways to get more women “in the game” of both investing and donating for gender equality.
Leaders in gender lens advocacy, Tuti Scott and Tracy Gray, are facilitating this convening in Austin, Texas from September 16-17, in order to figure out what it will take to get more women aligned with donating, investing, and taking action for gender equality in all segments of society.
Women & Money: Making Money Moves that Matter is bringing together women leaders to engage in strategic talks about how to accelerate progress for gender equality across finance and investing as well as social policy.
More from the event’s web page:
We are convening bold, unapologetic leaders who want to move beyond information sharing in the gender lens investing space to put new knowledge and tools to good use. Together, we are sparking new conversations, listening to each other deeply, and getting to work so that women can activate their capital as impact investors and social justice givers.
If you are curious about investing with a gender lens and/or have questions about how this brings about social, political, and economic change, join us! If you already know which new money moves you want to make personally or in your organization, but want a stronger community of leaders and financial advisors to help guide your actions, join us!
Among the leaders on the Advisory Committee for this event are several women frequently discussed here at Philanthropy Women including Andrea Pactor of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, Donna Hall of the Women Donors Network, Suzanne Biegel of Impact Alpha, and Cynthia Nimmo of the Women’s Funding Network.
Editor’s Note: Fascinating things are going on in the realm of giving circles and community giving projects. We are pleased to share this piece by Cheyenna Layne Weber, one of the founders of Solidarity Economy Giving Project in New York City, which aims to bring together donors in new ways.
From Cheyenna Layne Weber:
There are more than 2,000 solidarity economy organizations in New York City, most of them founded and maintained by women. These democratic, member-led groups take different legal forms, but hold certain values in common—social and racial justice, ecological sustainability, mutualism, and cooperation. They include low-income credit unions; cooperatives providing food, affordable housing, and childcare; cooperatives of farmers and workers; community gardens and land trusts; and community-supported agriculture. Together, these form a solidarity economy based on meeting material needs rather than making profits. (Explore these models in this short video.)
Women form solidarity economy organizations as creative solutions to systemic oppression faced in workplaces, families, housing, food systems, and financial institutions. Latinx women in Staten Island formed worker co-operatives that operate cleaning or childcare businesses while providing living wages and control over working conditions. Bangladeshi women in East New York grow food for their families in a community garden they control. In the Bronx in the 1980s, low-income women formed affordable housing co-operatives , which endure despite rising real estate values. Around that time, women of the Lower East Side formed a low-income credit union that not only continues to serve the immigrant community but has expanded to Harlem and Staten Island. In all five boroughs, no matter the race or ethnicity of the community, women are building a solidarity economy.
So why have you never heard of it? The erasure of women’s labor in the home has been well-documented, and a similar dynamic emerges for women’s labor in communities and workplaces. This is especially true when the labor is not designed to add value for shareholders of a corporation, but rather benefits the community members who control and make use of the services of a solidarity economy organization. Many innovative women are also overlooked because they do not fit patriarchy’s conception of the entrepreneur: white, male, affluent, able-bodied, straight, and Christian. Thus, dominant institutions like government, philanthropy, and the private sector have little understanding of the incredible entrepreneurial role women often take up, and until recently had expressed little interest in learning more. This is beginning to change as cities like New York and philanthropists such as Robin Hood Foundation have begun investing in worker co-operatives to ameliorate poverty.
But it is not enough. Solidarity economy organizations often lack funding, especially those run by and serving women who are of color, immigrants, low-income, disabled, queer and/or trans. While a few co-op loan funds and investors offer capital (such as The Working World or Cooperative Fund of New England), it is almost impossible for these women to find micro-grants to cover costs like training and technical assistance, crowdfunding matches, emergency support, or event sponsorships. Of the available grants, arduous application processes, requiring professional grant-writing or prior relationships to power (such as alumni networks), exclude women working within solidarity economy organizations.
To meet this gap young philanthropists and organizers created the Solidarity Economy Giving Project (SEGP). A program of the Cooperative Economics Alliance of New York City (CEANYC),a democratic membership organization for NYC-based, solidarity economy enterprises, the Giving Project is the only solidarity economy grantmaking effort in the United States controlled by grassroots leaders. The Project includes a multi-racial, multi-gender, and intergenerational Giving Circle whose members each give a minimum $2,000 gift annually and jointly host a fundraising party. Giving Circle members lead the program, which includes learning from local solidarity economy leaders about their work; developing an analysis of racialized capitalism; building skills to improve social justice philanthropy; and plenty of time to enjoy being with others dedicated to redistributing their wealth to address capitalism’s harmful impacts. Members also encourage each other to do more than just move money — to also become advocates and participants in the solidarity economy. Organizers initially hoped to raise $15,000 in the pilot year and ultimately raised $50,000. Now midway through year two, the Project has raised $61,000 in total.
Grassroots leaders designed the grantmaking process, which includes a very brief application and a reduced reporting structure. The grantmaking committee is comprised of the elected members of CEANYC’s Board of Directors. SEGP donors do not participate in fund disbursement, and grantees are not burdened by site visits or extensive interviews with funders. Instead, donors trust the solidarity economy community to distribute these funds. This transfer of control flies in the face of traditional philanthropy, where a donor’s name is often affixed to a gift, and breaks with the convention of foundation-based Giving Projects where full-time staff support participants in grantmaking decisions.
The impact of the Giving Project has been profound, even in its first full year of grantmaking in 2018. Grants included support for:
Nine women (seven women of color) to attend cooperative leadership trainings;
An affordable housing co-op in Brooklyn to prepare a vacant unit for a new family;
Manhattan community gardens to provide programs for low-income Latinx children;
Expanded staffing and ownership opportunities at catering and food processing worker co-ops led by people of color; and
Crowdfunding matches for a healthcare co-operative and a new food co-op that both serve Brooklyn communities of color.
The SEGP is something that like-minded donors could do in any city, and it is sorely needed. (Check out the solidarity economy in your area!) Whereas most funding is piecemeal,such as support for community gardens by health funders or credit unions by Community Reinvestment Act funds— we need resources to unify these disparate models in a single solidarity economy vision.
The Hildegard Fund and Economic Justice grantmaking of New York Women’s Foundation and the new Solidarity Economy Initiative funders collaborative in Massachusetts are promising steps by funders in support of a united solidarity economy rests on the power and potential of women’s leadership. Key to such efforts is acknowledging that this work must be self-directed from the grassroots, and that resources must flow to under-resourced, dedicated innovators, not to well-connected charismatic white men or existing grantees who happen upon co-ops as a good idea they want to adopt.
A solidarity economy that meets all of our needs and welcomes all of our contributions is possible. The Solidarity Economy Giving Project is a small step in that direction.
We welcome any opportunity to support others who want to implement a similar program. Reach us at any time via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
The phenomenon of watching others do something before we do it ourselves: it’s a process that seems hard-wired into humans. And in fact, prior research from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy shows that when we see others giving to charity, we are more inclined to engage in that same giving behavior ourselves.
Now, new research from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute investigates how the process of observing giving behavior in others plays out differently for men and women, particularly when they are considering making a donation to women and girls.
Takeaway for Fundraisers: Men Need to See Men Giving
This new research, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, uncovered a significant gender difference: women only need to see other women as role models in order to be influenced toward gender equality giving, whereas men need to see both men and women as role models in order to be influenced toward the behavior.
“Women’s and girls’ organizations and fundraisers in general can use this research to take concrete action to increase their fundraising,” said Debra J. Mesch, Ph.D., the Eileen Lamb O’Gara Chair in Women’s Philanthropy at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
One solution to this problem: showcase men giving to women’s and girls’ causes alongside women. This research suggests that fundraising professionals can potentially reach more male donors by featuring testimonials and donor stories from men about their decision to fund women’s and girls’ causes.
The study also notes that fundraisers across philanthropy would do well to apply this finding to any other group of donors that may not be giving to their fullest capacity. The research validates that testimonials and donor spotlights on a diverse range of givers may help more people envision themselves as givers to any cause. “Apply this ‘visibility’ strategy to any group that typically gives less frequently to your organization,” advises the infographic that accompanies the report.
Implications for Philanthropy Media: Showcase Diverse Givers of All Genders and Backgrounds
This study affirms that having visible role models is key for any social movement. As more stories of gender equality giving make it into the mainstream media, more people are able to find role models to envision themselves giving in this way. While publishers in the philanthropy sector like The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Inside Philanthropy all cover gender equality giving, it would be helpful if they shared more stories that feature a wider range of givers to gender equality, so that the public has more examples of how different people arrive at gender equality giving as a priority.
Takeaway for Feminist Philanthropy Media (Like Us!): Keep Sharing Stories of Gender Equality Giving
The reports speaks to the role that social media sites like Facebook and crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe play in increasing the visibility of people giving. We here at Philanthropy Women would argue that another important part of the landscape for social visibility and discourse around feminist philanthropy is specialized publishing on the subject. Many philanthropy media sites feature stories of gender equality giving, but Philanthropy Women is the only publication specifically dedicated to profiling this uniquely powerful work.
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.
By operating regionally or at the state level, women’s funds add an essential level of leadership to gender equality work, since they are not controlled by government or corporate entities. This gives women’s funds the freedom to speak and act on issues that impact women, with less fear of political or corporate retaliation. By forming large collaboratives like the Women’s Funding Network, women’s funds are able to advocate for progress on the issues that women are dealing with on the ground — harassment, for example, or lack of access to health care — and support ways to address issues systemically through partnership between all sectors of society — business, nonprofit, and government.
This is why I support Women’s Funding Network as a donor. This year, I am urging all feminists to support WFN as a way to address gender issues and help us build a healthier world for all. In Cynthia Nimmo’s responses below, you will hear how WFN increased knowledge and strategy for gender equality on so many critical issues this past year. I am confident that WFN brings added strength to gender equality movements both in the U.S. and globally, and I hope you will join me in supporting the critical role they play in moving toward a more gender equal world.
And now, some questions and responses with Cynthia Nimmo:
Kiersten Marek: What were some of the highlights of this year at WFN?