Sara Lomelin’s Passion for the Philanthropy of Everyday People

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Sara Lomelin, executive director of Philanthropy Together.

Sara Lomelin, courtesy of Sara Lomelin

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

When I switched careers 12 years ago, I didn’t understand the power dynamics and barriers that exist for grassroots nonprofits. I wish I knew the intricacies of philanthropy and why such large gaps exist between those who need funding and those who receive. I now see that collectively, we are moving the needle to shift philanthropy, but it’s happening very slowly.

While I wish I’d entered on this path sooner, I am proud to now devote my career to giving circles because I believe this model is the most dynamic way to liberate capital to nonprofit leaders who know what solutions are best for their communities. Giving circles are filled with everyday givers coming together to diversify and democratize philanthropy. These are the voices that have historically been excluded by mainstream philanthropy and the voices that will break down these existing power dynamics and eliminate barriers to much-needed funding for grassroots leaders.

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After Five Years, Philanthropy Women Rebranding in 2022

It’s like that line from the Indigo girls song: “The hardest to learn was the least complicated.” The hardest thing for philanthropy to learn is that equality must become a priority: gender equality, racial equality, LGBTQ equality, and the list of those not included or given adequate resources and opportunities goes on. But instead, philanthropy keeps pointing elsewhere and saying, “Oh it’s a health care problem, oh it’s an education problem, oh it’s a workforce development problem.”

philanthropy women
Philanthropy Women will be rebranding to expand its scope in 2022.

Our health care and education and workforce development problems often grow out of a firmly entrenched bedrock of equality problems. But the equality part of the story almost always gets minimized in philanthropy, almost always gets conveniently left out, almost always stays on the back burner. Ultimately, if you really look closely at what’s going on in philanthropy, you realize that philanthropy as a whole funds equality in mostly token ways — ways that never get at the root of the problem. As a result, equality remains a presumed cultural value that has no real mechanism for being realized on a broad scale. It’s a dream to talk about loftily and do some pilot programs on, and then get back to the serious business of running a society that worships and elevates the richest 1% to the grave detriment of everyone else.

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Awakening: The Power of #MeToo to Make the Personal Political

Editor’s Note: The following essay by Dr. Susan M. Blaustein, Founder and Executive Director, WomenStrong International, discusses the transformational potential of #MeToo to empower change locally and globally.

In their remarkable new book Awakening about the global #MeToo movement, feminist scholars Rachel Vogelstein and Meighan Stone have shined a light on the courage, creativity, and resilience of women all over the world who have alchemized their pain as survivors of sexual violence into fierce, undaunted activism. 

#meToo
Awakening by Rachel Vogelstein and Meighan Stone explores the way #MeToo is connecting women across the globe. (Image credit: PublicAffairs on Instagram)

These brave women, from Brazil to Tunisia to Nigeria to Sweden and myriad places in between, have harnessed available digital technologies to share their experiences of sexual harassment and assault, connect with other women, sound the alarm loudly, and press for change. They’re fighting not only for victims’ safety in reporting these crimes and accountability for their perpetrators; enraged and emboldened, they’re aiming to institutionalize legal protections and disrupt the prevailing cultural and religious moraes that have long sanctioned violence against women in the first place.

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The Tech Accelerator Aiming to Address the Climate Emergency

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving In Real Life series features Elodie Read, Program and Community Partnerships Lead at Subak, the first global non-profit tech accelerator dedicated to combatting the climate emergency. 

elodie read
Elodie Read, courtesy of Elodie Read

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

I’m pretty early on in my career so this is quite a tricky question to answer. At university and grad school, everyone is full of conviction, zeal and a healthy dose of naivety about how the world is and how it should be. When you start working, it can be easy to get bogged down in reality, but I think it’s important to remember why we got into this kind of work and to keep working with our values and goals at the front of our minds.

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Women-Led Synergy for Justice Advances Accountability for Syria

Work being done abroad by Synergy for Justice and its executive director Christy Fujio is enhancing justice and accountability for sexual violence and torture. 

Christy Fujio ( Image Credit: Synergy for Justice)

The conflict in Syria has been going on for roughly ten years now, with little sign of it ceasing. American media coverage has more or less moved on from shedding any light on the topic. Although the general populace has moved on, certain organizations and individuals remain hyper focused on what they can do to help ensure that survivors are supported and justice is achieved.

Synergy for Justice is one such organization. For more than six years, the organization has been working with local partners and lending a hand to the crisis. At the height of the violence, torture and detention in 2015, the organization was founded by Christy Fujio, Dr. Ingrid Elliott and Dr. Coleen Kivlahan. 

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Tyeshia Wilson: A Giving Circle Leader on the Joy of Community

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Tyeshia Wilson, director of engagement for Philanthropy Together.

Tyeshia Wilson, courtesy of Tyeshia Wilson

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

Working in philanthropy is one of the most rewarding and self-fulfilling careers, ever. I’m altruistic, I’m a humanitarian, and I’m passionate about service. Looking back, I only wish I had been exposed to the idea of a career in philanthropy earlier. If I was aware of this alignment between  my heart and the work of this field, I would have started in this profession much sooner and likely pursued philanthropic studies in school.

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When Will Women be Safer? When the 1% Has Less Power

The ugly truth is that more people are still motivated by the desire to prioritize men’s income-generating and reputations than they are by the desire to ensure women’s rights and safety.” — Soraya Chemaly, Rage Becomes Her

women's rights
Photo by Michelle Ding on Unsplash

Prioritizing women’s rights and safety in today’s world is not easy, and it won’t become any easier as long as our culture puts men’s earnings and men’s reputations first, which it almost always does. Think of any number of powerful men whose reputations and money-generating capacities completely undermined women’s rights and safety: Harvey Weinstein, R. Kelly, Donald Trump, Bill Cosby, Jeffrey Epstein….and the list goes on and on. It’s a list that defines our culture, a culture of men and money first, and women and safety last, in our public and private lives, in government, business, and the non-profit sector.

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A Local Leader Calls for Investment in Black Women-led Nonprofits

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features philanthropist, fundraiser and advocate Akilah S. Wallace, who serves as Executive Director of Faith in Texas.

Akilah S. Wallace
Akilah S. Wallace, courtesy of Akilah S. Wallace
  1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

When I started out in the nonprofit sector and philanthropy, I wish I knew the diversity of career paths available and how both work and volunteer experiences in private and public sectors provided much-needed, transferable skills. Additionally, I wish I knew how valuable my lived experiences as a Black woman, single mother, volunteer and more, could help shape culturally-relevant programs, policies and how resources are distributed.

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Gender Avenger and Female Quotient Join to Fight for Equality

As we have noted before here on Philanthropy Women, there are many reasons why it is very hard to sustain a nonprofit or a business that provides a gender lens. There are also frequently economies of scale that can be realized when two entities with overlapping missions join together to enhance their work. A recent announcement from Gender Avenger and The Female Quotient highlights both of these dynamics.

Image Credit: The Female Quotient and Gender Avenger

Yesterday, Gender Avenger and The Female Quotient announced that they will be merging. Gender Avenger, a nonprofit that provides data and tools about gender discrimination in public dialogue, announced today that it is joining forces with The Female Quotient (The FQ), a for-profit company “changing the equation and closing the gaps” in gender equality. According to the press release, the collaboration “aims to remove barriers and break down the intimidating scale of the equality conversation happening all around the world.”

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To Grow Women’s Rights Globally, We Must Invest in Women Locally

Editor’s Note: The following essay is by By Dr. Susan M. Blaustein, Founder and Executive Director, WomenStrong International.

As someone who has funded and worked with women’s organizations to advance gender justice, human rights, and global development, I learned long ago that women always know what they and their families and communities need, in order to thrive; they simply lack the financial and technical resources needed to put their solutions into practice. 

 Partners working together at WomenStrong International’s Girls’ Education and Empowerment Retreat. (Image credit: WomenStrong International)

That’s why I celebrate the recent high-profile donor efforts to invest in women’s priorities. Yet, even with these bold commitments, the total philanthropic support for women’s organizations remains a paltry fraction – 1.6 percent — of U.S. grantmaking, according to the Women’s Philanthropy Institute’s latest Women and Girls Index, published by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. If we hope to improve the lives of and opportunities for women and girls worldwide, those percentages must rise dramatically. 

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