Eileen R. Heisman, CEO of National Philanthropic Trust (NPT), has a 30 year record of professional achievements in philanthropy, but it all started with being a social worker. I wanted to learn more about Heisman’s early social work origins, and also about how she led NPT from a small nonprofit in 1996 to the $6 billion dollar grantmaking organization it is today, making an indelible imprint on the landscape of modern philanthropy.
When we began our conversation, I asked Heisman to comment on what it felt like to run the country’s largest host organization for Donor Advised Funds. “When I read my own bio, sometimes it feels kind of like an out of body experience,” said Heisman with a chuckle. “But it’s nice to be able to say all those things are true.”
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.)
With $200,000 in new funding, sex worker organizations and advocates across the U.S. will have more resources to address safety, worker’s rights, and political power in the new year. Third Wave Fund, a 20-year-old foundation, recently announced its inaugural grantees from the first and only Sex Worker Giving Circle, a new collective created by the fund in 2018.
This new giving circle is unique in many ways. The Sex Worker Giving Circle (SWGC) is the first sex worker-led fund housed at a U.S. foundation. SWGC consisted of 10 Fellows who were trained and supported by Third Wave Fund in order to raise more than $100,000 of the grant funding, design the grant-making process, and decide which organizations would receive funding grants, which ranged from $6,818 to $21,818.
It was an amazing year for women’s philanthropy. Amid an increasingly hostile political climate, women managed to get elected to public office in record numbers, partially due to the influence of women donors. In addition, the events of #MeToo and the Kavanaugh hearings served to highlight how prevalent sexual assault and harassment are, and how far we still have to go to become a culture that truly values women and prioritizes their safety and equality.
With the advent of new technologies to accelerate donating money and distributing grants, giving circles are the cutting edge of how many communities are finding and funding their causes. Now, a significant group of giving circles and funders are coming together to enhance the potential for giving circles to impact the philanthropy landscape.
This new partnership is led by five giving circles and collective giving networks, many of which bring unique social and cultural foci to the collaboration. These five networks are coming together to “engage dozens of stakeholders across the philanthropic sector to design efficient and effective infrastructure to scale and strengthen the American giving circle movement.”
While women’s giving circles are a growing phenomenon in the United States, we thought it would be interesting to touch down in the real world with a giving circle that has newly arrived on the scene: Waterbury, Connecticut’s Inaugural Women’s Giving Circle.
Sharing food: one of the ultimate human communing experiences. Now imagine sharing food with a group of generous women who, like you, want to make every dollar they give to charity count toward helping women and girls and addressing gender equality in developing countries.
Welcome to Dining for Women (DFW), a global giving circle dedicated to funding social change for women and girls. At monthly potluck dinners, members come together and discuss today’s issues impacting women and girls, particularly the organizations being funded that month, and in the process, these 8,000-plus women raise more than a million dollars annually to fight for gender equity. Dining for Women was founded in 2003, and many chapters have already had 10 or even 15 year anniversaries.
Editor’s Note: The following guest post is written by Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew, philanthropist and founding officer of the HERitage Giving Fund.
As a child, I saw my parents in Shreveport, Louisiana helping others. At the time, I didn’t realize that the trips to visit the sick, the donations to those in need or even delivering cooked meals, were part of philanthropy in my community. My involvement in service began as a teen volunteering and has not stopped. I have made a life of giving. I now call myself a philanthropist, something I would not have called myself years ago because I didn’t realize that, like my parents, I was a part of this work.
“I remember standing up at a conference 16 or 17 years ago and saying that my dream is that there will be a women’s giving circle in every city in America,” says Sondra Shaw Hardy. “I feel that my goal now is to take giving circles worldwide.” To that end, Shaw Hardy is starting a new organization called Women’s Giving Circles International, which will make expanding the giving circle model globally its primary goal.
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.