Long before she was a meme and pop culture icon, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a sober-minded jurist, a workaholic and a trail-blazing advocate for gender equality. None of that has changed, but in the last decade Ginsburg has become a celebrity whose image is plastered on t-shirts, mugs and all over the Internet. She’s celebrated as both a gritty feminist badass, and cute old lady.
It’s great that someone of Ginsburg’s intellectual heft and societal importance is famous; still, you worry that the image of the bespectacled RBG is overtaking the person. Part of RBG—which is directed and produced by Betsy West and Julie Cohen—explores the hagiography surrounding the diminutive justice: college students express awe at just glimpsing her, and we see Ginsburg sporting a “Super Diva” shirt while working out with her trainer (who, incidentally, has written a book titled The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong … and You Can Too!). The workout stuff is cute, and a testament to Ginsburg’s determination and discipline, but far more important, and interesting, is her work over nearly six decades as a lawyer, professor and judge.
“We focus on women at the grassroots, aligning our grant-making strategies and priorities to fit their needs,” says Chandra Alexandre, Global Fund for Women’s Vice-President of Development. The goal is to leverage local knowledge and expertise with donor funds to create system-level change for women in the Global South.
Global Fund for Women is headquartered in San Francisco, but five members of its 41-person staff are in New York, and four more work remotely from various locales. The organization was founded in 1987, and since then has invested in roughly 5,000 grassroots organizations in 175 countries. Its approach encompasses both advocacy and grant-making, with an emphasis on supporting, funding and partnering with women-led groups and movements. According to their website: “Our vision is that every woman and girl is strong, safe, powerful, and heard. No exceptions.”
Happy Women’s History Month. There are only a few days left to this month of focusing on the value of gender equality and the arc of its progression throughout time. I spent a lot of time this month researching and thinking about how women’s funds feed social change. Most of what I learned reinforced the theory that women’s funds represent a unique approach to philanthropy that the rest of the sector would do well to replicate.
My last piece for Women’s history month on this topic is published at Daily Kos, a site dedicated to the larger sphere of progressive political change.
As Philanthropy Opens Up, Women’s Funds Show the Way
Something unusual happened recently in philanthropy: Bill and Melinda Gates opened their annual letter by answering 10 “tough” questions from the public about their philanthropy. The Gates’ Q&A is just one example of philanthropists becoming more responsive to the public. Funders are growing more aware of the value of engaging with the communities they seek to serve. The Fund for Shared Insight (FSI) which is dedicated to bringing more openness to philanthropy, is cultivating this trend; it added five new foundations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this past year: Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, James Irvine Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and Omidyar Network, bringing the number of funding partners in the collaborative to 39.
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.
Yesterday, International Women’s Day, was packed with events acknowledging the value of women in the world and calling for more women’s leadership across all sectors. It was also a great day to celebrate the role that gender equality movements are increasingly playing in social change that advances peace and justice for humanity. Here are just 5 of the philanthropy-related happenings that made #IWD2018 a significant day of partying for women’s equality:
With every day in America bringing news of regressive political changes that will negatively impact women, it’s important for those who want to increase gender equality to explore different strategies for reaching women who need resources. One strategy that recently caught my eye was Grameen America’s announcement that, in celebration of its 10-year anniversary in the U.S., it would enter the fray of impact investing and disburse an added $11 million in capital in microloans to low-income women across the country. With this new fund, over a five-year period, Grameen will make $140 million in loans to low-income women who are struggling to get a foothold in the U.S. economy as entrepreneurs.
A new report from Oxfam takes a hard look at our growing inequality problems, and outlines steps that governments and businesses can take to work toward a more equitable and healthy economy.
Endorsed by several experts in development and labor, the report also has a section devoted to addressing the overlap between “economic and gender inequality” that looks at how the gender wealth gap plays out in women having less land ownership and other assets, and observes that “the neoliberal economic model has made this worse – reductions in public services, cuts to taxes for the richest, and a race to the bottom on wages and labour rights have all hurt women more than men.”
Some interesting pieces have been written about this year’s global Women’s Marches, but none beats the Washington Post story by Helaine Olen, which posits that the media has largely ignored this major political event, despite its indication of massive social upheaval happening right under our noses.
While estimates of the size of Los Angeles’s march ranged from 500,000 to 600,000, and Las Vegas hosted the launch of a national voter registration campaign called #Powertothepolls, the political talk shows on Sunday morning barely made mention of the uprising in the streets.
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.
“The Emergent Fund started as a plane built in mid-air. We moved faster than comfort allowed in developing a funding response to the new threats posed by the 2016 election because the scale of the crisis that loomed was so large, multidimensional, and immediate. Resources were urgently needed in many places and without much time for deliberation.”
So begins Visionary Resistance, a new report reviewing how several donor networks came together to invest $ 1 million rapidly for efforts to protect those most marginalized and targeted by a Trump presidency. Aptly named the Emergent Fund, this new resource is funded through a partnership between the Women Donors Network, Solidaire, Threshold Foundation, and the Democracy Alliance.