Lead With Love: Elena Marszalek on the Feminist Climate Movement

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Elena Marszalek, Managing Director of Del Mar Global Trust, a private foundation dedicated to the environment. 

Elena Marszalek
Elena Marszalek, courtesy of Elena Marszalek

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

I started my career in philanthropy as the only employee of Del Mar Global Trust, a newly established family foundation focused on the natural environment. Although I had previous experience working in climate change, I had little experience in philanthropy. I felt both hopeful and overwhelmed. 

Joining Rachel’s Network, a community of women environmental philanthropists, broadened my knowledge of complex environmental issues, and significantly improved my ability to select and monitor grant recipients. Networking with other women with similar goals and interests helped my career in numerous other ways, for example sharing information about projects that as individuals we would not be aware of. Perhaps most importantly, I have access to other members with many years of experience who offer advice and mentorship. As in all professions, you learn through experience. 

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(Liveblog) Leveraging the Unique Power of Women’s Collective Giving

Bright and early on Wednesday, January 27th, women from all over the country joined Sondra Shaw-Hardy and Carmen Stevens of Women’s Giving Circles International (WGCI) for a collaborative workshop on collective giving.

Sondra opened the event by welcoming the attendees and speakers, and introducing the day’s topics.

“The power of women’s philanthropy has changed not only the countries we live in, but changed us as well,” she said.

Carmen Stevens on Global Giving Circles

Carmen Stevens introduced the history of WGCI, which works to provide educational resources for women all over the world looking to start and grow their own giving circles. Primarily focused on circles outside of the United States, WGCI facilitates circle creation, networking, and mentorship all over the globe, but particularly in Latin America, Europe, and the organization’s most recent programs in Asia.

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(Liveblog) Realigning Powerful Systems by Valuing Health and Equity

On Tuesday, January 26th, the Philanthropy Women team gathered with representatives from The Jane Club, Women in Global Health (WGH), PSI, and Maverick Collective for a discussion on the ways radical philanthropy, operating alongside women-led movements, can lead to systemic change, particularly in health care services and employment, for women and girls around the world.

The Jane Club hosted a live discussion on women’s access to healthcare, as well as what feminist funders can do to advance gender equity in funding and global health. (Image Credit: Jane Club)

Editor-in-Chief Kiersten Marek moderated a discussion between Rena Greifinger of PSI/Maverick Collective and Sarah Hillware of WGH. Hosted by The Jane Club, a network of female-identifying persons and nonbinary and male allies, the event focused on ways to create more equitable healthcare systems by transforming the philanthropic system toward justice.

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Jaana Rehnström: Bigger Not Always Better, Especially for Women

Dr. Jaana Rehnström, Founder and President of the Kota Alliance, an organization fostering international collaboration for women-centered nonprofits, recently authored an article that struck a deep chord with me. Readers here at Philanthropy Women will also likely feel a strong resonance with Dr. Rehnström’s words.

Dr. Rehnström begins by summarizing the current status of gender equality in the world:

Dr. Jaana Rehnström, Founder and President of the Kota Alliance, discusses the need for funders to step up for women and girls if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. (Image Credit: Kota Alliance)

Gender equality has been talked about in Europe and the United States since the late 1800s. The Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress in 1972, falling short of state ratifications by the original deadline. The CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) was adopted in 1979. The 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and SDG #5 commits governments to take measures to comply by 2030.

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FRIDA Leaders Celebrate 10 Years and Look to Future Goals

This past fall, feminist organization FRIDA celebrated its 10th anniversary with an event on Facebook LIVE. Calling out 2020 as “a year of highs and lows,” the organization sought to end the year on a high note with this unique online event.

Panelists celebrate at FRIDA’s 10th-anniversary event. (Image Credit: FRIDA)

According to the organization’s mission statement, FRIDA — The Young Feminist Fund provides young feminist organizers with the resources they need to amplify their voices and bring attention to the social justice issues they care about. Beginning with one staff member and a growing community, FRIDA has become a thriving organization in its own right in the 10 years of its operation. FRIDA has awarded $7.5 million in direct grants through more than 250 initiatives in 115 countries in the Global South.

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Firuzeh Mahmoudi: Women More Equipped Than Ever to Lead

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Firuzeh Mahmoudi, founder and executive director, United for Iran, a Bay area nonprofit that works to promote civil liberties and civil society in Iran.

Firuzeh Mahmoudi, courtesy of Firuzeh Mahmoudi

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

One thing I’ve learned, that continues to ring true year after year, is that progress rarely occurs along a straight line. So many of us who have been inspired to enter the activist community started out with the hope that we’d experience and affect real change in our chosen issue areas quickly. However, as I recently discussed in a piece written on the 11 year anniversary of Iran’s Green Movement, the work toward progress often starts when the buzz stops, when the media loses interest and moves to the next catchy soundbite. Those of us who’ve remained in the movement and are still active today know that if we want to be truly effective, the work has to become part of our daily lives. 

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Top 10 Posts for Zinger of a Year 2020 on Philanthropy Women

What a stressful, challenging, and world-view altering year. Between COVID, the free-fall of the economy, and the ongoing lack of clarity from the election, it feels like there’s no end to the new harm and instability in the world, particularly for women and girls. Here’s a look at what went wrong, and right, for gender equality funding strategies this past year, as represented by our Top 10 posts here at Philanthropy Women.

Photo by lucia on Unsplash

Listed below are the top 10 posts on Philanthropy Women for 2020, factoring in page views and social media shares, as well as stats on high-authority backlinks for each post. These are the posts that produced the most reverberations across the culture, from what we could tell.

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MacKenzie Scott and the $14.2 Billion Dollar Question for Women & Girls

What a week for women’s philanthropy. MacKenzie Scott has shown herself to be a woman who is true to her word, as she continues to give away her fortune at a staggering rate compared to most philanthropists.

MacKenzie Scott
Photo of Stockholm, Sweden by Lindsey LaMont on Unsplash


“Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color and for people living in poverty,” said Scott, in the Medium post where she announced her new gifts totalling $4.2 billion.

Who were the grantees specifically for women and girls? Ms. Foundation for Women, National Women’s Law Center, Global Fund for Women, and a huge proportion of this funding went to 63 different community YWCA programs across the country. Hispanics in Philanthropy, which has a grantmaking strategy focused on gender and racial equity, also received $15 million in funding. The YMCA National office received $20 million and many local YMCA’s also got funding. There were big groups of grants for United Way organizations across the country as well as Feed America, Easterseals, Meals on Wheels, and Good Will. Many universities for people of color also received substantial gifts. Most gifts appeared to be in the $10 to $50 million range.

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Briefing Biden for Bold Action on Reproductive Rights

Reproductive rights under Biden: what will it look like?

Since the Biden/Harris team clinched the US Presidency, feminist advocates and policy makers have begun to discuss the massive reclaiming of women’s rights that must occur to recover from the last four years of Trump-era regressions. To dig deeper into this mandate, leaders from several high profile organizations gathered recently online to make explicit what must happen to begin the recovery of rights for women and girls around the world.

Leaders gathered recently online to examine the necessary steps for the Biden administration to take to restore reproductive, sexual and health rights for women around the world. (Image credit: December 10, 2020 webinar)

Author and Attorney Jill Filipovic moderated the discussion, which featured Serra Sippel, President of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), Anu Kumar, President and CEO of Ipas, and Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center.

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Women’s Funding Network Adds New Gender Justice Leaders to Board

Women’s Funding Network welcomes national advocates and gender justice leaders Junemarie Justus, Adriana Loson-Ceballos, Ada Williams Prince and Teresa Younger to WFN board of directors

SAN FRANCISCO  —  Women’s Funding Network announced the appointments of four new additions to its board of directors: Junemarie Justus, Adriana Loson-Ceballos, Ada Williams Prince and Teresa Younger. The newly appointed members hail from diverse personal and professional backgrounds and are all national leaders in gender equity and justice advocacy. They will take their seats in 2021.

Women’s Funding Network adds four new gender justice leaders to its board. (Image Credit: WFN)

“We are thrilled to welcome another slate of exceptional women’s philanthropy leaders to our board of directors,” said Elizabeth Barajas-Román, president & CEO of Women’s Funding Network. “They are representative of our members and network, with a shared passion and dedication to our collective mission of leveraging the power of philanthropy to mobilize an intersectional, feminist movement for equity and justice.”

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