Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Olivia Wells, Director of Programs and Communications for Nadia’s Initiative, a nonprofit founded by Nadia Murad that supports “community-driven and survivor-centric sustainable development programs.”
1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
Bureaucracy; you learn about it in school, and you begin to see it when you enter the workforce but you don’t realize how many bureaucratic impediments there are to humanitarian work until you’re in the thick of it. You naively think that at the end of the day, we all want the same thing – to help those most vulnerable – so we should streamline processes to get those in need the help they deserve as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. The humanitarian sector is still saturated with top-down approaches to development. Many government and private funders insist on funding large organizations like the various UN entities, rather than investing in local NGOs. Local NGOs have a direct line to the communities they serve and are often able to implement projects more efficiently and for less money. These are the organizations we should be investing in.
I don’t know about you, but to me it feels like a great weight has been lifted off of us as a nation, and as a world even. Many, many people in the world are rejoicing at the news of the upcoming Biden-Harris presidency, and all the possibility this new leadership holds. For those of us focused on funding women and girls, this change in leadership will likely be extremely valuable to our work, and could be instrumental in getting us closer to equality much faster.
What can women donors do to make sure that gender equality movements are optimized for acceleration at this moment in history? Here are three basic strategies:
On Thursday in New Zealand and Wednesday in the US, a virtual conversation took place between some of the boldest strategic experts in the feminist giving space. The conversation included Sarah Haacke Byrd, Executive Director of Women Moving Millions, Tuti B. Scott, feminist expert on gender lens grantmaking and gender lens investing, Melanie Brown, Senior Program Officer for US Policy and Advocacy at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Lucy Lee, Senior Associate for Volition Capital and Lotus Circle Bay Area convener.
As more virtual strategizing takes place to amplify feminist giving strategies, these leaders offer a valuable perspective. Sue McCabe, Chief Executive of Philanthropy New Zealand opened the call with some shocking stats about how COVID is impacting New Zealand’s economy, even though they have had some of the best health outcomes from the virus. McCabe said that 90% of newly unemployed people, due to the COVID restrictions in New Zealand, are women. She stressed the importance of giving more, and giving more strategically, in the time of COVID.
1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
The fundraising field is quite secretive, as organizations fear that sharing their donor experiences would have repercussions on their relationships, or that they would have to compete for funds if they disclosed what opportunities they are working on. It’s so weighty to work in silos, feel isolated and overwhelmed with the “I have to do it all on my own” mentality. That makes fundraising burnout very real, with lasting effects on our well-being and health, and affects so many of us in philanthropy, especially those working in resource mobilization.
“We’re gonna get it done.” These were some of the first words spoken by Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris in her phenomenal half-hour interview with Errin Haines, Editor-at-Large for the 19th, during the 19th Represents Summit on Friday. Harris’s plans to “get it done” refer to the upcoming Presidential election, and her goal to join Joe Biden in leading the U.S. out of one of its worst crisis periods in history.
Haines began the interview by asking what it was like for Kamala Harris to be in competition with women she respected and worked with, other candidates who were running for President and were in the lead to be asked to fill Biden’s ticket for the Vice President spot.
As a writer and publisher, I was excited to recently rediscover my passionate interest in creating and supporting visual art. The pandemic has had many terrible impacts on our lives, but one positive impact it had for me was getting me more engaged in my own love for art. During the extended times many of us have been spending socially distancing, I began to paint, first doing portraits of African Americans, and then moving on to still life paintings and impressionistic landscapes.
In an effort to support women and LGBT+ artists, we launched our first art contest recently. The theme for the contest was “About Women” and we received more than 100 entries of some stunning and moving visual art pieces. There were 185 votes on the entries, and the winners were chosen by public vote, so popularity was more of a factor, as opposed to a contest that is judged by a jury of artists.
The landmark selection of Harris as Joe Biden’s running mate in the 2020 election represents a huge win for diversity in politics. What’s more, Harris represents the positive impact of campaigning, fundraising, and donating in the world of feminist philanthropy.
Harris’s own presidential campaign says a lot about what we can do with feminist funding for political campaigns. Her decision to eschew funding from PAcs likely played a major role in her eventual drop from the 2020 race, but her commitment to funding sources outside the norm of American political campaign speaks to just how far we can go with feminist funding.
The anti-trafficking movement is one of the most important movements for women’s equality, since a large proportion of survivors of trafficking are women. But often, the voices of the actual survivors of trafficking get excluded from approaches to solving this problem.
Recently, the Freedom Fund hosted a webinar to discuss ways that funders can work to include survivors in leadership. Amy Rahe, interim director of the Freedom Fund, moderated the discussion. Guest speakers included Mahendra Pandey, Senior Manager, Forced Labor & Human Trafficking for Humanity United, Natasha Dolby, Co-Founder, Freedom Forward, and Claire Falconer, Head of Global Initiatives and Movement Building, The Freedom Fund.
Kiersten pointed out other issues impacting the funding environment for women and girls of color, including the recent announcement of downsizing at the NoVo Foundation, and the potential for funds being redirected to address the COVID crisis. However, there is some encouraging action happening now, as new corporations and foundations have stepped up for intersectional giving.
“Architects of a better world” is how Melinda Gates frames the role of women in the age of COVID. In a recent article in Foreign Affairs, the co-founder of the world’s largest philanthropic organization makes the case that women’s leadership is the beacon of light the world needs most right now.
Gates starts off the essay by recognizing the silent pandemic of violence against women happening during COVID. She goes on to detail in full the many ways that women are losing access to health care and jobs, all while being piled with more housework and childcare duties.
Maternity Care Needs to Develop Workarounds for COVID
Gates is particularly worried about expectant moms in COVID, and with good reason. She relates some of the staggering losses suffered in the Ebola outbreak of 2014 in Sierra Leone. One suggestion that Gates makes for COVID: separate facilities for COVID and non-COVID pregnant women in some countries so that women can still get maternal care, even if they are COVID positive.