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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Olivia Wells: Quality Support for Women Survivors in Conflict Zones

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.” 

Olivia Wells, courtesy of Olivia Wells

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.

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With Biden-Harris Leading, What Now for Funding Women and Girls?

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.

Across the U.S., people of all ages are celebrating the new Vice President Kamala Harris’s leadership breakthrough for women and girls of color. (Image: Design Bundles)

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:

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New World Possibilities with Gender Lens Giving 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.

gender lens giving
Melanie Brown, Senior Program Officer for US Policy and Advocacy at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, spoke about the need to recognize the “weathering” that women of color experience in our racist and sexist cultures.

 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.

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Kinga Wisniewska on Collaboration over Competition

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Kinga Wisniewska, the Resource Mobilization Manager at FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund, a youth-led feminist fund working to support grassroots organizers in over 120 countries in the Global South.

Kinga Wisniewska is a feminist and a sexual and reproductive health and rights activist from Warsaw, Poland, now serving as the Resource Mobilization Manager at FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund. (Image Credit: FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund)

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.

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Announcing the Winners of the About Women Art Contest

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.

Street Vendor by Eva Lechner is our Third Place Winner in the About Women art contest.

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.

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