As every day brings new questions regarding the rights and protections of marginalized populations in the U.S., word of an additional fund that will support progressive rights for women of color and transgender folks is heartening news.
Today, Groundswell Fund announced the funding of a new grassroots organizing effort that will be led by women of color and transgender people of color.
The new funding stream, dubbed the Liberation Fund, will “aim to ensure reproductive and gender justice by supporting women of color,” according to a press release announcing its launch.
Groundswell describes itself as the largest funder of the U.S. reproductive justice movement. Headquartered in Oakland, CA, the organization provides leadership in the effort to hold public officials accountable at the local level for their responsibility to protect the rights of all people. In the age of Trump, this kind of accountability is more important than ever.
“The more that philanthropy can do to encourage and support women in running for office, the better,” says Kate Coyne-McCoy, CEO of The Campaign Fixer, who has spent much of her career trying to bring more women into American politics. Coyne-McCoy has trained over 9,000 women to run for office, and she has a message for philanthropy.
“Do more politically, period,” she said in a recent interview with Philanthropy Women, when asked what her message would be to progressive women donors and their allies. “Until you make an investment in the electoral and political process, you’re never going to see the change you want.”
There is nothing quite like women’s networks to help make rapid-response grants. In an environment where women’s rights are being threatened by atrocious plans such as the Trump administration’s proposed ending of the Violence Against Women Act, we need more women’s networks to come forward like the Women Donors Network and push for increased funding to fight back.
Now, the Emergent Fund, of which the Women Donors Network is a founding member, has announced its next wave of rapid-response grants to community-based organizations resisting the Trump Administration’s regressive policies. This brings the total of grants already issued by the Emergent Fund to $500,000.
As we wrote in January, the Emergent Fund was formed by the Women Donors Network and Solidaire, in order to raise funds for grassroots organization to resist discriminatory policies being proposed and enacted by the Trump administration.
I interviewed Donna Hall about the Women Donors Network (WDN) this past year and was astounded by all this network of women funders has done, and is continuing to do. WDN is particularly nimble and responsive to community concerns and emergencies, so it is great that they are forging the path on new funding to defend vulnerable people in the coming years. The Emergent Fund’s momentum appears to be very strong early on, which is a good indicator of likely ongoing solid growth.
“Everything is on the line — the lives and safety of millions of black and brown Americans, and even our Democracy itself,” said Jenifer Fernandez Ancona, Vice President for Strategy & Member Engagement at WDN.
As one of the member networks of the Emergent Fund, WDN is helping support the Emergent Fund’s ability to combat issues like deportation and Islamophobia. “These local fights are critical to building national progressive power needed for bigger wins,” added Ancona.
The Emergent Fund is now a partnership between Solidaire Network, Women Donors Network, and Threshold Foundation. Governed by an Advisory Council made up of leaders who represent communities most affected by the new administration, the Emergent Fund is making sure resources and advocacy remain available for marginalized groups.
The grantees for this $500,000 in funding are:
Council on American-Islamic Relations, California Chapter (CAIR-CA) - $30,000
For Arab, Middle Eastern Muslim, and South Asian communities, the dangers they feared during Trump's campaign have become a nightmarish reality. In the 10 days after the election, nearly a third of the nation's Islamophobic hate crimes occurred in California. When the travel ban was announced, CAIR-CA was on the forefront of organizing protests at airports all across the country. CAIR-CA will use their Emergent Fund grant to support their immediate civil rights defense work, including legal services, know your rights trainings, and ongoing organizing.
NYC #FreedomCities Campaign - $25,000
#FreedomCities is a campaign developed by frontline leaders from the New York Worker Center Federation. New York City workers—immigrants and citizens alike—realize that Trump's attacks on immigrants are only part of a larger oppressive agenda that targets Muslims, African Americans, and other communities of color. #FreedomCities takes a comprehensive approach and calls for safety beyond policing. The Emergent Fund is proud to be #FreedomCities' first funder.
Brown Boi Project - $20,000
The Brown Boi Project is committed to changing the way that communities of color talk about gender. Brown Boi wants to ensure the growth of and robust commitment to gender justice during this time of crisis. Brown Boi will use their Emergent Fund Grant to host a four-day, rapid-response training to prepare leaders to resist the current attack on rights, integrate gender justice into direct action, and ensure that women and trans/gender non-conforming people of color are in leadership across our movements.
Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN) - $15,000
In the past few weeks, Southeast Asian refugee communities have suffered an onslaught of ICE raids that are tearing families apart. SEAFN organizers are currently coordinating with families and organizers on the ground almost every day, but there are too many communities strapped for resources. Southeast Asian Freedom Network will use their Emergent Fund grant to hire a coordinator to provide support to Cambodian communities facing deportations and to provide resources for local Cambodian community leaders who are actively fighting to free their people from unjust immigration detention systems.
#LeadWithLove - $10,000
#LeadWithLove began as a pledge by more than 100 movement leaders who have committed to accelerating the transition from a world of domination and extraction to one of regeneration and interdependence. #LeadWithLove calls movements to take bold action grounded in fierce love. #LeadWithLove will use their Emergent Fund grant to host a convening this year that will bring together leaders from across the climate, food, education, racial, gender, and reproductive justice movements. To learn more about the project, visit leadwithlove.vision.
JOLT - $10,000
Jolt is a Texas-based, multi-issue organization that builds the political power and influence of Latinos in our democracy. It has become a political home base for many immigrant youth, and their programs range from Latina leadership development to civic engagement and grassroots organizing. Jolt will use their Emergent Fund grant to continue their base-building work and support organizing in Latino communities in Texas.
Movement for Justice in El Barrio - $10,000
Movement for Justice in El Barrio was founded when Latina immigrant mothers joined together to address negligence and harassment from their landlord. Over the last 12 years, these women have organized around housing issues and developed a strong cohort of immigrant women leaders. Since the election, they have seen an increase in harassment and hate crimes against immigrants. And they are fighting back. Movement for Justice in El Barrio will use their Emergent Fund grant to host a series of bilingual encuentros, or workshops, to educate East Harlem's immigrant residents about their rights and how to protect themselves from ICE raids.
Blackout for Human Rights #MLKNOW 2017 Short Film Series - $3,100
Blackout for Human Rights is a collective of artists, filmmakers, musicians, and activists who leverage cultural activism in support of human rights. Blackout has held several high-profile events in the last year, including a #JusticeforFlint concert and #BlackoutBlackFriday. Blackout is creating a series of short advocacy films incorporating content from their recent #MLKNOW 2017 event held at the historic Riverside Church in Harlem. Blackout for Human Rights will use their Emergent Fund grant to produce and distribute their films on social media.
SpiritHouse Inc/The Harm Free Zone - $25,000
SpiritHouse Inc, a Durham, North Carolina based cultural arts and organizing organization, has worked with low-wealth families and community members to uncover and uproot the systemic barriers that prevent us from gaining the resources, leverage and capacity for long-term self-sufficiency. Spirit House will use their Emergent Fund Grant to support their Harm Free Zone, rooted in the belief that oppressed people can create accountable, self-directing communities by: healing from systemic racism, eliminating reliance on law enforcement, holding policy makers accountable.
Campaign for Southern Equality | Rapid Response Initiative - $10,000
The Campaign for Southern Equality advocates across the South for LGBT rights in all areas of life. Through our Rapid Response Initiative, CSE is working on the frontlines of the LGBTQ South, led by and for LGBTQ Southerners. Nimble and bold, we work for full equality - both legal and lived - from Mississippi to the Carolinas.
Melenie Eleneke Grassroots Re-entry Program of the Transgender Gender-Variant Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP) - $20,000
TGIJP is a trans-led, Black-led organization which centers the leadership of currently and formerly incarcerated transgender women of color. Both inside and outside of prisons--TGIJOP works to create a united family in the struggle for survival and freedom.
18MillionRising - $25,000
18MillionRising uses tech and pop-culture organizing to boost Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as a social justice force, nationwide. Leading Asian American civil rights organization — 18MR will use their Emergent Fund grant to continue their work on responding to hate crimes and developing tech for movement activists.
All of Us Initiative @ Organization United for Respect (OUR) - $30,000
OUR’s All of Us initiative will build multiracial communities of support and resistance among people working at Walmart. OUR’s All of Us project will deepen our multi-racial working class base in key areas of the country by connecting to people based on a shared set of values and class experiences and building unity around a vision of economic security. By developing cross racial relationships and exposing how White House policies that target people of color, immigrants and the safety net go against OUR shared visions and values, we will broaden the base of people working at Walmart who are committed to fight back around these policies.
Here is Callahan on why it’s so difficult to marshall networks in some areas of philanthropy: “People with big money often have big egos and their own strong ideas of how things should be done.”
Or on the nature of today’s philanthropy to extend power to the rich: “In many ways, today’s new philanthropy is exciting and inspiring. In other ways, it’s scary and feels profoundly undemocratic.”
I’m not done with the whole book yet. I’ve just read sections on Mike Bloomberg, Women Moving Millions, the Zuckerberg-Chan Initiative, and Sean Parker’s journey from a cocaine possession arrest to funding immunotherapy. All I can say so far is: get ready to question what you think you know about philanthropy today.
Talking to Gloria Feldt is like talking to someone who has been through just about everything as a feminist leader, and yet somehow still finds the strength to tackle ongoing social and political challenges. The word unstoppable comes to mind.
In 1996, People Magazine captured her phenomenal early career in a story called The Voice of Experience. Indeed. And Feldt has just the kind of experience we like to talk about here at Philanthropy Women: experience that mobilizes funding for big visions.
Feldt married her high school sweetheart at age 15 and had 3 children by the time she was 20. She began her professional career as a Head Start teacher for five years, and went back to school as a young mother. In the process of writing a paper for a science class, Feldt chose to profile the local Planned Parenthood affiliate in West Texas, interviewing the local President, nurse practitioners, and board members.
Last evening, I had the pleasure of listening to Take the Lead Women’s Happy Hour with guests Rebecca Traister and Alyson Palmer. The preeminent Gloria Feldt, founder of Take the Lead Women and longtime leader for women in reproductive rights, moderated the discussion. All three women said things that not only lifted my spirits, but gave me some new directions to consider as I continue to develop Philanthropy Women.
Rebecca Traister, author of All the Single Ladies and writer for New York Magazine and The Cut, talked about how she came to feminist journalism, starting with a job at Salon in the early 2000’s, where her editor was a woman and much of the staff was comprised of women. She started to write more from a feminist perspective at Salon, and that work gained traction online.
Traister also talked about how attention to gender equality on the left grew during the Howard Dean campaign for President of 2003-2004, when women writers called attention to the gender equality deficits on the Left. “In the years that followed I got to surf a wave of feminist journalism.”
Alyson Palmer, feminist activist and band member of BETTY, talked about her journey to a feminist awareness. Palmer referenced a formative experience in her teen years when she faced down her father as he was mistreating her brother. “You will never do that again,” she recalled telling her father. “Something about that moment changed me forever.”
Another formative experience Palmer referenced was in college, when she worked helping to book bands. A partner in the work kept wanting to book bands that Palmer felt “put me down,” and so she began to articulate a critique of how some music treats women. “I kept challenging him about that, and my feminism grew more from there.”
She then discovered playing the bass, and soon after met up with her fellow band members. “Once I found this little pod of females, that’s when I found my feminist voice.” Palmer has been part of the band BETTY now for thirty years. She advised women to “find at least two girl friends,” in order to grow their feminism and valuing of their own ideas and visions. “Have a small group of women you can turn to.”
Palmer is the mastermind behind a campaign called “1 at 1,” which calls all women to spend one minute at 1 pm EST on January 21 to “envision a world of gender equality.”
“The first thing we have to do is go beyond the bubble,” said Palmer. “What if the march could somehow go to you? What if every women who believes in equality could do the same thing at the same time?”
“What if all of us stood up in complete silence, and had a vision of women’s equality?” Palmer started telling people about 1 at 1, and the campaign has been catching on and growing quickly.
“It’s the simplicity of it,” she said. “I truly believe we need a structuring from the bottom up of how we see ourselves, and how we believe in ourselves.”
Initially, Palmer expected she might get 1,000 or 2,000 people interested, but the interest in 1 at 1 has been growing dramatically. Sister marches across the country are planning to participate in One at One and now, Gloria Steinem has signed on to do the countdown to the event. International interest is also growing. Women’s groups in Iraq, Norway and Israel are all planning to participate in One at One in some way. More information about the 1 at 1 campaign is available here.
Palmer also talked about other movements for women happening internationally. In India, women are organizing against “Eve Teasing” — the harassing of Indian women at night. To fight back, women in India are marching on multiple evenings.
Feldt posed a question from a listener in Brooklyn, Kiera, asking about what women need to do in order to rise up and press on for gender quality. “What is the one thing women should say to themselves at the beginning of every day?”
Palmer responded by sharing a question she asks herself every day. “One of the best things you can ask yourself is: what am I going to do for myself today? It gives me a sense of value, and a sense of time and place for myself within the day.”
Traister responded by speaking to the “untold diversity” of women and the enormous task of trying to represent women’s experiences. “I also think there are lots of women who could stand to think about what they’re going to do for other people, too,” she said. Traister referenced the unexpected voting patterns of white women in the recent election, with more white women still aligning with Republicans. She noted that, for women, “itcomes down to where you put your gender and interest in other women in comparison with where you put your interest in race or your connection to men.”
Feldt brought up a significant pattern that has emerged in the history of feminism in the US. “What we see is a pattern of having gotten started and making some big steps forward, and then voluntarily stepping back, often to let another group go first.”
“Zigging and zagging,” observed Palmer. “That is what we do. It’s very hard when your culture is always telling you to put others first.”
“We don’t want to lose the positive value of putting others first, but it’s a tricky balance,” said Feldt.
Traister made the point that there have been an enormous shift in marriage patterns in the US, contributing to cultural shifts that need more attention. She noted that for most of US history, “Women as a class were dependent on men economically. Women had to kick off their adulthoods with marriage for hundreds of years in this country.”
But that is no longer the case. Starting in the early 1990’s, that marriage pattern began to change dramatically. “For women who did marry, the median age of marriage rose. Starting in 1990 it jumped to 23.9. Today it is over 27, and in many cities, it is now over 30.”
“There are now more unmarried women in the US than there are married women. I was fascinated by that,” said Traister, which is a big part of why she wrote All the Single Ladies.
“Housing policy, tax policy, the way that government has supported men’s participation in the workforce” were all designed around the idea that women would marry in early adulthood. “Now that we have women participating in the world differently, and we need a completely revamped set of public policies” to address that change, said Traister.
Traister said she recently learned that Hillary Clinton had put together an economic team for her presidency that “was going to redefine infrastructure to be about not just bridges and tunnels but about the infrastructure of care work — child care and elder care, those things were going to be right at the center.”
Traister expected that more women would vote for Clinton, based on how much her agenda planned to center around their concerns. “I did expect more women would vote for that. Women of color did. White women did not.”
Next up in the happy hour came a question from none other than me. “Kiersten in Rhode Island wants to know: what role can philanthropy play for creating optimism for women?” asked Feldt.
“Women are gaining power as they gain more wealth,” said Traister. “Philanthropy can play a role in terms of giving women direction about how to help, and it’s exciting to think about putting your energy and your dollars toward getting closer to equality.”
But Traister cautioned that philanthropy cannot be a stand-alone remedy for big social issues. “I also want to see philanthropy push for those policy shifts we are going to need. Don’t let up the pressure on the state institutions that are supposed to be providing for all of us.”
Palmer added that philanthropy happens at many levels in society and is not just about high net worth women. “There are people at all levels who are giving a percentage of their wealth who have very little money, but who are still giving at the same percentages. That fuels American progress, always.”
“It’s one of the things that has been characteristic of our culture in the US,” added Feldt. She noted that the philanthropic strain is more pronounced in American culture, and that government doesn’t tend to take on issues unless the grassroots, much of it supported by philanthropy, pushes for change. “Government doesn’t tend to take that responsibility unless we at the grassroots are setting the tone.”Read More
According to a recent article in the Ms. Magazine Blog by Gaylynn Burroughs, Policy Director at the Feminist Majority Foundation, reproductive rights advocates are still expecting “an all-out effort by Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.” Read the full article, Not Going Back: The Affordable Care Act and Medicaid for more details.
Repeal of the Affordable Care Act will have huge ramifications for access to birth control, as well as access to health care for women in general. In addition to losing access, women will also lose funding for birth control and may again be left to shoulder all of the costs associated with family planning.
But we’re not going back. There are many with immense resources in this fight. In an article I wrote for Inside Philanthropy in July of 2016, I detail the philanthropy investments that have been made in defending reproductive rights. Here is a quick recap of the funders on the pro-choice side of things:
Top Pro-Choice Funders
Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation
The foundation named after Warren Buffett’s late wife and bankrolled by Buffett family wealth is the most important player by far in the abortion space. STBF has given tens of millions of dollars to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, as well state affiliates, since 2010. The foundation gave over $35 million in 2014 alone. We don’t yet have data for 2015, but we’re betting that the pattern has continued, with the biggest grants going to Planned Parenthood’s national infrastructure and a range of smaller ones going to state affiliates.
Meanwhile, STBF is the single largest funder of the National Abortion Federation, the professional association of abortion providers. It’s given the group tens of millions of dollars in recent years, money which—among other things—funds training doctors to perform abortions, a skill no longer taught at most medical schools. In 2014, it gave the group $23 million to support its national telephone hotline, which NAF describes as the “only toll-free source of information about abortion and referrals to providers of quality care in the U.S. and Canada.” Other big STBF grants fund an array of pro-choice groups that are deep in the policy fights over abortion access, like NARAL and the National Women’s Law Center.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The next-largest donor to the fight for reproductive health and justice is the Hewlett Foundation, which has given over $10 million to support Planned Parenthood’s U.S. work since 2010. While that figure is significant, it is less than a 10th of what STBF gave. Likewise, Hewlett is a big supporter of the National Abortion Federation, though it doesn’t approach the level of STBF, with grants to NAF totaling under $4 million since 2010. A range of other groups advocating for abortion rights have also received Hewlett money. They include the National Women’s Law Center, Guttmacher Institute, and Center for Reproductive Rights. (Again, not all this grant money related directly to abortion.)
Open Society Foundations
OSF is not widely associated with the reproductive rights struggle, but it makes sense that it would be, and grantmaking confirms that the Soros-backed foundation has given big at different points. In 2012, it made a $13.2 million grant to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and at least $5 million in other OSF grants have gone to that group since 2010.
That grantmaking reflects an announced $20 million investment in 2011 to be distributed over a four-year period, with the specific purpose of building centers in South and Southeast regions of the U.S. for reproductive health services. Again, bear in mind the earlier point about the many services provided by Planned Parenthood that have nothing to do with abortion. OSF has also backed various other pro-choice groups over the past five years, at smaller levels.
David and Lucile Packard Foundation
The Packard Foundation is another longtime player in the reproductive rights space. And, through its program for Population and Reproductive Health, is another key funder of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, giving over $7 million to this group since 2011. Packard also backs the National Abortion Federation to the tune of around $2.2 million in the past few years. In addition, Packard grants fund smaller pro-choice groups such as NARAL, which has pulled in $400,000 in the past few years. The Center for Reproductive Rights, another popular group among funders, has received over $2 million in Packard money since 2011. The National Women’s Law Center has also gotten steady funding.
Ford isn’t a huge player in the abortion space, but it weighs in at times, and sometimes the grants are large. For instance, it gave Planned Federation of America a $1 million grant in 2015. If you dig through Ford’s grants database, you’ll find various grants for U.S. pro-choice work here and there.
JPB is a newer and less consistent player in the reproductive rights space, but it pops up now and again as a significant funder. It gave Planned Parenthood Federation of America a total of $6 million in 2012 and 2013.