Rajasvini “Vini” Bhansali spoke to me by phone from Mumbai, India, where she was working and visiting family, the trip to her homeland compelled by a family illness.
“We attract donors and ambassadors that are thinking about local and global connections,” says Bhansali, Executive Director of IDEX (soon to be renamed Thousand Currents). Bhansali notes that 60 percent of IDEX’s budget comes from family foundations, 20 percent from individual donors, and 20 percent from earned income. Last year, IDEX recorded a 45 percent increase in new individual donors, and as it morphs into Thousand Currents, the organization has added staff positions, including a grants coordinator, a community engagement manager, and directors of “donor organizing” and “diaspora partnerships.”
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.
With gender-based violence still a major barrier to women’s equality and empowerment, funders are starting to put more money toward prevention internationally.
The World Bank Group recently announced, in partnership with the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI), ten awards of up to $150,000 each to organizations who will prevent and respond to gender-based violence worldwide. World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, in announcing the grants, said another $3.5 million will also be invested in the cause of ending physical and sexual violence against women.
Ever wonder why progress for gender equity remains incremental, and constantly faces regression? Well, it might have something to do with our institutions being so entrenched in patriarchy that they aren’t able to effectively carry out a gender equality agenda.
That appears to be the argument of an open letter from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and 25 MENA Women Civil Society Organizations, sent to UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The letter cites a of a growing lack of trust in the Security Council throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). To counter this lack of credibility and action, the group of women’s civil society NGO’s is proposing bold measures “to advance women’s rights and set the UN back on track as an Organization that works for the common interests of our shared humanity.”
“Today, there are more than 40 million smartphones in Iran and a million more are added every month,” said Firuzeh Mahmoudi, executive director of United for Iran (U4I). Today, Mahmoudi announced that he and his organization are planning to make those smartphones into powerful tools of self-agency for marginalized women. “Given all of these regressive efforts by Iran’s rulers to limit the rights of women, they still fail to understand that technology and social media apps will continue to expand the boundaries of what is socially acceptable in Iranian society. This is why Toranj has the potential to be such a vital tool for Iranian women.”
On a bright April Thursday morning in New York City, David Callahan and Emmett Carson took each other on in a “spirited debate” about the future of philanthropy. In particular, they differed in opinion about whether there are dangers to the lack of transparency and accountability for the new billionaire class.
Discussion time was given to some very rich (no pun intended) topics, including the influence of philanthropy on health care. Callahan discussed a section from his book that shows how right-wing billionaires have essentially used philanthropy to ensure that they win court battles, such as the court battle which allowed states to opt out of Obamacare. This is the kind of civic inequality that Callahan calls out in The Givers as a dangerous new way philanthropy can be used for political gain.
Big News: The NoVo Foundation has narrowed down the scope of its focus for its $90 million in funding to empower girls of color, and the funder is now seeking regional partners to provide support to community agencies doing work for gender equality. NoVo is currently opening up RFP applications for community-based organizations in the U.S. Southeast to get grants for helping girls of color.
This decision was based on the outcome of a year-long listening tour across the country with girls of color, movement leaders, and organizers. During that time, NoVo employed its strategy of getting feedback and solutions directly “defined and driven by girls and women of color” in order to maximize impact for this population.
Progress for women is gradual in a world where an estimated 15 million girls are sold into marriage. In developing nations, the situation is even worse. According to the UNFPA, an estimated “one in three girls is married before reaching age 18. One in nine is married under age 15.” Among other scary news on child marriage is this recent report that child marriages are on the rise in Syria.
There are several funders paying close attention to the problem of child marriage. These include Kendeda, which has committed over $31 million in this arena in recent years, and provides support for Human Rights Watch, the Global Fund for Women, and Girls Not Brides. The Ford Foundation also does some significant work in this area, and The NoVo Foundation is also committed to the cause of ending child marriage.
Ruth Ann Harnisch recently penned a piece for The Tennessean on why she supports The Women’s Fund in Tennessee, seeing them as “the smartest, most efficient way to meet the ever-changing needs of women and girls in this area.”
Women’s funds today are using a range of strategies to build economic security for women and families. By lending capital to women’s small businesses, many women’s funds are helping women build their own financial security — an important step in advancing the frontiers of gender equality.
Investing in financial stability for those on the margins of society, including those who have been traditionally excluded, is central to the mission of many women’s funds, and The Women’s Fund discussed by Harnisch in the article appears to be a prime example of this. The Women’s Fund supports Doors of Hope, for example, which “offers real-life training for women coming out of prison, along with support as they develop skills for living.”
In the world of philanthropy, it’s a little unusual to hear about a public debate between high level professionals. We have a lot of panel discussions, and not so many debates. But Philanthropy New York (PNY) clearly has other ideas.
PNY, “a regional association of grantmakers with global impact,” is sponsoring a debate between two very different leaders in the philanthropy sector. Picture, if you will, the matchup:
In this corner, we have David Callahan, Founder and Publisher of Inside Philanthropy, and author of the forthcoming title, The Givers, a riveting text that makes you question everything you know about philanthropy, and which lands squarely on the side of tightening up taxation and regulation of the rich. Furthermore, it makes you want to run laps around the block to vent your rage at the rampant inequality in today’s world.