As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, one of the highlights so far has been the February 2022 edition of Meet the Philanthropist, my virtual interview series with leading women philanthropists and leaders in philanthropy.
This time, I had the distinct pleasure of a discussion with Chief Program Officer of California’s Rosenberg Foundation, Kendra Fox-Davis. I was thrilled to speak to Kendra, who is returning to have this conversation as a bit of a follow-up from the WOC Symposium in November. Everything she shared was so inspiring, and I knew she was the perfect person with whom to explore, remember, and embrace for Black History Month, particularly in the realm of fundraising and philanthropy.
Well hello, my philanthro-lovelies! I hope you are doing well, and are ready to dive into some more feminist giving news!
Today I’d like to start with a quote from MacKenzie Scott, who has outstripped her ex-husband’s lifetime of giving in just two years. Here are her words from when she made her promise to fulfill The Giving Pledge:
It seems, in the feminist philanthropy community, everyone is waiting for that tipping point to come, when women’s leadership finally establishes its value to the world. COVID, it seems, is helping to accelerate our awareness of the added value of women’s leadership. By showing that countries led by women having strikingly better COVID survival and containment rates, we should finally be at that point where you could practically pour the product of women’s leadership into a bottle and sell it on the open market.
Well, think again. I have been on my own quest to establish the value of women’s leadership, particularly women’s leadership in philanthropy, over the past five years. I went in with the theory that feminist strategies are more powerful strategies, and once people get to know more about them, lots of folks would flock to our website and build up our subscriber base to the point where, eventually, it might even turn into a for-profit market product. Though fiscally sponsored by the Women’s Funding Network, our budget and strategy is built around the idea that only a small portion of our funding should come from grants, and that as our subscriber base grows, eventually, we could become attractive to a regular small business publication or larger progressive media platform.
“As a leader of a nonprofit, I strongly encourage folks to select one or more local organizations whose mission they love, whose leadership they know and trust, and to give to operations or unrestricted funds,” says Shanna Cox, President and CEO of the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Cox oversees daily operations, events, and strategies for the Chamber, and believes in the power of giving to women and girls.
Cox leads with a “learn what people want and deliver it” mentality at the Chamber, and has a reputation for being honest, approachable, and ready to dive in to solve problems. When it comes to helping women business owners in her community, she references listening and mentoring as important keys to build women up in the process of helping them succeed in business.
In February 2021, 18-year-old Úrsula Bahillo was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, an officer in the Buenos Aires police force. The femicide led a group of Argentine women to create the organization Mujeres en Acción, an entirely volunteer brigade of women providing support to survivors of gender-based violence in the Latin American region.
Úrsula’s untimely death was the 44th femicide registered in Argentina in the first two months of 2021, and its occurrence prompted immediate outrage in the country. After all, the 18-year-old victim had followed all the recommended steps: she reported her attacker to the police stations and the courthouse. She got a restraining order that made it illegal for him to come near her, but he broke the restraining order numerous times. One major way the system fell apart for her: Úrsula requested a “panic button” from the police, but she never got one. Her last message to her friends read: If I don’t come back, tear everything down.
1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
When I switched careers 12 years ago, I didn’t understand the power dynamics and barriers that exist for grassroots nonprofits. I wish I knew the intricacies of philanthropy and why such large gaps exist between those who need funding and those who receive. I now see that collectively, we are moving the needle to shift philanthropy, but it’s happening very slowly.
While I wish I’d entered on this path sooner, I am proud to now devote my career to giving circles because I believe this model is the most dynamic way to liberate capital to nonprofit leaders who know what solutions are best for their communities. Giving circles are filled with everyday givers coming together to diversify and democratize philanthropy. These are the voices that have historically been excluded by mainstream philanthropy and the voices that will break down these existing power dynamics and eliminate barriers to much-needed funding for grassroots leaders.
Editor’s Note: The following commentary on domestic violence is by Debbie I. Chang, MPH, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation.
Throughout a career advocating for the health and well-being of children and families, I thought I knew a lot about domestic violence and its impact. I knew that trauma, including exposure to domestic violence in childhood, has a deep and lasting effect on health. Like many people, I thought what happened in people’s homes was a private matter. In fact, some would narrowly say, “It’s not my business.”
Now I know domestic violence is all of our business. It is truly a public matter. And it is preventable.
How The Fifteen Percent Pledge is Pushing for Better Diversity on Store Shelves
Following the horrific murder of George Floyd, Canadian-born director, activist, and fashion designer Aurora James decided she needed to do something to make a difference. Act after act of police brutality with little to no repercussions for the perpetrators left the Black community in a state of perpetual fear and disgust. George Floyd’s death on May 20, 2020 also came at the same time as the height of the pandemic, which disproportionately affected Black businesses.
James’s response was to found the Fifteen Percent Pledge, which has since gone on to bring on board over two dozen major corporations. According to James’s website, the impact of the Fifteen Percent Pledge has been significant, “effectively diverting over $5B in capital to Black entrepreneurs in the United States” within the first year.
Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving In Real Life series featuresElodie Read, Program and Community Partnerships Lead at Subak, the first global non-profit tech accelerator dedicated to combatting the climate emergency.
1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
I’m pretty early on in my career so this is quite a tricky question to answer. At university and grad school, everyone is full of conviction, zeal and a healthy dose of naivety about how the world is and how it should be. When you start working, it can be easy to get bogged down in reality, but I think it’s important to remember why we got into this kind of work and to keep working with our values and goals at the front of our minds.
Work being done abroad by Synergy for Justice and its executive director Christy Fujio is enhancing justice and accountability for sexual violence and torture.
The conflict in Syria has been going on for roughly ten years now, with little sign of it ceasing. American media coverage has more or less moved on from shedding any light on the topic. Although the general populace has moved on, certain organizations and individuals remain hyper focused on what they can do to help ensure that survivors are supported and justice is achieved.
Synergy for Justice is one such organization. For more than six years, the organization has been working with local partners and lending a hand to the crisis. At the height of the violence, torture and detention in 2015, the organization was founded by Christy Fujio, Dr. Ingrid Elliott and Dr. Coleen Kivlahan.