Supporting Women Environmental Leaders During COVID

Editor’s Note: The following piece is by Ariana Carella, network engagement director at Rachel’s Network. She manages the organization’s collective funding program, including the Rachel’s Network Catalyst Award.

ariana carella
Ariana Carella, network engagement director, Rachel’s Network. (Image Credit: Ariana Carella)

Women and girls are at the forefront of social movements, galvanizing communities to respond to climate change, adopting socially responsible practices in philanthropy, and fighting for pro-environment legislation. Rachel’s Network was founded in 2000 with a mission to promote these impassioned women fighting for our planet. Throughout the year, we connect with women leaders and experts on issues relating to environmental protection, philanthropy, and advocacy, and our Rachel’s Network Catalyst Award provides $10,000 and recognition to mid-career women environmental leaders of color.

In response to impacts COVID-19 has had on the operations, financial security, and wellbeing of the women in our extended community, our organization launched the Rachel’s Network Community Resilience Fund in April to provide small, unrestricted gifts directly to nonprofits and women environmental leaders.

These grants have been given, without hinderance or application, to women who gave their time and expertise to our network’s programs over the years, with priority given to smaller nonprofits likely impacted by this public health crisis. Because we know this virus has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, we also prioritized gifts to initiatives and organizations led by women of color and top candidates of the 2019 Catalyst Award. We knew many of the women in our network were serving as primary caretakers and community leaders, and had pressing personal and professional needs, so our organization wanted these gifts to be unrestricted.

These women from all over the country, focusing on vastly different environmental challenges, are pillars in their communities and in the fight for a healthier, more just world. This is a small way for us to express our support and gratitude to these women and their organizations, who have helped our members understand how to be impactful funders.

So far, our fund has granted $46,000 to 27 organizations and 25 women. In addition, individual members within Rachel’s Network have been generously supporting healthcare workers and others in need, as well as stepping up with larger commitments to nonprofits they already fund.

We do not expect this effort to be the only action that Rachel’s Network takes during this crisis, but it was something mission-aligned, and we were well-positioned to do in the months following most shelter-in-place orders.


Ariana Carella is network engagement director at Rachel’s Network. She manages the organization’s collective funding program, including the Rachel’s Network Catalyst Award.


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Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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