(Liveblog) Strategies for Giving in COVID Economy with A Call To Men

On Wednesday, October 7th, the team at A Call To Men convened a conversation on giving strategy is the COVID economy, featuring with Michael Stars’ Suzanne Lerner and the New York Women’s Foundation’s Ana Oliveira.

Ted Bunch, Chief Development Officer at A Call To Men, opened the call with a group check-in. He encouraged participants to share the ways they are thriving and struggling during the pandemic. This interactive portion of the call featured stories from men and women around the country, including foundation representatives and individuals struggling with work prospects, productivity, and social justice in the midst of the pandemic.

Ultimately, the people on the call celebrated a feeling of community that is created in every virtual session for A Call To Men: the team misses the engagement possibilities of in-person events, and has celebrated all the ways they can continue to drive participation during virtual events.

Shifting Strategies at the New York Women’s Foundation in COVID Economy

“The global coronavirus pandemic has deeply affected the nonprofit world,” said Bunch, sharing from an article published on A Call To Men’s website. “Organizations like ours have been halted by the mandate for physical distancing and we are unable to provide in-person trainings and education. Organizations that serve vulnerable populations — like domestic violence shelters and mental health providers — are facing incredible increases in demand for services without a matching increase in funding to make it all happen. At the same time, we are experiencing a great awakening to racial inequities, many of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. There is an urgent call for nonprofits to advocate for racial justice.”

Bunch asked about the New York Women’s Foundation’s shifting strategies in the face of the pandemic. Ana Oliveira, President and CEO of NYWF, shared that the Foundation has been working directly with grantees to find new and flexible ways to respond to increased or changed need.

“The best thing we can do is ask, listen, and then respond,” she said. The Foundation has experienced a massive increase in requests for support, particularly from organizations that serve large or under-served communities. In response to COVID, the NYWF has created an entirely new line of funding just for community-focused solutions, especially those that support front-line workers, like healthcare professionals, and lesser-served workers like delivery drivers and grocery store clerks, most of whom are made up of people from under-served communities.

“Nobody has the same needs, but everyone has increased needs,” says Oliveira. “So funding has to respond in the same way.”

Importance of Racial Justice in Corporate and Personal Philanthropy in COVID Economy

Next, Suzanne Lerner spoke on strategies for fighting for racial justice through philanthropy, both on the personal and corporate level.

Lerner described a “trinity” between business, philanthropy, and investments. The investment to gender and racial equality at Michael Stars has been part of the system from the beginning: the company is more than 80% staffed by women and 50% staffed by people of color.

“We’ve been reaching out to our customers and sharing information about causes that we care about, because we want to educate them,” said Lerner, giving the example of the Feminism Is For Everyone fundraising tee-shirt Michael Stars sold in 2019. During COVID-19, the company also began manufacturing and distributing masks, and using the sales of those masks to support funds for domestic workers, front-line workers, and more. Michael Stars also has a complete section of its online store called “Shop For A Cause,” which features products that donate a portion of proceeds to philanthropic and justice organizations.

“It’s about getting out there and sharing your experiences,” Lerner said.

Men Will Be A Critical Component in Women’s Philanthropy

The NYWF was the first foundation to directly support A Call To Men. Oliveira shared the motivation behind the Foundation’s decision to support this male-focused organization: supportive partnerships. In order to create a world with true equality between women, men, transgender people, and every identity we have in our rich and varied world, we need true supportive partnerships that don’t elevate one gender, race, or sexuality over another.

“The work that you do at A Call To Men is part of the work,” Oliveira said. “The work that any person who identifies as a woman does is part of the work.”

“The concept of solidarity is a very complex concept,” she said. “It is impossible to do the work of the Foundation… without also working in an interwoven manner, learning, and transforming ourselves with the work that A Call To Men does.”

“We’re all swimming in the same water,” added Bunch. “And we appreciate your support.”

The Importance of Intersectional Investments with COVID Economy

Lerner encouraged individuals to think about their investments as well as their philanthropy and personal philosophies, asking the question, “How do I tie my 401(k) into my personal beliefs?”

“Equity and passion have to be a part of what we do for everybody,” she said. “We need to lift particularly women and girls of color, and everyone on the margins.”

She shared a few statistics from recent years:

  • Gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to earn more money than their competitors.
  • Global GDP could go up by 26% by adding more women to the workforce.
  • Revenue of women-owned companies has increased by 103% over the last 20 years.

“Women and girls are a great investment,” said Lerner. She encouraged people to make their investments in organizations owned and operated by women and people of color, such as Black-owned banks. She also shared notes from the Ms. Foundation report Pocket Change, stressing the importance of building trust with and supporting grassroots organizations and foundations that serve women and girls of color.

“It really doesn’t take a lot of money,” said Lerner. “There are places that can help you find opportunities to invest.”

“Every crisis is an opportunity,” added Oliveira, sharing that the pandemic has allowed us to imagine a world with true gender and racial equality, and see the possibilities involved in investing in gendered solutions.

“It’s our responsibility to speak up,” said Lerner. “But be loving — everyone has a heart and soul inside of them.”

To view the full event recap, visit A Call to Men on Facebook.


Ms. Foundation: Donors Must Step Up for Women and Girls of Color

Intersectional Philanthropy: A Conversation with Suzanne Lerner

Black Leaders Call for $1 Billion Decade-Long Investment in Black Girls

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Author: Maggie May

Maggie May is a small business owner, author, and story-centric content strategist. A Maryland transplant by way of Florida, DC, Ireland, Philadelphia, and -- most recently -- Salt Lake City, she has a passion for finding stories and telling them the way they're meant to be told.

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