Plan Gets Largest Donation Ever, Announces Deeper Focus on Girls

One of the most significant trends in the women’s philanthropy, and in philanthropy in general, is an increased focus on girls. Particularly on the global level, a growing strategy in philanthropy involves helping girls recognize and actualize their potential to lead, and by doing so make the world a better place for everyone.

Plan International is using its largest donation in history to scale up and deepen its work that places girls at the center of social change across the globe. (Image Credit: Plan International USA)

Into this evolving context comes an exciting new development: Plan International USA (Plan) recently announced a $12 million gift that will support the launch of programs that will reach 10 million girls globally over the next four years with improved access to education, opportunity, and health care. This is the largest private gift to date that Plan has received, and comes as a bequest from an anonymous donor. The historic donation will help support GirlEngage, Plan’s new programmatic model aimed particularly at girls.

The approach of GirlEngage is a unique model that uses input from girls directly impacted by the program. “Our strategy to transform the lives of 10 million girls is ambitious. However, our eight decades of experience in 70 countries arms us with the right tools to achieve this goal,” said Dr. Tessie San Martin, President and CEO of Plan International USA, upon announcing the planned scaling up of the GirlEngage Program with the record donation.

In June of 2019, Plan announced that the GirlEngage approach was being piloted in Senegal. Girls participated in a group called Lingères (Lionesses), which allowed them to brainstorm about what types of programs they would like to see in their community, helping them to recognize both barriers and opportunities across their lives. The girls identified early child marriage as a key obstacle to realizing their life goals. Attending secondary school was identified as a secondary goal.

The program will work to challenge gender norms so that more girls can live safer and healthier lives, and pursue education and economic opportunity. Girls who are educated tend to have better health outcomes, higher earnings, and are more likely to marry at a later age and have fewer children. Currently, UNESCO estimates that more than 130 million girls around the world are not attending school.

From 2012 to 2018, Plan carried out a campaign called Because I Am A Girl, which helped millions of girls across the globe. In places such as El Salvador, Egypt, and Nepal, girls were engaged in programs developed by Plan, helping to move the needle on essential issues of social change including access to education and health care services, and freedom from early marriage.

For more information about Plan’s work, visit

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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