Hot Topics and Trends for Women and Philanthropy, 2016

Leaders of Dallas Women’s Foundation, California Women’s Foundation, The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, New York Women’s Foundation, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham and Ms. Foundation on stage at the United State of Women Summit on June 14, 2016 in Washington, D.C.

In 2016, we saw the power of women grow in society like never before, and their influence in philanthropy continued to increase simultaneously. Women Give 2016, the yearly research series from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, revealed how Millennial women are coming to philanthropy with a different mindset, and are influencing strategies and dollar amounts of giving in new and important ways. Additionally, the study found that women’s participation in the labor force has increased, resulting in heightened power for women in financial decision-making both independently and for their households.

Major developments for women and philanthropy continue to evolve, even as the U.S. faces its most openly misogynist President, and gender equality movements brace for the implications of this shift in power. But President Trump would be foolish to ignore or discount Generation X leaders like Melinda Gates and Millennial leaders like Priscilla Chan, and the growing influence of their philanthropy. These women, and legions of others like them on different levels in philanthropy, will be important partners in leading the country in the coming years.  

Over the next few posts, I will be reviewing some of the significant trends and emerging topics in women and philanthropy from 2016. Let’s start with one of the most important new trends first.

Women Championed the Fight for Equality and Inclusion and Broke New Ground for Women and Girls of Color

Some of the boldest philanthropy of 2016 came from foundations openly taking on new feminist agendas, including widening the lens for inclusion of women and girls of color. In late 2015, NoVo Foundation made its $90 million dollar commitment in this grant space and began a series of intensive listening tours across the country to help identify strategies for addressing inequality for women and girls of color. 

At the same time, women’s funds across the country came together to fund Prosperity Together, a five-year $100 million commitment to improve economic security for women and girls. In December of 2016, the collective of 29 foundations and women’s funds announced it had exceeded its first year commitment by 46%, with funders like the Women’s Foundation of California adding an additional $2 million in 2016. 

The biggest winners in my book for women’s giving in 2016: the many foundations and women’s funds that came together to make Prosperity Together happen. These women’s funds broke new ground on gender and racial equality with this work. For a full list of the partners, Visit the Women’s Funding Network here.  

Next up: Women and Giving Circles

Kiersten Marek

Author: Kiersten Marek

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

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