PW Update: Where We’re Going from Here

Time for a PW update about the future! We are now heading into our fourth year since our founding in January of 2017 here at Philanthropy Women. Starting and running PW has been a fascinating experience, and in an effort at radical business transparency, I’d like to fill you in on a little of the behind-the-scenes story of why we do what we do, and where we’re going.

Why Do We Do What We Do

Philanthropy Women was born out of my realization that very few people knew about the funders who have made gender equality a growing possibility in our world. Some 93% of these funders are women, and true to gender norms as women, they failed to promote their world-changing work.

the future of philanthropy women
Philanthropy Women celebrated its 3-year anniversary in January 2020. Where are we going from here?

This was a loss to society that I wanted to reconcile by showing what feminist givers looks like in real life. I also wanted to expand the definition of feminist giving to encompass a wide array of leaders at every level of society — from direct care workers to CEOs — who are giving their time, energy, and resources for the express purpose of seeing the world become more gender equal.

Update: We May Merge Because of Our Success

My current goal is to expand the future of Philanthropy Women, so that our impact on the subject of women’s giving can grow at a faster pace. Because PW is able to generate some revenue, the most advantageous long-term plan might be to merge with a larger entity that sees the value, both financially and socially, in supporting this specialized media and growing its audience. Currently, however, we plan to continue to publish independently for the next year. In 2021, we may consider merger and acquisition with larger media entities.

The challenges of running a publication dedicated to women’s philanthropy are significant. We face an uphill battle in almost every aspect of the business. Staying alive today in publishing is very difficult even if you are doing the most mainstream work. Add to that the challenge of writing about a marginalized and underfunded subject area, and you are facing almost certain demise. Then consider how search engine algorithms likely downgrade women’s efforts at philanthropy (need some research on this!) compared to men’s when ranking content, and again you are pushing a boulder uphill.

Nevertheless, we have persisted and succeeded in creating a new media product and growing the market for that product. We established feminist funding as a topic deserving of its own dedicated media hub, and we grew the audience for this media hub to encompass thousands of readers and social media followers.

This graphic from BuzzSumo helps to illustrate how Philanthropy Women is capturing a majority of the market for key search terms in our subject area. Above is a pie chart showing how much of the media share we have for search term “philanthropy women.” (Image Credit: BuzzSumo)

The Future of Philanthropy Women: We’re Moving in the Right Direction, but How Quickly?

The past five years have been tough for women globally. The most successful gender equality programs are fighting back against a tide of closing spaces for women’s rights advocates. Most impressive among these movements fighting back is the #MeToo movement, which is taking us in new directions in terms of understanding the role that gender-based violence plays in perpetuating misogyny and oppression. 

Some of the other big successes for gender equality movements: an increased focus on women and girls of color, keeping up the ongoing fight to hold the line on women’s reproductive rights, and increased activity to address inequities for girls and women in many different fields, from sports and entertainment, to finance and STEM. I am also really encouraged by the growing efforts to test rape kits, end female genital mutilation, and pass the ERA. When all of these things are accomplished, we will know that women’s rights have progressed to a new stage of forward momentum.

I see gender equality philanthropy on a trajectory of high growth, but even if it grows at a high rate, gender equality movements are not poised to take over the world. Remember that the Women’s Philanthropy Institute did the research, and it turns out only 1.6% of all giving is directed at women and girls, so it’s a much smaller amount than experts were estimating earlier. Earlier estimates put the amount at 5-10%.

So even if funding for women and girls doubled in the next five years and grew to 3.2% of all philanthropy, that won’t mean that all is well and women have nothing to worry about.  If it did grow to 3.2%, that would mean that giving for women and girls would be about at the same level as giving for animals and the environment, according to this study from WPI. That will be an improvement, but we still have to worry, and we still have to push to keep it going. Gender equality movements won’t take on their own momentum until we reach critical mass (20-30% in any industry) and we are not there.

So What’s the Bottom Line?

The bottom line is that we are going to keep on truckin’ here at Philanthropy Women, and we hope you will continue reading and sharing our work. Together, we are learning about and amplifying donors who are doing some of the most effective philanthropy out there. We look forward to more of the same this coming year and in the future of Philanthropy Women.

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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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