New England International Donors (NEID) held their annual Gala on April 8th, virtually of course. This gathering of international philanthropists was to celebrate the incredible work accomplished by the cohort throughout 2020. NEID is a rapidly growing community of engaged individuals and organizations whose aim is to “address the world’s big problems” by “living and giving boldly.”
Their mission is to learn from one another, join forces, and through this strategic network of collaboration, tackle inequity, climate change, and many of the world’s challenges that would’ve been insurmountable otherwise. This community is effective, to say the least, as around 45% of their members collaborate on projects together and 30% of their network support projects discovered directly through NEID.
A community for change
Karen Ansara, Founder and Chair of NEID, moderated the gala, sharing her personal motivation for building the organization and also honoring its many members. The appreciation and gratitude for each member “solving some of the world’s most intractable problems” were evident through Ansara’s statements and the heartfelt exchanges she had with several guest speakers.
Wendo Aszed, Founder and Executive Director of Dandelion Africa, a NEID Giving Circle Grantee, sums up the feeling of the gala perfectly; “It’s such a sad state that such a small amount of money all over the world goes to funding women and grassroots organizations. So, having a giving circle like NEID gives women like me, who are just women like you, opportunities to change our world.” By maintaining their values of empowerment, partnership, empathy, and justice, amongst others, NEID is able to act as a cohesive unit and also passionately promote niche giving circles.
NEID’s focus on women and girls
A highlight of the gala was guest speaker Angélique Kidjo, Founder of the Batonga Foundation and four-time Grammy award winner. The Batonga Foundation supports marginalized women and girls throughout Africa in moving “from potential to power” in ways that are specific to their own lives and experiences. Kidjo explained in a question and answer portion of the gala just how vital it is to disperse resources to those NGOs that listen and work directly with the women and girls they aim to help.
Kidjo elaborated on how grant-making and philanthropy are structurally flawed, inherently marginalizing women-led, grassroots organizations. 99% of grants have predetermined budgets and employee count requirements that most smaller NGOs working with women and girls in Africa do not reach. Herein lies the cycle of money being perpetually funneled to larger organizations that are well-meaning, but not necessarily closing any inequity gaps.
Philanthropy is shifting though, and rightfully so. In reference to the deeply embedded women’s community networks already very much alive in Africa, Kidjo states that “if we could finance them, elevate them, and truly value them as partners, change will come much faster.” A newer model of trust-based grantmaking is desperately needed and by opening our ears and not just our wallets, real change will inevitably follow.
Alongside the several members who spoke during the gala, other guests were also given the opportunity to share their “why” for joining NEID and pursuing their own philanthropic efforts in a separate member’s video. Vilas Dhar, the new President of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, explained his “why” as the growing and necessary role of AI in supporting social well-being and progress.
NEID’s role in global philanthropy
Although NEID’s international giving spectrum is broad and its members are individually engaged in all 17 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, one of the main interest areas of its members is SDG 5, to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” Around 25% of NEID’s approximately 40 events per year focus on women’s philanthropy and what can be done with their hundreds of millions in collective global funds.
Three of their Giving Circles have had varying facets directed towards women and girl’s equity, including trafficking, maternal health, and men’s roles in breaking down gender barriers. Thankfully thriving through the pandemic, NEID has grown from a New England-based organization to a national one with around 120 individual and 40 institutional members.
Since March 2020, they’ve held 48 engaging virtual events and in doing so have been able to reach donors even further than before. Going virtual has allowed them to integrate 40 new members last year alone and bring in the voices of grantees in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, “significantly enriching conversations that are shaping the landscape of international philanthropy,” states Ina Breuer, Executive Director of NEID.
According to Breuer, virtual collaboration has provided NEID with the opportunity to connect more, learn more, and therefore, help more. After the gala, NEID announced their Member-Only Internal Portal and the launch of their Affinity Groups. Both the portal and the affinity groups featured within it are meant to consolidate educational resources and opportunities, as well as create deeper and more regular channels of communication between NEID members and the organizations they support around the world.
NEID’s gender-lens approach is part of its general shift towards trust-based, grassroots philanthropy. Helping the most marginalized truly requires such a connected, open-minded, and empathetic strategy in which the power and resources are given to the individuals and leaders shaping change on the ground.