In April of 2019, Aimee Allison, Founder of #SheThePeople, brought together 8 of the strongest contenders for the Democratic Presidential ticket in 2020, and had them speak to a key constituency in the upcoming election: women of color. The forum was held at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, and featured Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.Read More
“The more that philanthropy can do to encourage and support women in running for office, the better,” says Kate Coyne-McCoy, CEO of The Campaign Fixer, who has spent much of her career trying to bring more women into American politics. Coyne-McCoy has trained over 9,000 women to run for office, and she has a message for philanthropy.
“Do more politically, period,” she said in a recent interview with Philanthropy Women, when asked what her message would be to progressive women donors and their allies. “Until you make an investment in the electoral and political process, you’re never going to see the change you want.”
In particular Coyne-McCoy is looking for philanthropy to help fund research into why more of the women who go through trainings to run for office, don’t subsequently take the leap. “The knowledge about this is old. They say it’s because women aren’t being asked to run, but that’s not the reason. Women are being asked.”
And the reason is also not because women don’t win, because that’s simply not the case. Research from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers has highlighted the fact that when women run, they win office at the same rate as men. It’s getting them into the race that is still the problem.
But that problem might be getting better. In the wake of Trump’s victory, Coyne-McCoy has seen an immediate increase in women wanting to get trained in running for office. A training she recently did at the University of Connecticut was over capacity, and “that’s just one example of ten that I could give you about the increasingly level of activity for women in attending trainings to run for office.”
Who are some of the funders who are supporting women getting into politics? There are a variety of funders who support this work, including corporate funders, family foundations, and women’s funds.
But the bottom line is: Not enough funders focus their capacity to influence the electoral process. By highlighting the organizations and funders below, we hope to encourage more women to step fully into their power in this arguably underfunded space.
The Organizations and Funders
There are a growing number of organizations and initiatives working to get more women into politics. A review of the Foundation Center’s 990 database helps turn up some of the funders of those organizations. Let’s take a look at some of the organizations and funders trying to move more women into politics.
She Should Run
Started in 2008, She Should Run has evolved into an organization with $445,000 in gross receipts in 2015. Founded by Erin Cutraro, the organization works to get women on a path to run for office with guidance, support, and educational resources.
One of the repeat funders for She Should Run is The Green Fund out of New York, which gave the organization a $70,000 grant in 2014 and two $25,000 grants in 2015 and 2016. The McIntosh Foundation is another repeat funder of She Should Run, with $20,000 donations in both 2014 and 2015. Another important repeat funder of She Should Run is the Embrey Family Foundation, which provided a $65,000 grant in 2012 and a $60,000 grant in 2013.
She Should Run counts among its corporate supporters such big names as Facebook, Deloitte, PwC, Comcast, Caesar’s Palace, and Walgreens. An example of a recent grant from a corporate foundation is PG&E Corporation Foundation, which provided a $20,000 grant in 2015.
Vote, Run, Lead (VRL)
VRL is also seeing a big uptick in interest from women wanting to push back against the Trump presidency. After the election, Erin Vilardi, Founder of VRL, saw enrollment in an online workshop on how to run for office jump from a usual of about 50 to over 1000.
VRL has received substantial support from the Dobkin Family Foundation, which provided a $50,000 grant on 3/30/2015 and another $50,000 on 7/3/2015. VRL also received a $160,000 grant from Rockefeller Brothers Fund in 2015. The Harnisch Foundation (theHF), one of our lead sponsors at Philanthropy Women, is also a supporter of VRL, making $30,000 in grants to the organization.
Founded in 2007, Running Start is a 501(c)3 that developed out of the non-partisan Women Under Forty Political Action Committee (WUFPAC), which aimed to get more women to run for federal office. Running Start supports getting young women into politics in a number of ways, and has received financial supports from Wal-Mart, Lockheed Martin, Deloitte, and Qualcomm to name just a few of the corporations helping to fund this organization.
One of Running Start’s programs, Elect Her: Campus Women Win, was started with a $100,000 grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation. Elect Her specializes in training college women to run for student government as the on-ramp to a career in politics.
Women’s Campaign Fund
Women’s Campaign Fund was one of the earliest non-partisan organizations providing resources for women to win political office. It has an associated Women’s Campaign Fund PAC which also brings in funds. In terms of funder information in the 990’s for the Women’s Campaign Fund, it was pretty scant, but one funder that comes up in the Foundation Center’s records as having made multiple donations to The Women’s Campaign Fund is the D.J. McManus Fund, which donated $6,639 to The Women’s Campaign Fund in 2012 and another $7,000 in 2014.
Women Donors Network’s Reflective Democracy Campaign
A strategic initiative of the Women Donors Network, the Reflective Democracy Campaign set out to be one of the major clearinghouses for data on the gender gap in U.S. politics. This campaign has a number of components including researching, communication, and grantmaking. With its website, Who Leads Us?, this campaign provides a breakdown of the representation data for every state, showing how many women and people of color are in elected office. Knowing the status of the problem is, of course, the first step to fixing it, so Who Leads Us is an essential tool in fighting for more equality in politics.
One of the newest efforts to dive into this issue is Girl Represent, which is running workshops for girls of color that encourage civic participation. Awesome Without Borders, a program of Harnisch Foundation, recently provided a $1000 to Girl Represent to fund expansion of their workshops for girls.
There are also several non-charitable organizations that are working to get more women into politics. One of the oldest and most revered of these is EMILY’s List, a political action committee formed in 1985 by Ellen Malcolm with an estimated membership of 3 million today.
In fact, Coyne-McCoy who started off this story, was a longtime leader at EMILY’s List, serving as a Regional Director from 2002 to 2011.
Another important non-charitable organization in this arena is Emerge America, which started as a 501(c)4, but in 2011, was determined by the IRS to be primarily a political group, and so converted to a 527 organization.
The Last Word from Coyne-McCoy on Philanthropy’s Need to Pivot Toward Investing in Women in Politics
A veteran powerhouse in the women in politics realm, Coyne-McCoy is adamant that there will be no real change until there is political change. In closing our interview, she put it quite plainly: “Until we get more women in office with their fingers on the buttons of power, we should all expect life to suck.”
Let’s hope that women in philanthropy get the message and do more to make life suck less. By funding efforts to get more women elected, they can truly change the game.Read More