How to be a Courageous Philanthropist

Paula Hodges is founder of Anchor Strategies and was the founding Executive Director of New Hampshire Progress Alliance, New England’s first pooled investment fund for incubating durable, permanent progressive infrastructure.

Admittedly, I am not a philanthropist. But managing the money of philanthropists for progressive social change has given me a unique appreciation for the essential role of people and organizations that connect philanthropy and political strategy.

I’ve spent most of my career as that staff person expected to change the world $1,000 at a time, one issue at a time.  In roles such as manager of young organizers, volunteer coordinator, lobbyist to fickle legislators, major gifts director, and Executive Director, I have worked to change political decision-making systems, often while holding up woefully under-staffed legislative and advocacy initiatives. As a single person Public Affairs or Program Director, I sometimes served in the role of five people, and was seen as a savior if I could project-manage a couple coalitions on the side – you know, for the good of the cause.

This is the plight of nonprofits that attempt advocacy with small staffs and fledgling budgets. We have magical unicorns among us, but we burn them out and don’t recognize the real opportunity and economic costs for these staff. We fund the sexy here-and-now social reform initiatives, but forget the critical connective tissue organizing that brings nonprofits together around one long-term plan. We short-change the outreach and engagement positions who partner in real ways to build political and community change that our charitable and direct service provider groups require to carry out their work.  We cut short the operatives who know how to respond to and build power in spite of the political volatility and public narrative shifts.

But it doesn’t have to remain that way. Women philanthropists are demonstrating their systems change muscle and some are looking to build out connective tissue among women’s and girls issues. Because women understand that communication, collaboration and shared strategy is essential to effective movement building, women philanthropists are  uniquely positioned to invest in this work.

So what does this connective tissue look like? It is a matrix of nonprofits designed to develop digital, narrative and community pipelines for leadership and action. We call it infrastructure. These nonprofits are legally and structurally set up to carry the message and deploy civic engagement tactics so that elected bodies move toward public policy changes.

“Social Welfare” or 501(c)4 nonprofits are an overlooked tool for moving the public narrative and elected leaders. Although sometimes scorned as  “dark money,” particularly since Citizens United, 501(c)4s  are a critical part of the larger investment strategy to achieve social change.  If your passion is environmental justice or reducing maternal mortality rates- it IS political. The same state lawmakers that are blocking attempts to codify Roe V. Wade are the ones working to deter voting rights and further cripple structural democracy as we know it.

Women and girls issues do not exist in a silo. They exist inside a complex struggle for power among partisans  – some of whom govern and some of whom are paid to work against women’s and girls causes. Service providers must be funded to provide their services, and social welfare organizations must be funded to build political power for women and girls. It is a moral and ethical imperative of the modern political era.

So here are my recommendations for how to be courageous:

  1. Be a bold board member. Discuss how your 501(c)3 charity can partner with other nonprofits doing voter registration and mobilization programs. Ask your executive directors what 501(c)4 and infrastructure organizations help them the most and explore opening a connected 501(c)4 to allow your organization to be a stronger advocate for your core mission work.
  2. Identify if there is an infrastructure donor alliance in your state or community. These are often 501(c)4 and 501(c)3 hybrid affinity groups that  invest in long term, connective tissue strategies that bring single issue groups together around shared community organizing goals and a shared set of message, civic engagement and even litigation goals.
  3. Endow entire staff roles and teams to focus on civic engagement partnerships. Make it acceptable for charitable nonprofits to have a seat at voter and community mobilization tables.
  4. Reconsider your mix of giving. If you give $1 million a year to 501(c)3 causes, consider tithing 10% to 501(c)4s that are providing the teams and tactics to respond to deep societal and political crises (like government shut downs, as one recent example).
  5. Educate your philanthropist friends. Help them understand that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. Have tough conversations about diversifying how you invest in the charitable and social welfare sectors.

Paula Hodges is founder of Anchor Strategies, which works with individual donors and organizational funders to re-think their philanthropic giving by layering on political and advocacy funding and joining state based progressive infrastructure donor alliances. She was the founding Executive Director of New Hampshire Progress Alliance, New England’s first pooled investment fund for incubating durable, permanent progressive infrastructure.

Related:

Announcing the 2019 Philanthropy Women Leadership Awards

Year-End Thoughts and My Interview for Women’s Fund of Rhode Island

Joy-Centric Movement Building: NoVo Partners With Consortium to Empower Southern Black Girls

What’s Next for Women’s Philanthropy? Funding Collective Impact for Gender Equity

Editor’s Note: Betsy McKinney, Founder and CEO of It’s Time Network and author of this post, was recently invited to speak at an event in honor of Women’s History Month at the U.S. State Department. She gave an overview on the need for collective impact infrastructure and initiatives in the women’s sector, and explained the purpose of It’s Time Network and the Network City Program.

Everyone responded vigorously during the presentation when Betsy said that we need a collective impact structure that acts as an AARP for women, and that we can and should fund it ourselves as women over time. People also responded well to the need for shared measurement and the Women’s Well-Being Index. At the end, women from Malaysia, Nepal and Afghanistan asked how they can join the Network City Program. Betsy gave them copies of ITN’s Mayors Guide and they are eager to consider how they can also use the guide and recommendations.

After the unprecedented success of the Women’s Marches, everyone is asking, “What’s next?”

It’s time to build and fund women’s collective power at the city, state and national levels and beyond.

While writing postcards to members of Congress, donating to women’s organizations, participating in online petitions, and running for office are all critically important individual actions that woman can take, we need to consider long-term, collective action as well. Collective action requires that we connect in new ways to build common agendas, work together more effectively and track progress (and regression) in the areas that matter to us as women.

Betsy McKinney, Founder and CEO of It’s Time Network

This work is not a sprint. It’s a marathon that we can “train” to achieve sustained impact in addition to short-term milestones. It’s time to build and fund network infrastructure at the local, state and national levels to support robust cross-sector collaboration and achieve the outcomes that are possible through collective impact work.

The Stanford Social Innovation Review popularized the theory of collective impact and notes that large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations. Currently, people working in environmental issues are often separate from social and racial justice leaders and many organizations are still too isolated. That isolation is a result of both segmented issues and incentive structures that lead to competition for limited resources. Most organizations compete for funding from the same sources and find it hard to collaborate with other organizations even when they have common interests. Without a permanent structure for supporting collaboration within an issue area or even across issues, such efforts are often only temporary campaigns for one specific goal rather than sustained coordinations.

The Network City program is building out gender equity from the local level, starting with Denver and San Francisco.

At It’s Time Network we are building a national Network City Program to create the capacity for collective action beginning at the local level. With two pilot cities, in San Francisco and Denver and as more cities join the network, the capacity for collective action can begin to scale to the state and national levels. Additionally, each city and or state has international organizations that can join the network, which strengthens our global connections as well.

The work ahead lies beyond simple partisan divides. People from every part of the political spectrum are waking up and exercising their civic muscles. It’s not just about women and women’s rights, either. It is pro-democracy, pro-“justice for all”, pro-equality, pro-inclusion, and pro-love and non-violence. It’s about building bridges. Women have an important role to play in healing divides, modeling cooperation, and leading truth and reconciliation processes. Women are actively building inclusive, compassionate communities that can work together.

While it’s imperative for women to respond to immediate concerns in our world, the next steps must also identify and establish what we want and how to achieve it.

The Mayors Guide to Accelerating Gender Equality is part of a dashboard of tools for our Network City Program that details solutions. The guide is a readily accessible “toolkit” that provides recommendations, resources, and a checklist of actions a city can take in 11 different issue areas to improve the lives of women and girls and to strengthen communities. It is a tool for sharing best practices from city to city, and currently, the guide is being used to build a common women’s agenda for Denver. This spring, It’s Time Network is partnering with the Denver Office on Women and Families and the Mayor of Denver to produce  It’s Time 2017: Denver Gender Equity Summit on May 31st.

Getting clear about exactly what we want is important as we use data to understand the current status of women to inform any actions that we take. What is the current status of women? And how can we meaningfully compare our circumstances from one geography to another? The California Women’s Well-Being Index is an important new tool for comparing the status of women county by county across the state. Developing this tool and creating a Well-Being Index for every state is critical for using data to inform our work together. As we identify areas of greatest need in each state, strategic collective impact initiatives can be designed to engage diverse organizations and stakeholders, and to support collaboration across sectors and among non-profits, business, government, private donors and others. By being data-driven and with tools to measure goals and outcomes, we can achieve long term change and impact. The Network City Program taken to scale, will be a powerful organizing structure for women to use in every community to ground the immense power and passion that has arisen over the past few months.

Building and maintaining a robust national collective impact infrastructure requires transformative funding. This work has been designed, is being piloted and is ready to go to scale. While it’s critical to fund the further development of this program, it is equally important to ensure that the long term funding of this work is a “collective ownership model” and is not forever reliant upon outside funding.

It’s time for women to “own our power” and to own the infrastructure and services that support us. With an innovative funding model, It’s Time Network is pioneering the concept of “women’s collective economic independence.” We cannot rely long term upon the government, corporations, large foundations, or even large private donors. The initial support they give is essential to seed this work, and women can and will always work with these vital funding partners and allies. Yet, it’s critical for us as women to grow the number of women who become participants in the national network so we can build our micro-funding capacity. We can and must rely upon ourselves and build a culture of women’s collective independence from generation to generation.

The Women’s Future Fund at It’s Time Network is part of the ownership model for building women’s collective economic independence. Growing this unprecedented national, collective asset, is tied to the growth of the Network City Program to ensure a distributed decision making model with diverse women leaders at the grassroots (inclusive of women’s city or state foundations) determining the allocation of funds, city by city.

Women have an essential role to play in what’s next not just after the election, but in all aspects of decision making about our world. Anxiety is high as the global challenges seem daunting. As women, we must ground our efforts in stable, loving, creative and collaborative actions that demonstrate our ability to heal and transform our world. It’s time to build our partnerships, grow our collective capacity and promote a vision of a world that we know is possible.

Betsy McKinney is the Founder and CEO of It’s Time Network

Neva Rockefeller Goodwin and the Role of the Activist Investor in Steering Social Change – Inside Philanthropy 

Goodwin_sLike many who follow philanthropy, I pay attention to the Rockefellers. No family has done more to shape modern giving over the past century. But what are the Rockefellers doing these days to change the world?

Well, for one thing, as most of us have heard, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund took the major step not long ago of beginning to divest from fossil fuels—a move that received enormous attention given that the family’s wealth is famously derived from Standard Oil. Less well known is that the Rockefeller Family Fund is also divesting.

One member of the Rockefeller clan deeply involved in these issues is Neva Rockefeller Goodwin, a fourth generation Rockefeller who previously served as a trustee and vice chair of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. She is also President of the Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve in Maine.

Currently, Goodwin (that had originally been her middle name, after an ancestor on her mother’s side) is Co-Director of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University. She is also a Research Associate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and Director of Frontier Thinking in Sustainable Development and Human Well-Being, a digital Social Science Library that was created at Tufts for distribution to 100 low-income countries that have poor internet access.

Source: Neva Rockefeller Goodwin and the Role of the Activist Investor in Steering Social Change – Inside Philanthropy – Inside Philanthropy

Through the Gender Lens: A Look at a New Blended Capital Fund for Urban Cores – Inside Philanthropy

We’ve written about Living Cities before, particularly its collaborative work with Bloomberg Philanthropies, and its partnership with the Citi Foundation to create the City Accelerator, a program that builds both local economies and government efficiency.

Now, Living Cities has announced a new Blended Catalyst Fund which will bring together $31 million in funding for distressed cities. This “impact investing debt fund” will address tough urban problems like affordable housing and homelessness, as well as catalyzing overall economic development and reducing poverty in the nation’s urban cores.

Source: Through the Gender Lens: A Look at a New Blended Capital Fund for Urban Cores – Inside Philanthropy – Inside Philanthropy

Heft or Hype: How Much Do Women Leaders in Philanthropy Really Matter? – Inside Philanthropy 

hillaryJudging from the popularity of our recent feature, “Meet the 50 Most Powerful Women in U.S. Philanthropy,” it seems the world of philanthropy is more receptive than ever to amplifying the growth of women’s leadership.

But what’s really going on here? What’s the impact of women’s leadership in philanthropy in terms of (a) where resources are actually going; and (b) how things are done in the philanthrosphere?

These questions are important to the sector, but they also link up with the larger perennial debate over just how much change occurs when women start calling the shots. Philanthropy offers an intriguing case study in this regard.

Our own impression from IP’s ongoing reporting in this area is that there are good reasons for all the excitement about women’s leadership in philanthropy. In fact, this leadership has mobilized new resources to advance gender equity and does seem to be affecting how philanthropy writ large operates.

Source: Heft or Hype: How Much Do Women Leaders in Philanthropy Really Matter? – Inside Philanthropy – Inside Philanthropy

Belief-based Social Innovation: Gender-Lens’ Next Frontier | Stanford Social Innovation Review

Coming up soon on Inside Philanthropy: interview with Emily Nielsen Jones, co-founder of the Imago Dei Fund! To get you started on understanding this amazing leader, check out this article she co-wrote with Musimbi Kanyoro about new ways funders are using a gender lens to choose where to put their money. From SSIR:

Philanthropists and for-profit investors alike today are apt to talk of using a gender lens when screening opportunities to fund social change. When my husband and I (Emily) began our foundation—the Imago Dei Fund—in 2009, I gravitated immediately to the idea of empowering women and girls. Little did we know then that it would grow into a powerful movement changing the face of philanthropy.

At the cusp of a new round of global gender goal setting, we find ourselves asking: Where is the gender-lens movement going, which now takes as conventional wisdom that gender balance is a lynchpin of global progress? The answer lies in moving beyond redress, mitigation, and even women’s empowerment programs—though these are still sorely needed—to more directly fund culturally led efforts to re-examine and transform underlying beliefs that systematically disempower females in the first place.

Source: Belief-based Social Innovation: Gender-Lens’ Next Frontier | Stanford Social Innovation Review