Show Your Love: Women Giving It Up For Philanthropy on Women's Issues

Increases in funding are shifting the landscape for women in philanthropy.

Increases in funding are shifting the landscape for women in philanthropy.

Time’s Up has reached donations of $20 million for legal defense funds for women pursuing cases of sexual harassment. These monetary gifts come from about 20,000 donors across the country, according to Glamour, demonstrating that small  donations – here an average of $1,000—can make a huge difference in changing systems and cultures.

But that is just one recent high profile example of women giving for women; there are thousands more.

According to the recent Grantmakers For Girls of Color, funds for community safety and justice models will be guided by nine newly announced Funders for Justice Advisors for 2017-2018. Their goal is to “share their visions for change and what’s needed from philanthropy in this moment.”

Time’s Up has now reached donations of $20 million for legal defense funds for women pursuing cases of sexual harassment. #TimesUp

The FFJ advisors include Jenny Arwade, Communities United; Charlene Carruthers, Black Youth Project 100; Stephanie Guilloud, Project South; Kris Hayashi, Transgender Law Center ; Mary Hooks, Southerners on New Ground ; Anthony Newby, Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing for Change; Simran Noor, Center for Social Inclusion; Zach Norris, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Marbre Stahly-Butts, Movement for Black Lives and Law for Black Lives.

The diverse landscape of women’s charitable donations is shifting, with the emergence of more targeted issues-based funding for women and girls. And that shift is backed by real dollars aimed at  necessary and urgent changes.

“We’re in a very critical moment in our nation’s history where women feel a lot more energized, responsible and motivated to share their stories about the role of philanthropy in activism, which has traditionally been hard to talk about. Women are finding and owning their voices,” Donna Hall, president and CEO of Women Donors Network—a network of over 200 individual women philanthropists who strive to create social change, told Marianne Schnall in Forbes.

“Cynthia Nimmo, president and CEO of Women’s Funding Network—an association of 100 foundations whose members invest over $400 million annually to improve the lives of women and girls around the world—agreed, saying, ‘Women are absolutely more active now,’” Schnall writes.

See related Take The Lead content on women’s philanthropy in 2016.

According to the The Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the 2018 study Giving By And For Women, shows a deep gender disparity in philanthropy.

“Through studies of foundation giving in both the U.S. and Europe, researchers estimate that only around 7 percent of all foundation grants specifically benefit women and girls,” the study shows.

From small donations to very large gifts to organizations aimed at women’s issues, there are similarities in the drive to give from women philanthropists.

The IU study shows, “High-net-worth women often begin their philanthropic journeys toward a significant gift when they are inspired by a particular cause or issue that aligns with their values. The feeling of identification with others that fosters a sense of collective identity is a hallmark of social movement action.”

According to Variety, “Abigail Disney—an award-winning filmmaker, philanthropist and member of Women’s Donor’s Network– recently launched Level Forward, a startup studio venture with $2 million in developing funding in place. She has plans to launch a philanthropic fund with the New York Women’s Foundation that will support non-profit orgs focused on helping survivors of harassment, abuse, and discrimination.”

These targeted efforts are what #MeToo, #TimesUp and the Women’s March have been about in the past year. More people are acting on awareness and transforming that to action in specific, financial ways for specific efforts on issues related to women and girls.

With efforts like #MeToo, #TimesUp, and the #WomensMarch, more people are acting on awareness & transforming that to action in specific, financial ways for specific efforts on issues related to women and girls.

“Unlike the vast majority of donors, these women are using their influence and resources in creative and wide-ranging ways in an attempt to remedy gender inequality. Regardless of background, life experience, or age, they have signaled their belief in the importance of investing in women’s and girls’ lives,” the IU study shows.

Another new report, Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016, shows an overall increase in philanthropic efforts. This is good news.

“American individuals, estates, foundations and corporations contributed an estimated $390.05 billion to U.S. charities in 2016,” the report shows.

Other highlights of the study show:

  • Total giving rose 2.7 percent in current dollars with giving by individuals totaled an estimated $281.86 billion, rising 3.9 percent in 2016.

  • Giving by foundations increased 3.5 percent to an estimated $59.28 billion in 2016.

  • Giving by corporations is estimated to have increased by 3.5 percent (2.3 percent adjusted for inflation) in 2016, totaling $18.55 billion.

The increase by corporation donations is a phenomenon related to the expressed concerns of U.S. consumers, according to another new study, the 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study.

“Research shows that 78 percent of U.S. consumers want companies to address important social justice issues,” according to the Denver Post. “Eighty-seven percent will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about and, conversely, 76 percent will refuse to purchase a company’s products or services if it supports an issue contrary to their beliefs.”

Bruce Deboskey writes in The Denver Post, “Among the most important issues to consumers are domestic job growth (94 percent), racial equality (87 percent), women’s rights (84 percent), immigration (78 percent), climate change (76 percent), gun control (65 percent) and LGBTQ rights (64 percent).”

See more Take The Lead content on female leaders and their giving.

The focused philanthropy on issues for women and girls of color was the basis of the recent Council On Foundations 2017 report, The State Of Change An Analysis of Women and People of Color in the Philanthropic Sector.

According to the study, “Women and racial/ethnic minorities are not equally represented within different levels of participating organizations, or across organizations in the sector.  Women are inarguably the backbone of the professional foundation workforce, representing 77 percent of professional positions in 2015. Despite this, there remain potential obstacles to leadership, with women comprising only 60 percent of executive leadership.”

In addition, the study shows, “The proportions of women and racial/ethnic minorities on staff have changed very little over the past five or 10 years. Foundations with over $1 billion in assets were home to more diverse staff than smaller foundations.”

According to the Council on Foundations, “Within our matched set, racial/ethnic minority women were 20 percent of full-time foundation staff members in 2015. While racial/ethnic minority women in the matched set comprised 27.6 percent of administrative staff and 21.5 percent of professional staff, their representation among executive level staff fell to 7.5 percent.”

Read about The Helm, VC funding specifically for female founders.

Funding efforts are also behind women running for office in efforts to change policy and direction in government from local to federal.

Funding efforts are also behind women running for office in efforts to change policy and direction in government form local to federal. #womeninoffice

Alison Fine writes in Philanthropy Women, “There are nine national organizations dedicated to training and supporting women running for office. These are long-established organizations like Ignite and Emerge America. In addition, there are newer organizations dedicated to supporting women of color running for office such as Latinas Represent and Higher Heights. Regardless of when they were started or where they focus geographically or demographically, none of these organizations have experienced a moment like this – because, of course, the country has never experienced a moment like this.”

Take The Lead is also part of the women’s philanthropy movement, with the mission of gender parity by 2025. Donations to Take The Lead ensure more leadership resources such as the Take The Lead This Week newsletter, as well as free monthly Virtual Happy Hoursand the new Power TO Lead— 9 Leadership Power Tools e-course.

Participating in philanthropy concerning women’s issues and taking specific action illuminate every person’s ability to own the power to create change as well as a transformative experience.

Take The Lead president and co-founder Gloria Feldt writes, “When faced with the most transformative experiences, we are ill-equipped to even begin to imagine the nature and magnitude of the transformation — but we must again and again challenge ourselves to transcend this elemental failure of the imagination if we are to reap the rewards of any transformative experience.”

About the Author

Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project.