State of Philanthropy: Women on the Cusp of Transformative Power



Published on Linkedin Influencers on March 25, 2014. This post is part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers analyze the state and future of their industry. Read all the posts here.

Philanthropy. The word means “love of humanity” and its origin comes from the Greek words “philo” (loving) and “anthropo” (mankind). In 2011, Americans donated nearly $300 billion to charitable causes, accounting for about 2 percent of the GDP, and employees of non-profit organizations account for nearly 10 percent of the entire U.S. workforce. Giving drives a huge part of the US economy, and signs show that it will only get bigger. A powerful force that is driving both the growth and the shift in philanthropy is women. As women grow their financial resources, they are also growing their philanthropic impact, and this is resulting in big changes not only in the philanthropic sector, but in the broader business landscape as well.

It is estimated that by 2030, women will control nearly two-thirds of the wealth in the United States, whether this wealth is self-made or through inheritance. Previous studies on women of high-net worth, and a soon to be released report from The Center for Talent Innovation on the Power of the Purse, show that these women care a lot about using their financial resources to make a difference in the world. Savvy financial advisers understand this, and they are increasing the number of programs they offer to their current and potential clients that focus on how to effectively use your money to advance the issues you care about. Thankfully there is a lot of wonderful research available to those who want to understand the opportunity, mainly by The Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University. (Other research here).

This trend is also affecting how non-profits are steering their development efforts. Universities, in particular, are creating women’s leadership groups, which invite women to give at a high level with the added benefit of experiencing unique learning and networking experiences. (see The Harvard Women’s Leadership Board ). Other NGOs are doing it as well. The Red Cross Tiffany Circle invites women to support the work of the organization while offering truly unique learning opportunities.

The rise of Giving Circles is also a huge and growing force. Colleen Willoughby is often given credit for starting this movement, which is well documented in this presentation by another leader in the field, Sondra Shaw Hardy. The core idea of Giving Circles is that a group of women want to have a collective impact on their local community and realize that their impact will be greater by working together rather than individually. I have watched this idea take hold in my own community of Park City, where less then a year ago we launched The Women’s Giving Fund. The goal was to have 1,000 women give $1,000 to create a $1,000,000 fund, which would then make grants that were voted on by the members. We are just 25 people away from our goal! Given that the full-time population of Park City is under 8,000, this is a huge accomplishment and a true testament to the power of this model.

The third big trend relates to women prioritizing women and girls in their funding. Though many forces may be driving this at the top is the the need. Just this year The Shriver Report produced an outstanding report that “examines the rates of financial insecurity among American women and the children who depend on them.” They estimate that 42 million women are living on the ‘brink’, which provides an opportunity for those of us who can and are giving, to help support those that are truly struggling to make ends meet for themselves and their families. This is matched with the fact that despite the incredible financial clout of women, there is a relatively small percentage of funding that is being directed specifically towards women and girls, even with the overwhelming evidence of its impact. The Foundation Center estimates that less than 10 percent of total foundation giving goes towards women and girls. This combination of greater visibility around the need, with the availability of powerful evidence that funding with a gender lens is effective, and the increasing resources women have, is truly shifting the landscape.

So where do these trends converge? I believe we are at a game changing moment where women are at the cusp of fully embracing their enormous financial and philanthropic power to accelerate positive social change. By anchoring this power in communities that provide education and networking, women are creating unprecedented opportunities for collaboration and collective action, and as women come to control more and more wealth, these opportunities are only going to grow more numerous. The financial services industry has the most potential to be disrupted by this shift in dynamics, but also what an opportunity for the them to expand their services by addressing and embracing what women want from their money managers and wealth advisers.

So here is my hope. I hope that everyone, but women in particular, use our financial resources with great intentionality to help make the world a better place for everyone, but with a mindfulness towards the unique needs of women and girls. Not to the detriment of men and boys, but because of the disproportionate and unique needs that women and girls face. Incredible research provided by the world’s largest development groups have proven that investing in women and girls with a holistic approach to their well-being really does change the world for the better, for everyone.

Here are a few additional resources to serve your interest in women’s philanthropy:
AWIDWatering the Leaves and Starving the RootsCatalytic WomenThe Girl EffectIndiana University Center for PhilanthropyThe Women’s Funding Network
Women Moving MillionsWomen Donors Network

Photo: Det-anan/Shutterstock

Happy 80th Birthday Gloria Steinem!

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Published on Linkedin Influencers on March 25, 2014

Today is a special day, because today Gloria Steinem, pioneering women’s rights activist celebrates her 80th birthday. I’ve already written about why this day is so special to me, but the other day, a quote landed in my inbox that reminded me of why I love and respect Gloria so much.

“For most of human history, we’ve been sitting around campfires telling stories. This is how we teach, learn, empathize, and discover both our uniqueness and our community. This is why our brains are organized by narrative and by image. This is how we see what we can be. This is how we understand what might be possible.

But if our story is not present in some form, we feel alone, wrong, even invisible. After all, we are communal animals, which is why isolation is the most severe punishment.

This is why there’s nothing more important than feeling seen and heard at the campfire.” – Gloria Steinem

This quote connects in to one of other favorite ones – “The history of the world is determined less by battles lost and won than by the stories we come to love and believe in.”  I don’t think I’ll ever stop being in awe of this incredible woman, and the fact that at 80 years old Gloria is still working hard to ensure that women and girls have a seat around that campfire is beyond inspiring to me, and I know to so many other people around the world as well.

All month I have been tweeting out my favorite Gloria quotes with the hashtag #WWGD, a hashtag that was created at the Makers Conference earlier this year, meaning “What Would Gloria Do?” I encourage you to join in the conversation, as well as sending your birthday wishes to Gloria directly either through the Women’s Media Center, of which Gloria is a founding member, or by tweeting to @GloriaSteinem. We should all celebrate the achievements of this remarkable woman, because what Gloria has done for women, and therefore for the world, is extraordinary. Happy Birthday Gloria !

Another great article with some amazing quotes by Marianne Schnall.

(Photo: The Women Moving Millions team at their Annual Summit with Gloria)

Anita – A Must See Documentary Out Today!


Published on LinkedIn Influencers on March 21, 2014

In 1991, Anita Hill was called before a Senate hearing to publicly testify about her allegations of sexual harassment by her former boss Clarence Thomas, who was then under review for nomination to the Supreme Court. Hill’s testimony ignited a firestorm of controversy, and propelled the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace into the forefront of national discussion. Over 20 years later, Hill is finally telling her story on film in the new documentary, Anita, which opens in theaters today. I was privileged to see the premiere of Anita when it debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival over a year ago, and now that Anita is finally getting a theatrical release, I hope this film will be viewed far and wide, both to educate a new generation, and to remind the older ones about how our world was changed by Anita Hill.

What is most fascinating about Hill’s story is that she never sought attention or aspired to be a national public figure or feminist icon. Her testimony was the result of a leak to the media of a private interview she gave to the FBI in confidence; an interview that was requested of her as part of the background checks into Clarence Thomas during his nomination process. When the content of her interview was leaked to the press, Hill was called to testify before a committee of white male Senators about a subject that until then was rarely talked about, let alone on national television. Despite the indignity of the proceedings, Anita Hill sat before this committee and calmly and astutely answered their questions about Thomas’ behavior towards her while working for him at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

While Thomas was eventually confirmed to the Senate in a 52-48 vote, the fallout from Hill’s testimony was much more widespread. While criticism was lobbied at her from every angle, eventually forcing her to resign from her teaching position at the University of Oklahoma College of Law five years after the hearings, the issue of sexual harassment was given a national forum for discussion and debate, prompting many changes in attitudes and policies.

During Anita‘s premiere at Sundance, Hill was present for the Q&A after the screening, and her grace and composure in person exemplified the way in which she told her story in the film. Always well-spoken and passionate, Hill spoke of how the hearings impacted her life, and why it is important that her story be told. I’m thrilled that Anita will now have a chance to reach a wider audience, because her story is important, and her dignity and composure in the face of the overwhelming character attacks that have continued throughout the past two decades is something to be celebrated. Whether they know Hill’s story or not, women in the workplace today owe a lot to the courage of Anita Hill; in fact, we all do.

*Please note I am a financial supporter of this film through IMPACT Partners, a social impact film investment group through which I have had the honor and privilege of investing in many social impact films. I could not be more proud to be affiliated with this one in some small way.