Celebrating 10 Years of Women Moving Millions

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on September 8th, 2017.

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” H.Zinn

Today marks the start of the annual Women Moving Millions (WMM) Summit in New York City, and this year we are celebrating 10 years since the founding of WMM. 10 years since two sisters decided to spark a philanthropic movement dedicated to giving big and bold. 10 years during which unprecedented resources have been catalyzed for the advancement of women and girls. 10 years since an incredible community of donors came together to put the words women, giving, and millions together.

Women Moving Millions began in 2007 as a campaign to raise the bar on giving to women and girls. Founders and sisters Helen LaKelly Hunt and Ambassador Swanee Hunt sought to inspire donors to make financial commitments of $1 million or more to women’s funds around this country and the world. Phase I of the WMM campaign began in April 2007, and was launched in partnership with the Women’s Funding Network. During the initial campaign, over $182 million was pledged from 102 donors to 41 WFN funds, and a global movement of committed, purposeful women donors (and a few good men!) was born. I was honored to be one of the 102, and although I knew the initiative was a game-changer for women and philanthropy, I did not know how much of a game-changer it would be for THIS woman and HER philanthropy. That woman being me.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” H. Keller

Soon after the campaign ended I began to take on a more active role within WMM, together with so many other women who knew that this effort to encourage women to give big and bold to women and girls could not end. With every passing year I became more and more passionate about the cause, and in 2011 I was invited by Helen LaKelly Hunt to become the founding President and CEO (Chief Engagement Officer) of Women Moving Millions Inc. when WMM transitioned from a program and campaign within Helen’s private foundation into an independent 501C3. This transition was possible in large part because of a signficant seed grant from the JP Morgan Foundation, which came to us through the incredible support of Kim Davis, Laura Davis, Mary Erdoes, and Diane Whitty. Earlier this week I had an amazing call with Kim, who is no longer with the foundation, and we laughed about the sheer number of meetings we had over the years, and I have the evidence! I saved every single deck and every single note from every single meeting. Kim, along with those other amazing women, believed in us and our mission at WMM, and tonight I will be celebrating them at the Brooklyn Museum.

In the years since I became CEO, I have put my heart and soul into this organization, because I truly believe in the work we are doing to support our members’ individual, as well as our collective engagement and leadership, to bring about a more just and equitable world. Yesterday we welcomed 28 new members, bringing our total to 282. 282 individuals who have given or pledged at least $1 million or more to organizations of their choice that primarily serve women and girls. Documented total giving exceeds $600 million, but total giving from our community members stretches well over a billion. Money does not go to WMM or through us, but directly to the organizations of the member’s choosing. What an honor and privilege it is to see where the money goes, and the vast number of organizations and initiatives that our members support. Money matters, but so does passion and leveraging one’s personal platform in every way possible.

This was brought to life so powerfully last night when one of our newest members, Mariska Hargitay, spoke about her passion around the issue of untested rape kits and her soon to be released HBO film I Am Evidence. Mariska has portrayed Lieutenant Olivia Benson on NBC’s Law and Order: SVU since 1999, and in 2004, in response to the thousands of letters she has received over the years from rape and sexual assault survivors, she founded the Joyful Heart Foundation. The mission of this foundation is to help survivors of this abuse through the positive transformation of society’s response to sexual assault, but in particular, this foundation aims to end the national backlog of untested rape kits, which is the primary issue examined in the film. Thank you Pat Mitchell for doing such a beautiful job interviewing Mariska and others involved with the film including Kym Worthy, Wayne County Prosecutor and Maile Zambuto, CEO of the Joyful Heart Foundation. Missing was the amazing Regina Scully, Producer of the film and Founder of the Artemis Rising Foundation. Key messages from the film were captured by the incredibly talented visual artist @PeterDurand.

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” African Proverb

Every year we pick a theme for the Women Moving Millions Summit, and it is no coincidence that the theme of this year’s Summit is The Power of Community, because the power of this community is truly remarkable, and we are just getting started. Yesterday, Gloria Steinem joined us, as she has many times before, and invited us, no commanded us, to do what other groups may not be able to do. To take big risks, to be bold, and to support and champion each other and the countless women who do not have the resources we do.

Tonight, I will be named a cofounder of Women Moving Millions Inc., alongside Helen LaKelly Hunt and Catalyst Ambassador Swanee Hunt, and this honour means the world to me. I will continue to be ALL IN to build a movement of people, men and women, who believe that gender equality is important, is just, is right, and is about time.

Please join the conversation online at @WomenMovMillions, #wmmsummit, and #powerofcommunity

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” M. Mead

Here’s to the next 10 years of community at Women Moving Millions.

The Most Underused Tool For Social Change?

SHOPPING! No seriously, I mean it. Or put a different way, our daily purchasing power. In the United States alone our GDP is around $17 trillion, and somewhere between 65% and 72% of that is consumer spending. When it comes to discretionary spending focused on wants versus needs, the role of the holiday season is particularly huge. For 2015 it was estimated that retail sales reached $630 billion USD, and if that number holds true for 2016, that’s a lot of spending power that can be used for good.

It’s often the case that in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and oftentimes the rush to find a gift, any gift, it can be easy to forget that every time you spend a dollar, that exchange is an exchange of power. Financial power. Companies understand this well, and they spend billions of dollars every year trying to convince you to give them your purchasing power. When I give talks about how to use all the financial resources you have in alignment with your vision and values, purchasing power is where the most lightbulbs go off. We are trained to think of our charitable dollars as what we do for good, but that is so limited. Total philanthropic giving annually in the US is around $360 billion, and as per above, that number is only half of the spending during the holiday season alone. Of course, we should all give more to charitable causes, and the argument here is not to shop more, but to shop with much greater intention of what your dollars are supporting. I see it as a huge untapped capacity for good!

Trillions of dollars will be spent this year in support of varying sets of values; the values of the company from whom you buy that product, explicitly or implicitly. The trend is for more companies to be explicit about their values, or otherwise put, what they stand for. And this is a good thing in my view! The advertising industry is based on the assumption that we want to emotionally connect with a brand, and often see what we drive, where we eat, what we wear as an expression of our identity. This should of course come as no surprise. But studies are also showing that most consumers, and in particular moms and millennials, are more likely to buy products that have, for example, a percentage of profits that go to charities, or are environmentally friendly. This is not only a good thing, but a very, very, very good thing, as charitable dollars alone will never, ever be sufficient to solve the problems that need to be solved.

So if, in fact, our collective dollars can make or break a company, brand, or consumer item, isn’t that an incredible amount of potentially unused power we have to do good? And what if we all committed to more fully using this power as a way of supporting our core values? What if we used our spending dollars to hold companies accountable, and as a means of enacting social change? This is what shopping your values means, and the possibilities are endless.

For me personally, shopping my values, especially around the holiday season, means buying gifts from organizations that have a very direct, positive impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world. When facing a mile long Christmas gift list, this may seem like a daunting challenge to throw into the mix, but in reality, it’s actually very easy to purchase great gifts, while at the same time knowing you are directly supporting families in places that lack robust economic opportunities.

When looking for gifts, look no further than Rising InternationalIndego Africa, the Akola ProjectMade by SurvivorsMercado GlobalProsperity Candle, the Nomi NetworkSokoSame Sky, or Shopping for a Change. Each one of these organizations sells incredible handcrafted gifts such as jewellery, clothing, baskets, crafts, tote bags, and silks, all of which have been made by women in impoverished areas all around the world. Many of these organizations also offer the skills training needed for these women to turn their handmade items into artisan businesses, which in turn helps to lift their families out of poverty. My organization, Women Moving Millions, put all of this information together in a guide that you can download here. Best of all, you can do all of your shopping online without having to brave the horror of a mall around the holidays.

That being said, if you do want to head to the mall this Christmas, I can help you there as well. If you read my bio, or blog, you know that my passion is gender equality, so if you want to turn your shopping in to an act of supporting gender equality in the workspace, check out the Buy Up Index. Large companies of all types are rated on their employee policies, women’s leadership, corporate citizenship, and marketing, and these ratings are combined to create a grade the company receives on gender equality. Brands and companies that have so far earned an “A” grade include Amazon, Coach, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Gap, and L’Oreal, and in the future, these “A” brands will be invited to offer users of the app exclusive offers, discounts, and products. So if you want your dollars to have impact, simply pull up the app, compare two brands’ scores, and reward the company that has more inclusive policies with your spending dollars. You can also sign up online for Buy Up’s exclusive shopping list that lets you shop for equality everyday, and then tweet out your online purchases to #shopyourvalues and #BuyUpIndex. It’s that easy.

Obviously shopping your values will mean a lot of different things for different people, as everyone has different values and causes that they want to support. This holiday season, I hope you all take a moment to decide what it is that you want to support in this world, and then use your purchasing power to advance that mission. I will be using my dollars to make a difference in the lives of women and girls across this great country and the world at large, and I invite you all to join me.

Please feel free to share your values and how that aligns with your favorite company or product. Happy Holidays!

#GivingTuesday – My FIVE NGOs for 2016

giving-tuesdayPublished on LinkedIn Influencers on November 29th, 2016

Thanksgiving. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I would also add Food Hangover Saturday and Airport Dash Sunday to that list. All in all it’s a busy weekend. Between the travelling, eating, shopping, and family fun times, it can be easy to forget that the true purpose of the Thanksgiving holiday is to give thanks. There are many ways to give thanks, but one way in particular that we are able to give thanks is financially on Giving Tuesday.

Now in its fifth year, Giving Tuesday is a worldwide movement founded in 2012 by the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, which aims to amplify year end giving and philanthropy. Much like Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season, Giving Tuesday marks the start of the holiday charitable season, and since its founding in 2012, this movement has spread to over 71 countries around the world. In 2015, over a million gifts were made online, raising over $115 million for charitable causes, and #GivingTuesday registered 114 billion impressions on Twitter alone. That is an incredible impact in a short period of time. That is the power of campaigns, which as a philanthropy geek I think a lot about.

For me, giving is a year round endeavor, and it is impossible to add up the hours I spend thinking about, analyzing, and deciding which organizations will receive not only my financial support, but my time and talent as well. There once was a time when I would write a large number of small checks, something I later heard someone call the ‘spray and pray’ approach. You spray a little money around a lot of places and pray it makes a difference. Today, the buzz word is ‘strategic’ philanthropy, which is fine, but a better term for what I do personally is values based, thoughtful, philanthropy. Of course I want positive impact, but I have also come to see that there is impact you can measure, and impact you can judge. For me, aligning with the vision of the organization, understanding their methodology for creating positive change, and getting to know and believe in their senior leaders is what matters most.

It should come as no surprise that the list of organizations that I choose to support have a focus on women and girls. On my recent philanthropic movement building tour in Australia, I was often asked why that focus? The answer could be an article in and of itself, and certainly has been the subject of many of my 700+ blog posts over the years, but for now I will simplify it here. I am female, and both because of personal experiences around inequities, and my extensive research around much needed gender based strategies, that is what I choose to do. Of course, everyone should choose what issue area or demographic matters most to them. And if you can’t really answer the question of what matters most to you, ask yourself this question: “If you were to wave a magic wand and change anything in the world, what would that be?” That is the question my brilliant friend Kathy LeMay asks in her book The Generosity Plan as the question to start your giving plan.

So if you were wondering what organizations are on my list this year, here are just five examples.

Culture Reframed – Founded by internationally renowned scholar and activist Dr. Gail Dines, Culture Reframed is the first health promotion effort to recognize and address pornography as the public health crisis of the digital age. With the advent of the Internet and the unprecedented access it provides to pornography around the world, we are only now beginning to understand the implications of the pervasiveness of pornography and a hypersexualized culture. A growing body of scientific research is showing that pornography is addictive, promotes sexual violence, and is harming the sexual development of both men and women. Today, 35% of all Internet downloads is pornographic material, and porn sites get more traffic every month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined. As Dr. Dines states, “The pornographers are laying waste an entire generation of boys, and when you lay waste a generation of boys you lay waste a generation of girls”, meaning that this is an issue that effects us all. Please check out Dr. Dines’ TEDxTalk “Growing Up in a Pornified Culture” and please support this important organization.

EROC (End Rape on Campus) – This organization works to end campus sexual violence through direct support for survivors and their communities; prevention through education; and policy reform at the campus, local, state, and federal levels. Founded in 2013, EROC has worked with survivors of campus sexual assault to hold educational institutions accountable and advocate for the end of sexual violence on university and college campuses. Three of the co-founders, Annie Clark, Andrea Pino, and Sofie Karasek, were featured in the documentary film The Hunting Ground, which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival (disclosure: I was an Executive Producer of this film), and since then EROC has worked tirelessly to ensure that survivors across the United States are believed, trusted, and supported. You can watch The Hunting Ground on Netflix, and please donate to EROC today.

Girl Up – As the United Nations Foundation’s adolescent girl campaign, Girl Up engages girls to take action. Led by a community of nearly half a million passionate advocates raising awareness and funds, Girl Up’s efforts help the hardest to reach girls living in places where it is hardest to be a girl. This is an organization for girls by girls, and places a particular emphasis on leadership development training for young women around the world. This past year I have been fortunate to see this organization’s work firsthand, as my daughter was selected to be a Girl Up Teen Advisor, and I am so proud of the work she and her fellow Teen Advisors are doing to promote the welfare and development of young girls around the world. This is an incredibly worthy organization deserving of your giving dollars both today and year round.

Global Fund for Women – A global champion for the human rights of women and girls, the Global Fund for Women uses its powerful networks to find, fund, and amplify the courageous work of women who are building social movements and challenging the status quo. By shining a spotlight on critical issues, this organization rallies communities of advocates who take action and invest money to empower women. Their fearless leader is Musimbi Kanyoro, or as my children have been invited to call her, Aunt Musimbi. Musimbi is one of ten children, African born, has two doctorates, speaks multiple languages, has an extensive background in human rights, and is all around amazing. As part of Giving Tuesday, all donations made today will be matched dollar for dollar, so I strongly encourage you to donate today.

Tostan – Founded in 1991 by the incomparable Molly Melching, Tostan works to empower African communities to bring about sustainable development and positive social transformation based on respect for human rights and to ensure that every person—woman, man, girl, and boy—is able to live a life of dignity. Over the past 24 years, Tostan’s original concepts have developed into a leading model for community-led change — a model that is now implemented in 22 languages across six African countries and is supported at the international, national, and grassroots levels. Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation has stated that after spending a day with Molly in the communities served by Tostan, “I have not thought the same way about the work I do at the Gates Foundation since that day.” Tostan is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, and in honour of this occasion, they have launched their Breakthrough Generation Program, which aims to bring Tostan’s programs to another 150 communities in West Africa over the next couple of years. Please donate and help the breakthrough generation today.

There are so many more organizations I am proud to support and champion, including the two I write the biggest checks to, Women Moving Millions and The Sundance Institute, but that would have felt a little too self serving as I hold volunteer leadership roles in both. That said, #lovethem.

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Happy Giving Tuesday everyone!