Funding For Women’s Rights: A Perspective From The United States
AWID interviews Christine Grumm, President and CEO of the Women’s Funding Network (WFN), about her perspective on funding trends for women’s rights work.
By Rochelle Jones
AWID: Can you explain the work of the Women's Funding Network?
Christine Grumm (CG)*: The Women's Funding Network (WFN) is 132 organizations that fund women's solutions across the globe. Women’s Funding Network sparks a powerful chain reaction by promoting investment in women and giving women the money and tools to transform their ideas into lasting change -- in every critical area from creating economic security to achieving advances in healthcare, education and women’s rights.
Women’s member funds are on six continents, have given over $400 million away in grants in the last 20 years, have over $450 million in collective working assets, invest over $50 million per year in women and girls as solution builders and leaders throughout the world, and encompass tens of thousands of donors, change-makers and thought leaders. Women's funds are at the forefront of investing in solutions for some of the world's most pressing social justice issues. Together we are bringing in a new era of global justice for women and their communities.
AWID: Could you tell us about the WFN's funding strategies, in particular your 'Supermarket Philanthropy' initiative?
CG: In the last several years WFN has lifted up a variety of strategies for increasing and maintaining a steady stream of revenue to fund the work of women around the world. These strategies have included the following:
- Campaigns for individual donor gifts at a variety of levels.
- Online giving: development of new strategies for increasing online giving.
- Consumer philanthropy which includes both the buying of specific products, recycling of phone and commercial products that assign a percentage of their profits to philanthropy.
Each of these strategies is in various stages of development. The consumer philanthropy strategy is currently focused on the recycling of cell phones. Of which in the U.S. alone there are over 10 million a month available for recycling with only one million being recycled. This market has great potential for the creation of a revenue stream. Additional projects are in the works.
Another exciting initiative, Women Moving Millions (WMM), a partnership of visionary donors and the Women's Funding Network, represents a wide spectrum of women who share a powerful vision of the world, in which justice, equality and safety are experienced by all women and girls and their families in every corner of the earth. This groundbreaking campaign seeks to raise $150 million in gifts of $1 million and more by April 2009 in order to tip the collective grantmaking and assets of women’s funds over the $1 billion mark. It also seeks to make a lasting difference to women’s funds’ major fundraising abilities and potential. Since the campaign’s launch in November 2007, nearly $110 million has been raised from women donors around the world.
The Women’s Funding Network held its 24th annual conference on May 1-3, 2008. Our conference, Leadership for A Changing World, attended by 450 women, was a high-energy gathering of visionary leaders from around the world. The conference program put forth the best in skill-building, inspiration and global idea exchange forging bold strategies to empower women, communities and nations. Our conference showcased the most cutting-edge ideas, trends and insights on social investment in women.
The Women’s Funding Network unveiled a bold ten year strategic plan - a plan that calls for women and member funds to claim their space in the world and at tables of influence and social change. Speakers included Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace, Dr. Wangari Maathai is founder of the Greenbelt Movement, which has planted 30 million trees across Kenya; Rayona Sharpnack, Founder of the Institute for Women's Leadership in Silicon Valley; Geeta Rao Gupta, Ph.D., president of the International Center for Research on Women; and Kathryn Finney, author of The Budget Fashionista, she is an expert on blogging, women and technology, and fashion advice for women.
AWID: Are there any new funding trends in the US?
CG: Women are being seen as the key to improving their communities. The logic model for the Women’s Funding Network and Women’s funds is as follows: when a women has economic security, her family has economic security; when a family has economic security, a community has economic security; when a community has economic security, a country has economic security; when countries are economically secure, the world is economically secure. With this the WFN and women’s funds have influenced a broad coalition of women and men donors foundations and corporations to invest in women as solution builders and leaders: accelerating change and yielding exponential returns. We call this the “Woman Effect”.
This is evidenced as both foundations and corporations are focusing on women to improve lives and the standard of living throughout the word. Below are two examples of initiatives that were launched in the last few months:
The Nike Foundation and the NoVo Foundations have invested a combined $100 million in the Girl Effect initiative, which works to help adolescent girls in developing countries bring social and economic change to their families, communities, and countries. The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. launched 10,000 Women, a global initiative that will provide 10,000 underserved women, predominantly in developing and emerging markets, with a business and management education. There are many other corporations and foundations who are expending their money and their energy to improve the lives of women and girls throughout the world.
In terms of individual donors, for progressive social change organizations, the inclusion and engagement of high net wealth women is important. A wealth “transfer” to women of at least $41 trillion will take place in the United States by the year 2052. The transfer of wealth is a phenomenon produced by the unique demographics and economic boom in the United States that followed World War II and is a pattern that transfers unprecedented wealth from the WWII generation to the “baby boomers,” who are now also reaching or nearing retirement. It also is a function of the late 20th century economic boom driven by technology that includes younger people of wealth who are transferring their wealth to children and “causes” earlier in life. One important strategy will be to pay attention to women as key donors for out social justice movement.
AWID: What are you seeing globally in terms of funding trends?
CG: In 2005, Worldwide Initiatives for Grant-maker Support (WINGS) reported that 1,175 community foundations were recognized in 46 countries. According to studies that WFN has commissioned the movement to create community foundations worldwide has grown rapidly as has the support of major American, Canadian and European foundations. They are vested in the belief that building community philanthropy ultimately strengthens the ability of people to solve problems and pursue close-to-home opportunities in the public interest. In considering how to build resources for progressive social change organizations, it also is important to consider what is going on in the global movement to build community foundations, and take lessons from both their successes and setbacks.
The early 21st Century surge of global wealth is also fueling increasing experimentation with private philanthropy, including those where private philanthropy has not been practiced publicly or at all. At the same time, multi-national corporations are changing their approach to philanthropy to include both their philanthropic foundation and a more expansive concept of corporate social responsibility and corporate citizenship. This can translate into increased resources.
AWID: In your perspective, what does the future look like for funding for women's rights?
CG: The growth of foundations of all forms and in all parts of the world signals a new form of power that could be tapped for social justice. The question for progressive social justice/women’s rights organizations to consider is how can new community foundations and private foundations be encouraged to adopt social justice values (if they haven’t already)? How can emerging and existing foundations become tools for effective social justice efforts?
The money is indeed on the table, the question for women’s rights groups and women’s foundations, is how to access the resources and create sustainable social justice change that continuously attracts new investment.
At this moment in time women are being seen as a critical part of the solution. Today we have a window of opportunity - we can choose to go through it one at a time and the window will eventually shut or we can go through together to shatter the window so it never closes again.
*Women's Funding Network President and CEO Christine Grumm has more than three decades of experience as a leader in effecting social change through civil society, and especially through women's philanthropy. Under her leadership, membership has grown to 125 women's and girls' funds, with $450 million in working assets. Visionary partnerships have also grown, including Women Moving Millions, the high-net worth donor campaign with Swanee and Helen LaKelly Hunt.
Chris has served in top leadership positions in the non-profit world, both in the United States and internationally. Prior to joining Women's Funding Network, she served as Executive Director of the Chicago Foundation for Women. She is currently a Board member of Mayaworks - an organisation that provides opportunities for partnership between Mayan women artisans in Guatemala, and women in the U.S. through fair trade marketing and sales.