What's the state of (women's) philanthropy in our region?

Washington Grantmakers just released its annual giving report, "Our Region, Our Giving 2007."

I haven’t had a chance to look over the whole report yet, but I did have a chance to steal some stats from their blog.

It seems that investing in the Washington metropolitan region is taking off, even if Newsweek is talking up giving globally this week.

According to the annual giving report, in our area:

  • National foundations have more than tripled their investments in our region, with $1.5 billion today compared to $407 million in 1992;
  • Local foundations are investing 63% of their philanthropic dollars in this region – a significant rise from only 46% fifteen years before; and,
  • The assets of the region’s community foundations have grown from $31.5 million to $412.5 million.

Nothing to shake a stick at.

And just to round it out, here are some figures on how the philanthropic landscape looks in our region when seen through a gender lens–from our 2003 Portrait Project.

  • Women-led foundations oversaw more than $141.2 million in giving in 2001.  However, analysis of 12,000 grants made in 2003 by the top 100 foundations showed that of the $441 million in grants paid, only $30.7 million–or 7%–went to women’s and girls’ programs (a trend still reflected nationally as of 2006)Of those, only about half went to organizations in the region.
  • Only 2.86%of grants made by foundations formed between 1996 and 2003 in the Washington metropolitan area currently with assets of at least $1 million went to women’s and girls’ programs.
  • Women lead 28 percent of the largest foundations established in the region since 1996.
  • Women play a significant role in the management of the top 100 foundations, directly leading 34 of them and serving on the boards of 85 in 2003.

Now, I know you’re wondering…where does Washington Area Women’s Foundation fit into all of this after being around for nearly a decade?

Washington Area Women’s Foundation:

  • is the only donor-supported public foundation in the region that works to improve the lives of low-income women and girls and to increase philanthropy by all women (i.e. 100% of our grantmaking is devoted to improving the lives of women and girls).
  • The Women’s Foundation currently provides more than $1 million annually in grantmaking devoted to women and girls in our region.
  • Since 1998, The Women’s Foundation has provided more than $4.1 million in grants to more than 100 outstanding Grantee Partners throughout our region, all working to change the lives of women and girls.
  • The Women’s Foundation is one of the fastest growing women’s funds in the country.

And that’s after just 10 short years.  Just imagine what we’ll do in the next 10. 

We’re more motivated than ever, particularly given the ever-increasing importance of focusing grantmaking, strategy, discussion and advocacy on the needs of our region’s women and girls. 

Because women and girls are worth way more than just 8%.  So, to make up the difference, we’re giving them 110% and growing, and changing the lives of everyone involved along the way.

Pressed and stressed? Give up holiday shopping and just give.

I was recently inspired by a Courant article, "Giving, But Not Gifts," about how Ray Dalio, a hedge fund exec whose net worth totals about $4 billion, is spending $2 million on an ad campaign to persuade Americans to stop shopping for each other over the holidays, and instead to honor each other with gifts to charity.

"We’re pressed, we’re stressed, and our money is wasted," the ad reads. "Let’s redefine Christmas. By putting more Thanksgiving in it."

Dalio will have an uphill battle to change Americans $100 billion holiday shopping habit, the article says, but he feels that carving out even a few gifts a year will gradually lead to a multiplier effect.

Dalio also makes the point that it’s easier to give than to do all that shopping to find the perfect gift–a hard point to argue.

An inspiring idea.  So I thought I’d check around here at The Women’s Foundation to see if this trend has a foothold among our staff, who are surrounded daily with the notion of giving, philanthropy and its power to change lives and communities.

I randomly asked staff  to report on how they or their families incorporate giving into the holiday season, and got some very creative ideas for ways to create traditions that don’t revolve around consumerism so much as compassion-ism.

Opa reported that in her family everyone takes one of the gifts they receive (before opening it and finding out what it is) and donates it to a battered women’s shelter.

HyeSook, our child care and early education consultant, reported that she’s working hard to instill the idea of giving for her three-and-a-half year old daughter.  She worked with her daughter’s pre-school teacher to develop a gift from the class that would help the children think of less fortunate kids.  HyeSook also takes her daughter with her when she volunteers to do cleaning and projects for local shelters.  "I think modeling is one of the most powerful teaching strategies," she says.

As for me, my sister works for an international organization that supports children and families in developing nations through monthly sponsorship.  A few years ago, my sister gave a sponsorship of a child to my mother, who now, instead of asking for gifts for herself, asks for contributions to projects she’s supporting to make improvements on the child’s home and support sustainable business or employment opportunities for her parents.

And that’s the word on some of the giving that goes on by a random sampling of staff of The Women’s Foundation. 

How do you and your family incorporate giving into the holiday season?  Drop us a line and let us know.  This blog will be on hiatus until later next week while we’ll be out partaking of the festivities, so it’ll be great to send everyone off on a note of inspiring ideas and creative compassion. 

In any case, we wish you an inspiring, joyful holiday season!

Still looking for that perfect holiday gift?  Know someone who would love to lend her name to work that’s changing the lives of woman and girls in the Washington region?  We make it easy.

Wal-mart markets child trafficking?

Okay, this is almost too much.

Evidently, you can go into a Wal-Mart store and purchase underwear for a pre-teen girl that says, "Who needs credit cards…," insinuating that a girls’ greatest hope for financial security and independence is between her legs.  Don’t believe me?  Go look at the picture.

Sorry to be crass, but seriously?

This is one of those things that is so offensive on so many levels that I’m going to have to narrow it down to just one: that it seems to me that this product is a direct endorsement of the concept of human trafficking.

Which I have been educated about as a local issue largely due to some of the amazing Grantee Partners we work with, including Ayuda, the Polaris Project and, more recently, FAIR Fund, a new Grantee Partner and 2007 Leadership Awardee.

As a Leadership Awards volunteer, I conducted a site visit of FAIR Fund, where I found myself shocked to learn of the pervasive way that human, and child trafficking, is affecting our local community and our nation–and particularly when it consists of trafficking for sexual purposes, the most prevalent type.  Before, I had naively thought that this was primarily an international issue.  (Not that that made it okay.)

The FAIR Fund offers these statistics:

  • 70% of all victims of trafficking are trafficked for sexual purposes;
  • 80% of all victims are women;
  • 50% of all victims are youth and children;
  • 9.5 billion dollars have been made off the bodies of young girls and women in sex trafficking;
  • 200,000 to 350,000 American girls and boys are at risk of being exploited for sexual purposes;
  • 20,000 individuals are trafficked INTO the United States each year;
  • In the United States, ANY minor child involved in commercial sexual exploitation is considered a victim of human trafficking.

So, to me, by that definition, wherein any minor child–of an age where they may get their underwear from the junior department at Wal-mart–who is coerced into or paid for sex is considered a victim of human trafficking.

Why then would Wal-mart encourage such behavior by selling a product such as this?  What sort of message does this send to our young women, or to the boys and men who are encouraged by seeing something like this to view young women–or women in general–as objects, as commodities, as beings who have only their sexuality to use as a vehicle to financial independence and security?

Why would Wal-mart sell a product that blatantly endorses a concept that is not only insulting, offensive, misleading and dangerous, but also illegal?  The Polaris Project has a great overview of the legalities.

I guess their response would have to be, "Because it sells."  How a propos.

My initial exposure to human trafficking in terms of sexual exploitation of minor women came when I lived in Africa, where, sadly, it was a fairly common practice that young girls had "sugar daddies."  Men they would provide sexual services to in order to get the money for food, clothes, to get their hair done, and, most sadly, to pay their school fees. 

Either because their parents couldn’t afford to, or because they didn’t deem their daughter worth educating.  (Education is an investment after all, and there’s less return on a girl’s education than a boy’s because girls are generally just going to become part of her husband’s family, and not a breadwinner for her own parents.) 

But, for girls who were driven and wanted an education but didn’t have the financial resources, sometimes they would subject themselves to sexual exploitation in order to get it.  So that maybe, one day, they could hold a job–and wouldn’t need to depend on the favor of a man to support them.

In a culture of poverty, particularly where young women are not valued or seen as worth educating, the commonly accepted societal message is that being a woman, and using your sexuality, is the only means to economic security and survival.

This aspect of living in Africa–hearing the stories of my female students, friends and colleagues as they recounted their experiences and feelings of constantly being told covertly and overtly that their value lied in their beauty, their sexuality, their womanhood only in so far as it pleased a man–remains one of the most disturbing aspects of my experience and memories.

So thanks Wal-Mart, for bringing these attitudes home and for marketing them–just like you’re implying we should be marketing our young women.

To make your voice heard by writing Wal-Mart and letting them know how you feel about them carrying this product: customer service or corporate.

Announcing the 2007 Leadership Awardees!

But first, a little FAQ about the Leadership Awards!

What are the Leadership Awards?
In 1998, The Women’s Foundation made $17,500 in grants, in the form of Leadership Awards, to five organizations in our region. The first five Grantee Partners of The Women’s Foundation each received $3,500.

In 2007, only nine years later, the Leadership Awards Program gave $80,000 in awards to eight organizations, each receiving $10,000 to recognize their work focused on the health and safety of women and girls.

The idea behind the Leadership Awards is to recognize and bolster organizations doing amazing work–and getting results–for women and girls. A Leadership Award serves as a vehicle to promote their work and helps them leverage additional support.

In many ways, the Leadership Awards Program represents the spirit of The Women’s Foundation: to foster innovative, effective organizations that truly change the lives of women and girls, and to help deepen the impact of their work.

Who selects the awardees?
The awardees are selected by members of our community. A dedicated committee of volunteers vets applications, conducts phone interviews and site visits and recommends a panel of organizations for approval by the board of directors. The volunteer committee is open to any donor to The Women’s Foundation at any level–making it a public, citizen-based grantmaking process reflecting the diverse interests and experience of people throughout our region.

Jeanie Lee, a 2007 Leadership Awards volunteer, says, "It was an enormous learning experience, and I really appreciated having the opportunity of getting to know our community organizations that are doing good work."

Want to become a Leadership Awards volunteer?  Contact me and I’ll tell you all about it!

What do awardees do with the money?
The awards are not grants in the traditional sense. They are not funded to conduct specific work outlined in a proposal. Instead, a Leadership Award is an acknowledgment of work already accomplished and allows the organization to continue to build on those achievements. It says, "Thank you for the excellent work you are doing for the women and girls of our region. We support you in your efforts and we’re encouraging others to do the same."

Do Leadership Awards really make a difference?
As a result of this support, many organizations in our region have been transformed.

Deborah Avens of Virtuous Enterprises, Inc. cites The Women’s Foundation–and receiving a Leadership Award–as having been the cheerleader that inspired her to expand her work with women in Prince George’s County.

In 2002, a Leadership Award was granted to Tahirih Justice Center, and this year, their accomplishments were acknowledged with a Washington Post Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management.

Consulting the list of past Leadership Awards recipients reveals many more organizations in our region that have grown and expanded their impact–in many cases due largely to that first recognition from The Women’s Foundation through a Leadership Award.

Who are the 2007 Leadership Awardees?
This year, The Women’s Foundation is proud to announce the eight 2007 Leadership Awardees, which represent excellence, innovation and impact on behalf of women and girls in the area of health and safety.

Congratulations to the 2007 Leadership Awardees, and many thanks to every member of our community for supporting The Women’s Foundation and making it possible for us to continue to inspire and cultivate leadership on behalf of women and girls in our region.

Learn more about these outstanding organizations.

Stay tuned for a public, online vote in the new year to give an additional $5,000 award to one of these awardees!

To learn about the Leadership Awards Program, click here, or contact me for more information on how to become a volunteer and get involved.  (It’s fun!) 

Ayuda partners with The Women's Foundation to shatter myths about domestic violence.

Ayuda, a Grantee Partner, featured The Women’s Foundation’s support of Ayuda’s work with immigrant women facing domestic violence in their most recent issue of Ayuda Today.

The report that emerged, Shattering the Myths: Barriers Facing Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence, was funded by The Women’s Foundation’s Open Door Capacity Fund in 2006 to provide research that Ayuda could use to deepen the impact of its work with immigrant women vulnerable to domestic violence.

View the newsletter article to learn more about the report’s key findings.

Learn more about Ayuda’s work with women affected by domestic violence.

Can a small gift buy serious social change?

Remember last year when we talked a bit about the virtues of small donors and feelings of season-induced smallnessDollar Philanthropy even did a post on how cool it was that here at The Women’s Foundation we have programs that enable donors at any level to participate in grantmaking processes.

Well, this holiday season is also bringing on a lot of similar discussion, with bloggers wide and far discussing the big donor vs. small donor question.  In sum:

Dollar Philanthropy has an inspiring recent post on the virtue of small gifts and "dollar philanthropists."

The Chronicle of Philanthropy‘s Give and Take provides a good overview of the discussion taking place between between Don’t Tell the Donor (low-dollar donors matter by showing a broad-based endorsement for an organization’s mission) and The Raiser’s Razor, who asks, "Would you rather have one $100,000 donor or 2,000 $50 donors?" 

Gift Hub chimes in in agreement that peer to peer philanthropy with many smaller donors is a power to the people approach that gives organizations and causes a true mandate.

And I guess I find myself somewhere in between.  Because if there is anything I’ve learned at The Women’s Foundation–where philanthropic education, leadership and engagement are taken very seriously–it’s that the size of the gift isn’t nearly as important as your true understanding of how you can make your gifts–whether they be monetary, in time or services–really count towards meaningful social change.

Sort of as this paragraph states, from a post on Tactical Philanthropy called "Philanthropy is not just a word."  Wendy Bay Lewis attempts to define philanthropy, and examines two articles about "big time" philanthropists, noting that, "The emphasis on their monetary donations seems simplistic. True, they are philanthropists. But more than that…they want to remedy deep educational and economic inequities that nag at their social consciences. I would call them social justice philanthropists."

She goes on to say, "Philanthropy is not one size fits all. Phrases like ‘venture philanthropy’ and ‘engaged philanthropy’ have come into usage to describe strategies where donors take an active role in the organizations they fund. Perhaps ‘social justice philanthropist’ might be used to describe donors, whether traditional or engaged, whose focus is economic, social, and environmental justice. Isn’t philanthropy a tool for social change?" 

Lewis begins her piece by saying, "I realize that words like philanthropy have an emotional power that exceeds what a simple definition can convey." 

I would agree with this statement and with her vision of a philanthropy that sees beyond the monetary aspect of a gift to what really drives it, to the forces of conscience and choice that motivate a gift.

Is it more worthwhile for instance to focus on the magnitude of Oprah’s investment in a school in South Africa, or to really discuss and learn from the reasons and choices that drove that gift?  And to test them against the eventual outcome of her investment?

The latter seems more useful to me, perhaps because a person’s values and the commitment they have to specific issues and strategies are likely to deepen and expand throughout a lifetime, while the amount of available resources a person has available may fluctuate with far more uncertainty.

And if the idea is social change–both of the problem, as well as the philanthropist (which is a natural offset of becoming truly engaged with one’s giving in a "beyond the check" fashion), then a lifelong, concentrated focus on a particular issue or strategy–incorporating learning every step of the way–is likely to have the best shot in the long run.

I think this is the sort of thing Julie Jensen described about her giving–that the real satisfaction in making the gift, and in really seeing an impact, was in truly diving in to an issue and investing in it for the long haul.  Julie writes, "This gift went far beyond writing a check. It was a way of seizing my own power, of taking responsibility for a significant decision and investment, and it required me to jump in, to learn, to become an incremental part of the success of this initiative."

Yes, Julie had a million to invest, but my sense is that over a lifetime, investing any amount with a clear sense of purpose in finding the best organizations, the best strategies, the best programs to address a specific problem or issue would lead to a very similar outcome for the philanthropist and is likely to dramatically increase the impact of the gifts.

Whether they’re gifts of $10 or $10 million.

News roundup: The Women's Foundation's new president!

The media has been abuzz with talk of Phyllis Caldwell and her appointment as president of The Women’s Foundation. 

To read more about Phyllis, her goals for The Women’s Foundation and her background, check out these recent news articles and blogs:

D.C. Examiner: "Three Minute Interview: Phyllis Caldwell"  (Live link)  (PDF)

Washington Business Journal: "Bank of America exec heads to nonprofit"

Washington Post Regional Briefing: "Women’s Foundation Names Chief"

Washington Grantmakers Daily: "Washington Area Women’s Foundation announces new president"

Philanthropy News Digest: "People in the News (12/02/07): Appointments and Promotions"

Washington Times: "Movers and Shakers"

News on Women: "Phyllis Caldwell Caldwell Made President of The Washington Women’s Foundation"

Congrats Phyllis!  We’re all looking forward to working with you!

Do rising teen birth rates show need to abstain from abstinence-only education?

Remember a few weeks ago when we talked about how great it was that our regional teenage pregnancy rates were down

And how everyone was so hopeful that this reflected a national trend?


Seems that the rates here in our region may be more the exception that the rule.  The New York Times reports today that scholars were shocked to learn that national teenage birth rates as of 2006 actually rose for the first time since 1991.

Oops again.

The one spot of good news is that birth rates did drop for girls under 14; the increase was noted among teenage girls aged 15-17.

If that can be considered good news.

The largest increases came among black teenagers, but there were also increases among whites, Hispanics and American Indians. Only birth rates among Asian teenagers dropped.  All pointing the way again to the importance of developing culturally relevant strategies to address the factors that lead to teen pregnancy.

The news today is fueling discussion and debate over the Bush Administration’s abstinence-only education policies, which garner $176 million in funding annually. 

According to the article, "A landmark study recently failed to demonstrate that they have any effect on delaying sexual activity among teenagers, and some studies suggest that they may actually increase pregnancy rates."  The article goes on to explain that this could be because abstinence-only education scares young people away from birth control by asserting that it isn’t effective.

In the article, Robert Rector, a senior researcher with The Heritage Foundation, says that such logic is "stupid," arguing that, "Most young women who became pregnant were highly educated about contraceptives but wanted to have babies."

Other theories and perspectives on the data reflected in the article are:

  • Hillary Clinton stated that rates of teenage pregnancy declined during the Clinton Administration due to a focus on family planning.
  • Dr. John Santelli, chairman of the department of population and family health at Columbia University, said that rates declined in the 1990s due to sex rates dropping as a result of fears about AIDS.
  • Kristin A. Moore, a senior scholar at Child Trends, a nonprofit children’s research organization, said the increase in the teenage birth rate was particularly alarming because even the 2005 rate was far higher than that in other industrialized countries.

Whatever the various debates around what is causing the rise in teen birth rates, what is clear is that an effective strategy to combat the trend must be found due to the great impact having a child so young has on young women–for the duration of their lives. 

As the Washington Post article about local rates explained, "Adolescent mothers frequently compromise not only their health but also their future, dropping out of school and struggling financially. Their babies are at greater risk for a host of problems, including low birth weight and abuse, neglect and poor academic performance."

We owe it to girls and women to devote our resources and investments to strategies that are proven to work on their behalf and to pave the way to the brightest futures possible.

And perhaps a few helpful lessons can be drawn from the efforts here in our region, which are showing declines in birth rates.  Strategies used here that are cited by the Washington Post article are:

  • Hosting discussion groups to teach parents how to talk to their kids about love, sex and relationships.
  • Calvert County makes contraception accessible to girls at its family planning clinics for no charge and, except in rare cases, no questions. The approach might explain why the teen birthrate there fell 46 percent by 2005.
  • At the Washington Hospital Center, staff members dispense education, contraception and encompassing support.

Finally, the article states, "Most studies give more credit to teens’ greater use of condoms and other protection and the wider array of options available to them, including such long-acting choices as the birth control patch."

And wherever the research shows, is where I believe it makes sense for the dollars and efforts to go.  Women and girls are worth demanding meaningful results.  

More people sign on to idea of women's equality.

Some National Election Survey data revealed that, increasingly, people are signing onto the notion that women should play an equal role in society.  The question asked was this:  "Some people feel that women should have an equal role with men in running business, industry and government. Others feel that women’s place is in the home. Where would you place yourself on this scale or haven’t you thought much about this?"

For the visually inclined, Matt Yglesias supplies a handy chart showing the results.  Feministing provides some intriguing discussion on the true implications of the data.

I find myself similarly intrigued, and agreeing with sentiments that it’s likely that data seems so hopeful largely because many people know the "right answer" and therefore provided it than may truly feel that way.

And yet, recent stories about the power of women’s philanthropy and the increasing role of women in business and programs supporting their success and the serious run of a woman for our top political office, do make me hopeful regardless of what an opinion poll may (or may not) really be saying.

Because they demonstrate that whether people are ready for it or not, that women are carving out an equal role for themselves everywhere.  Just by virtue of their accomplishments, their courage and their skills and abilities. 

Yes, there’s a lot of work to be done to ensure equal footing for women (as the posts at Feministing exposing everyday acts of sexism and gender bias every which way can attest), but there’s also a lot of hope to be found in the reality that women–unlike many politicians–have never found it necessary to wait for an opinion poll to turn their way and give them permission to step out and up in the world.

We’re doing it anyway.  Ready or not.

Philanthropy resting more and more on women's shoulders.

What makes women’s philanthropy different from general philanthropy?  This is something we often discuss here at The Women’s Foundation, informally, in giving circle meetings, at Philanthropy 101 sessions.

So what fun to see an article today really try to break it down.  Michael A. MacDowell wrote a guest column yesterday for the Press & Sun Bulletin in New York called "Women to take on more responsibility through philanthropy."

In  his column, MacDowell explains how it has come to be that philanthropy is largely, and increasingly, dominated by women.   He writes, "Today, the odds are good that the majority of the people in the United States with altruistic intentions are women…Simply stated, there are 6 million more women than men in the country. Plus, more women hold an undergraduate degree or a higher diploma than their counterparts, and 57 percent of today’s enrollment in institutions of higher education are female…In 2005…46.3 percent of the nation’s wealthiest people were women…With combined assets of $6.3 trillion, their wealth has increased 50 percent in seven years."

Not to mention that over the next 50 years, women will control most of the $41 trillion expected to pass from generation to generation.

That sounds like some pretty serious money to me.

So that tells us where the influence of women in philanthropy is coming from.  But do women really give differently?  According to MacDowell, yes.

First of all, he says, women tend to listen to other women philanthropists more for advice about their giving.  Whether on a large scale–i.e. being influenced by Oprah or Maya Angelou, or on a small scale, such as what we see here at The Women’s Foundation with women meeting, networking and talking about their giving through giving circles, Washington 100, the 1K Club, Philanthropy 101s or the other avenues that encourage women not only to give–but to give smart.

And, according to the Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University, women do think differently about their giving:

  •  Women tend to be more cautious in their contributions, researching organizations more carefully than do men;
  • Women emphasize giving to individuals, rather than brick-and-mortar projects, as a result of a deeply held belief that individuals make a difference;
  • Women’s political and economic views are as diverse as men’s, but they tend to make decisions based more on anecdotal information and intuitive knowledge; and,
  • Women tend to be more "tactile" in their giving patterns. They like to see, and in some ways, participate, in the philanthropic activities which they support.

As with any generalizations made about any group of people, one could analyze, dissect and discuss whether these trends are an accurate reflection of  the diversity of women’s giving.

But perhaps the more important question around women’s giving is whether women will not only continue to establish themselves as a philanthropic force, but whether they will focus their giving on investments in other women. 

The success of the Women Moving Millions campaign, as well as of local women’s foundations and the organizations they support, will be very telling in this regard.

We can only hope that as women continue to carry an increasing portion of the burden in philanthropy on their shoulders that women and girls in local communities and around the world will find themselves being lifted up.