Women’s Funding Network Finds Resources to Improve The Lives of Women and Girls

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Philanthropy headlines in the past year have focused on billionaires giving in two different ways. There are those who give to numerous projects in a piecemeal fashion. They include American investor, industrialist and philanthropist, Warren Buffett, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill and Melinda Gates. They give millions to causes like education and health.

The other group includes George Soros, a Hungarian-American financier, businessman and notable philanthropist focused on supporting liberal ideals and causes, and the brothers Charles and David Koch, who run the second largest privately held company in the US. They work at different ends of the political spectrum from left to right. But they are both building movements behind their opposing and sparring visions.

For those of us who give to women and girls, the Soros-Koch movement-building strategy is the one to note.

That’s because a central tenet of women’s funds is needed at the intersection of major problems like health, education, environmental justice and domestic violence. This move will also address the cascade of deficits in the lives of girls and women that create the overall poverty of any given community.

To do that, we need a movement of people conducting research, identifying solutions and mobilising opinion and lawmaking. We also need an overall vision of the sort of balanced society that we seek where women and girls have a chance to reach their fullest potential. Otherwise, we are all left struggling with the deadening consequences of poverty and inequality across the board.

The Women Moving Millions Campaign – a partnership of visionary philanthropists Swanee and Helen LaKelly Hunt with the Women’s Funding Network, a global movement of 150 women’s and girls’ funds that invest in women-led solutions to critical social issues like poverty and global security – is just the start of what we can achieve through our collective power.

Despite a harsh global recession in 2009, the campaign exceeded its goal of raising $150 million in gifts of $1 million and more that went to improving the lives of women and girls.

Few of the philanthropists focused on women and girls will become billionaires. But together we can pool the $1 million gifts, the $1,000 gifts and the $100 gifts to be more assertive. Together we can strengthen a framework that supports a focus on women and girls. Because if this half of the population is left out, all the other equations won’t add up.

The movement building philanthropy practiced by Soros and the Koch brothers shows transformative change is not possible if the infrastructure is not in place. Both Soros and the Koch brothers have invested in their infrastructure in research groups and political organisations. We can see how that pays off.

Currently, too many of the people working to strengthen the standing of girls and women around the world are draining their time and energy just trying to keep their doors open and their staffs paid. What is needed is partnership and pooling of funds behind efforts in policy making, media and at the grassroots.

We must think strategically about our philanthropy – moving through our individual passions and disciplines toward a larger vision of collaboration.

Doors need to be opened via our networks – both professional and personal- to widen funding streams and magnify our voices. The need of the hour: Advocates at the grassroots, in the halls of government, and in corporate headquarters to let everyone know that we are here to stay and we want our say!

There is also a need to invite a larger audience including seemingly unlikely partners to join hands with us, engage leaders from other social movements and organisations that align with our goals and vision.

Finally, we must recognise the essential role of women’s leadership in bringing all this to pass.

What I am describing is not getting a bigger piece of the pie. In 2011, we should be working to make the pie larger; to lift up women and girls. Thus the communities and societies where, as the proverb goes, we hold up half the sky.

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