Written by Jan Jaben-Eilon Tuesday, August 21 2012
He called her back, “Don’t you want to know why I said no? It’s because when my wife invited you to her charity, you said no, so I’m not going to buy a table at yours.”
“This is so petty,” says Franssen, whose Women Moving Millions initiative has gathered 165 female donors who each pledged at least a million dollars. Since the initiative was launched in 2007 by sisters Swanee and Helen LaKelly Hunt, more than $200 million has been committed to empower women and girls.
“That’s how old-fashioned men think about charity,” she continued. “It was tit for tat.” But women are markedly changing the face of philanthropy.
“Women don’t separate activism from where they put their dollars,” says Donna Hall, president of Women Donors Network, a national network of women philanthropists that leverages more than $150 million a year toward solutions that address the root causes of injustice and inequality.
“Giving money is part of the spectrum of what they do. It helps them think strategically,” she says, adding that women want to affect structural change.
“Women also come from a tradition of working together,” Hall says, giving the example of quilting. “Women like to work in groups.”
Franssen agrees: “Women have made it more of a collaboration and less of a competition. Women want to share with other women their concerns.” And, she adds, “Women are less likely to give money for public recognition. We don’t need or want it; we’re doing it because it’s a good thing to do. It’s not ego-driven.”
Women are indeed taking their money and putting it where their hearts are.
According to Franssen, the members of Women Moving Millions “inspire women to give million-dollar gifts to the organization of their choice. Women want to see where their money goes; they want to stay involved. We encourage women to give to their passions. We don’t tell them what their passion is.”
In many cases, that passion is women and girls. Only seven percent of philanthropy as a whole goes to women and girls, and the majority of that goes to breast cancer research, says Franssen.
The Women’s Funding Network is the largest global association of women’s foundations that fund women’s issues across the globe.
“Our funds focus on community needs. They have close relationships with their communities, their grassroots,” says Nicole Regalado, network relations manager. “Our members support programs geared to women and girls. We bring to the [philanthropic] table a gender lens and give money to programs that alleviate poverty or help educate children. We are a diverse network.”
When Women Moving Millions was launched, its goal was to raise $150 million, which was considered a stretch during the bad economic times of 2007. Perhaps surprisingly, it raised $185 million.
“We were able to raise so much because women tend to give more during harder times,” says Franssen. “Because many of us are mothers, we know how difficult it is to bring up children. As more women go out and work in the world and see what’s happening, they’ll have their hearts pulled more to philanthropy rather than charity.”
She explains that charity is “about a quick solution to a disastrous situation. It usually comes from a specific need, but it makes the recipient feel like a lesser person, while it may make the giver feel good. Philanthropy is all about strategy. It’s empowering. Women see philanthropy as more satisfying than charity because it’s longer lasting and can change the world.”
To change the world, Women Donors Network partners with other organizations, says Hall. For instance, the network has worked with the online group UltraViolet to focus on women’s issues. It was responsible for getting advertisers to flee the Rush Limbaugh Show when he attacked a young woman for wanting her birth control to be covered by health insurance.
Overseas, Women Donors Network partnered with the pro-Israel, pro-peace group, J Street, to take several congress members to meet both Israeli and Palestinian leaders and activists.
“Our group is concerned about an increasing move away from the two-state solution, and we want to influence U.S. policy” in the Middle East, says Hall.
In its funding, the network has had to set “strict guidelines. The needs and requests are endless,” says Hall.
One guideline is that at least 10 percent of its membership must be interested in a circle, which is a group of members who come together about a particular issue. Also, at least two members of the circle must be willing to serve as co-leaders. One circle that may soon be reactivated, Hall says, is an election-integrity circle. That circle was concerned about the tampering of voting machines, and it raised $250,000 in 10 days for a campaign.
“Our members are hands-on. We’re all strategic thinkers, and we trust one another,” says Hall. Like most women philanthropists, “We are always looking to help others.”
According to Franssen, “Feminism has become, for many, the new ‘f’ word. I feel if feminism is the new ‘f’ word, then funding is the new feminism. If you don’t give me my opportunity, I’m going to take my money and get it.”
More about women in philanthropy:
We've long been touting the benefits - better bottom line, more innovative thinking - of women in executive positions. Research has also shown that companies with high numbers of women directors are more generous with philanthropic spending.
Julia Immonen was compelled to do something about the human trafficking epidemic in Great Britain, so she raised both money and awareness by rowing the Atlantic with a team of four other women.
Under Alicia Philipp's innovative leadership, The Community Foundation has become one of the fastest growing philanthropic service organizations in the country, having accumulated over $740 million in assets.
Jan Jaben-Eilon was a founding staff writer of the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Since then, she has been the international editor of Advertising Age magazine and has written for such publications as The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Washington Journalism Review, and Consumer Reports. She is the author of soon-to-be-published (There is) Life After Cancer. Jan and her husband have homes in Atlanta and Jerusalem.