Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Women World Wide Leading Through Philanthropy

From Special Contributor,  Martha Taylor

I recently attended the Women’s Philanthropy Institute’s (WPI) Women World Wide Leading Through Philanthropy conference held in Chicago, March 10-11, 2011.  It was a vibrant gathering of people from around the world and had an emphasis in two areas: 
  • Insights into women’s philanthropy to all causes in the U.S. and abroad
  • Women’s philanthropic investments in international causes. 

The Women’s Philanthropy Institute is part of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and the conference featured four plenary sessions and fourteen break-out sessions.  At one session, WPI director Dr. Debra Mesch reported on the latest WPI research: the Women Give report showed that women head of households give more than men head of households at all income levels.  Other topics covered in other sessions included:
  • The role of women in philanthropy for Mexico, China, Africa.
  • How one person can make a difference in philanthropy abroad.
  • Special efforts to help women and girls internationally.
  • Family philanthropy now has a larger number of women having greater control over family foundations because of the cultural shift in the balance in marriage. 
  • In Asia, philanthropy is done through bridge-making and collaboration between efforts. 
  • In India women have had an increasing role with family philanthropy in the last twenty years.  
  • It is difficult to measure family philanthropy outside the U.S. The challenges are that governments try to channel money to certain groups; obstacles exist to receipt of funds; and higher fences have arisen to moving money overseas since 9/11.
Jane Leighty Justis moderated a panel on Women Shaping the Future of Foundation Leadership. Panel members highlighted their personal journeys in philanthropic efforts in the U.S. and abroad.

A panel entitled “Girl Champions: Are Marketing Campaigns the Tipping Point” described the huge impact marketing can play in raising funds from girls and their families. Girl Up, part of the United Nations Foundation, wants to create “philanthroteens,” girls interested in helping others overseas. More than 170,000 girls have responded through marketing through Facebook and other means. Girl Effect is another effort to involve girls in giving to help gifts in poverty internationally.

Peggy Dulany, Founder and Chair of The Synergos Institute, gave the opening keynote, "The Imperative for Women’s Voices in Philanthropy Today." A summary of some of her remarks follows.
  • Lead through love, not fear. 
  • The need to rebalance male and female characteristics in all of us. The world is currently out of balance. Female characteristics in society have been suppressed-- collaboration and sharing. Male traits have increased-- militarism and competition.  Each of us has male and female characteristics. Both characteristics are good when they are in balance. However, each can have wounded traits: male being excessively competitive; female being excessively passive. View the contradictions as a normal part of life.
  • The positive predominantly female characteristics are: convening, networking, bridging across divides “bridging leaders,” listening, empathy, fostering chains of trust, low ego needs, ability to reach out to other diverse leaders, partnership building, building capacity for people, expanding creativity and a sense of connectivity to others. These apply all to philanthropy and help create change.
  • All of us must find a deeper purpose within ourselves beyond what is expected of us. Other people’s experience gives us courage. 
  • Safe spaces need to be created for people to find themselves.

As a response to Delany’s remarks, Jennifer Buffett, President of the Novo Foundation, said:
  • What you do in your philanthropy is an extension of your life and reflects your values
  • The world is out of balance. Democracy is balance. It is cooperation.
  • Women have a secret talent—our brains have more connections. 
  • Wholeness in what we know should be incorporated into ourselves.  

Other impressions from the conference included:
  • Giving to women and girls internationally is essential to the advancement of society.
  •  Special campaigns by the Red Cross, CARE, United Nations Foundation and the Women’s Moving Millions Campaign have raised the visibility of women’s philanthropic leadership by collective action.
  • Autonomous women’s organizations are a prerequisite to women’s rights.
  • The power of women in groups is important—they increase collaboration.
  • Intergenerational giving is increasing in the U.S. and abroad.
  •  Legal barriers abroad are lower for faith based organizations
  • Boomer women are the most powerful women in the world.
  • Lack of role models is still the biggest problem for women today.
  • U.S. donors are more connected to overseas causes through stories, photos, site visits and volunteering.
  • Governments are the ultimate answer for alleviating poverty.
  •  Measure success in terms of years, not short term. One good option is funding a project for three to ten years to see results, instead of one time investments.
  • More research on women’s philanthropy will illuminate the areas where work still needs to be done in educating women about how to leverage their giving.
  • No matter what a woman’s passion is, it starts from a personal place.
  •  Leverage all your assets—put your money in women-friendly organizations. Be visible in your support—don’t be anonymous.
  • Take risks with your philanthropy.
What a thrill to meet women philanthropists from around the world and hear
about women and families coming together to help alleviate poverty abroad.
I was especially impressed with the young women at the conference: both
philanthropists and staff. They are working to find new ways to
communicate with others of mutual concern via facebook, the web and
twitter. I believe the efforts to educate youth will impact giving into the future.

But the best part of the conference was to hear the stories from individual
women about how they found their passion in international philanthropy.
The women talked about providing thousands of shoes to poor children in
third world countries, to assisting with the education of girls in a small
village. The greatest satisfaction, these women explained, is improving
the life chances of needy individuals, which affects communities and even

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