Having a seat at the proverbial table where decisions are made that can affect the future or well-being of a society is important, but what’s even more necessary than that, is having the right voices and representation in the room. This year’s theme for National Women’s History Month, “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silent” is a resounding testament to the pertinence of having a voice and a vote in the room and at the table where decisions are made.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we are giving light to a moment in philanthropy that occurred on an ordinary summer’s day: In 2009, a diverse group of leaders from across the country gathered and decided it was time to put the power of philanthropy into the hands of the people. This convening for people-powered philanthropy was led by Colleen Willoughby, founder of the Washington Women’s Foundation (WaWF) in Seattle. Willoughby is recognized by many as the founder of the women’s collective giving movement. It was on that summer’s day in 2009 that she ultimately became the founder of the Women’s Collective Giving Grantmakers Network (WCGN), now known as Philanos.
Philanos is one of the top philanthropic organizations in the United States. Its mission is to inspire women’s philanthropic leadership and to equip and strengthen collective giving organizations through education and collaboration that promotes informed, impactful grantmaking in communities.
“We are proud of the impact our affiliates make. Today we stand at 82 affiliates, 18,000 individual members who collectively invest $15M annually in their communities,” says Paula Liang, Chair of Philanos.
Operating as an incorporated nonprofit organization, Philanos is a network that identifies and supports women’s collective giving organizations nationally and internationally. Philanos welcomes groups that are 501(c)(3)s (or are hosted by one), have members that contribute equally, have a democratic process, an educational component, are inclusive, empower women, and have established grant review and assessment processes as affiliates.
Collective giving groups within Philanos’ network represent a variety of causes and communities. Currently, there are more than 80 affiliates within the network, including:
- The SAM Initiative: Investing in community-based organizations that help drive their mission to catalyze the improvement of lives of children, women and families in Los Angeles, CA The SAM Initiative is committed to engaging and educating its members on the importance of people-powered philanthropy.
- ALLINBKLYN: A community of women dedicated to strengthening Brooklyn, NY with philanthropy. ALLINBKLYN has invested in more than 50 nonprofits in six years.
- SisterFund: works with civic-minded women to change the narrative of black philanthropy in Richmond, VA through the powerful journey of giving in its community. They focus on transforming African American girls and women through collective giving and investments to local nonprofits who share their mission.
- Impact Austin: an Austin, TX women’s collective giving organization funding Central Texas nonprofits in four counties. Their membership and leadership proudly reflect the many faces, cultures and walks of life that make up their society.
Philanos is doing its own DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) work and collaborating with fellow philanthropists to create a world of anti-racist philanthropy “because all people deserve to live full and abundant lives free of prejudice, discrimination and oppression.”
In March, Sandy Cook, chair of Philanos’ Affiliate Engagement and Expansion Committee, and her team will launch a pilot project for online affinity group engagement among interested affiliates. The purpose of the test groups is to provide peer-to-peer sharing for affiliates involved in adopting DEI-related initiatives for their respective giving circles. See the Philanos Blog.
Further, Philanos participated in Philanthropy Together’s Racial Equity Community of Practice led by Community Investment Network and CommunityBuild Ventures. Leaders of more than a dozen Philanos affiliates joined to answer crucial questions around embedding racial equity into their culture, grantmaking, and community engagement.
During part one of the two sessions, Liang was deeply moved by a Black Lives Matter organization member who conveyed a blunt yet honest truth. “One of them pointed out that ‘we’ in the collective giving movement might be shocked by George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent fallout, but that none of them were surprised,” Liang explained. “She ended with a simple yet poignant call to action: ‘If you want to support our work, don’t tinker with our language, donate money to our cause.’ It was a powerful gut-check.”
At the end of the Racial Equity Community of Practice event, Philanthropy Together awarded 25 grants, $1,000 each, to organizations who attended the webinar series and developed programming as a result of what they learned. Philanos was proud to have 11 of its affiliates awarded the DEI grant.
“Philanos will continue its mission to further advance women in philanthropic leadership with a democratized, anti-racist lens by creating room at the table for everyone to have a seat and a voice,” says Liang.
Are you part of a women’s collective giving group? Interested in improving your programs and practices? Learn more at philanos.org.
Philanthropy Together aims to strengthen and scale the giving circle movement by working with giving circle networks like the Philanos. Learn more at philanthropytogether.org.
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Ilyasah N Shabazz
For more than a decade, Ilyasah has worked with nonprofits to help them grow their audience by telling impactful stories, implementing strategic plans, and streamlining digital communications. A proud New Yorker, Ilyasah now lives in Greensboro, NC.