Funding in short supply for charities focused on women and girls

Charitable support for organizations that serve women and girls is surprisingly deficient when compared with philanthropic giving as a whole.

The Women & Girls Index, which measured giving to more than 45,000 U.S. organizations dedicated to women and girls, found that only 1.6 percent of all philanthropic support went to these causes – about $6.3 billion. Of this amount, 90 cents of each dollar are focused on reproductive health, leaving inadequate funding for the wide range of other issues affecting women and girls.

These facts don’t seem to mesh with the financial status of women in the U.S. today. Women already control over thirty-nine percent of investable assets and control decision-making for $11 trillion. They are expected to inherit 70 percent of the $41 trillion in intergenerational wealth transfer over the next 35 years.

In addition, woman-led households are more likely to give to charity than male-led households and, at nearly every income level, women donate almost twice as much as men.

The needs are still great

The time is right for more money to be directed to women’s causes. Many of these issues were addressed 25 years ago in The Beijing Platform for Action, whose goals imagined “a world where each woman and girl can exercise her freedoms and choices, and realize all her rights, such as to live free from violence, to go to school, to participate in decisions and to earn equal pay for equal work.“

Although some progress has certainly been made, many of these concerns continue to loom large in the lives of women and girls in this country and around the world.

“We are in an historical cultural reform moment with enormous potential to make progress on pay equity, violence against women, financing women entrepreneurs, and strengthening the numbers and depth of political representation,” said Sarah Haacke Byrd, Executive Director of Women Moving Millions. “It will take focus and financial resources.”

Haacke Byrd points to a bigger challenge and concern. “Despite the ongoing extraordinary work of women philanthropists and investors, the resources are not rising to meet the moment. If we don’t galvanize as a financing community to support those on the frontlines working to advance women’s equality in this country, we will have lost our window to make the real changes we want to see,” she said. Members of Women Moving Millions have each pledged a minimum of $1 million to organizations benefiting women and girls.

Melinda Gates pledges $1 billion

Another leader working to expand women’s power and influence in the United
States is Melinda Gates, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who pledged to donate $1 billion over the next ten years to those causes. Her donations focus on three main areas:

  1. Dismantling the barriers to women’s professional advancement. This includes examining stereotypical representations of women and sexual harassment in the workplace, and promoting a national policy for paid family and medical leave.
  2. Fast-tracking women in sectors with outsized impact on society — such as technology, media and public office. Gates notes that in 2018, there were more men named “James” on the Fortune 500 list of CEOs than there were women. Only one of the women on the list is a woman of color.
  3. Mobilizing shareholders, consumers and employees to amplify external pressure on companies and organizations in need of reform. Gates wants to “imagine what’s possible if shareholders, consumers and employees work in concert to exert pressure on the same institutions at the same time.”

“One billion is a lot of money, but I also recognize that it’s only a small fraction of what’s necessary,” said Gates.

“That’s why I hope the financial commitment I’m making … is seen as both a vote of confidence in the experts and advocates who are already working on these issues—and as an invitation for others to join the cause and make commitments of their own,” said Gates. “Equality can’t wait, and no one in a position to act should either.”

With thousands of nonprofit organizations working locally, regionally and nationally across the United States to advance gender equality and promote opportunities for women and girls, there are many ways for thoughtful donors to volunteer their time and money to these causes.

As Haacke Byrd explains, “There is tremendous progress that can be made by women exercising their power, position and influence and uniting together in community. The time is now to invest boldly in women and girls. Together, we can accelerate change.”

Nonprofit of the Month

Since 1987, The Women’s Foundation of Colorado (WFCO) has been a unique community foundation creating a future where women and girls of every background and identity thrive. WFCO moves women and families forward faster by building community and cultivating philanthropy. Using research, it finds solutions that stick, pursues legislation, and amplifies women’s voices. WFCO also funds programs statewide that provide childcare, education, job training, and other essential building blocks for women’s economic success.