Women Moving Millions

women-moving-millionsThe Australian Women Donors Network has just completed the “Power of Women” tour introducing Women Moving Millions in Sydney and Melbourne.  Women Moving Millions was started in 2005 by Helen LaKelly Hunt and Swanee Hunt, who wanted to “raise the bar on women’s giving” by making big and bold gifts for women and girls. It now has a membership of 262 women around the world who have pledged to commit $1,000,000 over ten years to projects supporting women and girls, promoting gender equality.

Carol Schwartz, one of three Australian members of Women Moving Millions,  committed to the network through the establishment of the Womens’ Leadership Institute Australia. Carol spoke of her passion for supporting projects for women and girls, which was catalysed by learning that only 12 cents in every philanthropic dollar goes towards women. When Carol first heard of Women Moving Millions, the only funder specifically supporting women in Australia was the Victorian Women’s Trust, while in the US there were around 250 – 300 women’s funds.

Carol’s pledge for Women Moving Millions is to promote women in the media, to grow women’s power, influence and decision-making over time (reminding us that just three years ago there was only one woman in Cabinet in Australia).


Ann Lovell

Carol introduced Ann Lovell, a founding director, former Vice President and current Board President of Women Moving Millions, and Jacki Zehner, their Chief Engagement Officer who were “interviewed” by journalist, Catherine Fox.

Ann told us that between 2007 and 2009, Women Moving Millions members contributed $182 million to organisations and projects promoting women, and have created a community which learns from its members through their Circles, Speakers and Writers programs.  These cover topics such as anti-pornography, anti-trafficking, refugees and impact investing.  Since it was formed, Women Moving Millions has catalysed more than $1 billion in working to change policy around women and girls.  And it is “oh so much more fun to give together”.


Jacki Zehner

Jacki Zehner was youngest women and first female partner at Goldman Sachs, where she worked on culture and leadership, thinking about why there were so few women in senior roles and what could be done about it. For Jacki the personal became political. Jacki believes in championing women’s leadership and announced a partnership between Women Moving Millions and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a leadership curriculum around philanthropic strategies.

Ann and Jacki reflected on recent events in the United States, noting that there will be opportunities women funders can respond to and that they want to be ready to unpack the “locker room” conversation and think about how to turn that into action in men’s’ lives. They also talked about the power of creative tools to stage an intervention in particular issues, through film and projects like Good Pitch.


a visual summary of the discussion by Devon Bunce from Digital Storytellers

Questions at the Melbourne session:

Q. Why are corporates and senior figures standing up now for family violence but not other gender equity  issues?

A. When the personal becomes political people wake up, and the Rosie and Luke Batty story has been a strong catalyst.  Issues have heroes and good storytellers create echoes and ripples.  While poverty and violence have been around forever, creating a “standing ovation” effect, catching the zeitgeist, and making the personal public is key to catching the attention of the crowd. Consider the Vagina Monologues,  the Good Men Project spearheaded by Michael Kimmel, Tony Porter,  and Jack Myers, talking about what it means to be a man, and The Mask You Live In, and Tiffany Schlain’s 50/50 (there have been 50 elected female prime ministers and presidents – can we name them?).  Moving out thought from scarcity to abundance.  With awareness comes responsibility, emotion and empathy affects us.

Q. Examples of where Women Moving Millions gifts go?

A. Women Moving Millions are not funded directly by the members, some gifts are deeply personal, some support microfinance in Liberia and India, some donors support one project, some take a portfolio approach.  The issue areas cover 100s and 1000s of organisations.

Q. Is there a global map of projects being funded?

A. Resources not available to itemise and locate every gift and some donors are quite private – the best use of the network is the exchange of ideas and the importance of advocacy and its effect on legislation.  When members get together they gain value from learning from each other and are free agents to invest where they choose.

Q. Evaluation, impact, evidence?

A. Each member supports 1 to 100 organisations, the Circles programs discuss strategy and issue areas and information is shared at all levels, but not publicly.  The benefit of Women Moving Millions is in its informal leveraging of relationships.  Unfortunately, they don’t have an easy way to make what they have learned more accessible.

Q. What is the impact of small grants?

A. The level of funding needs to relate to the needs of the organisation being funded so yes, small grants are important and effective.

Q. Relationship to sustainable development goals?

A. Women Moving Millions is looking at different ways to express impact, and donors don’t always have the time, energy and resources to measure to specific targets.  Sometimes impact is a judgment call rather than statistics. When trying to change social norms, it will take a long time and you may not meet these specific goals.  While the goals are a powerful framework, they need to be relevant for smaller donors and it is a challenge to incorporate them into the conversation.

Finally, everyone in the room was asked to consider what each of us can do to make a change for gender equity, and what action we would commit to, continue or ramp up as a result of what we had heard.  This led to further discussion and ideas.

Julie Reilly concluded the session with a reminder for people to check out the genderwise toolkit, and Ann and Jacki spoke of how enlightened they had been by their trip to Australia, and how the were moved by how engaged we are here, our energy, commitment, and interest.

What do you think about funding projects for women and girls?

What are your ideas for how best to address inequality?


ozphilanthropy attended The Power of Women Melbourne event as a guest of the Australian Women Donors Network


About ozphilanthropy

#Philanthropy. #arts Posts by Sharon Nathani, PhD candidate at the Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne focussing on philanthropic funders of the arts. Sharon's study is supported through an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship.
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