Women & Philanthropy


PressforProgress-IWD2018 There is a buzz happening around women and philanthropy.  Whether someone’s capacity to donate is $100 or $1,000,000, there are opportunities to contribute individually or collectively to support charitable causes and organisations focussed on women and girls.

The Victorian Women’s Trust (VWT) was one of the first philanthropic organisations in Australia to focus on women’s’ needs, advocate for women and girls, and work towards a more equal future.  They have a range of sub-funds where donors can contribute to investing in women and girls in areas ranging from support for indigenous women fleeing family violence, understanding respectful relationships, women’s choirs, to assistance for vulnerable older women.

VWT’s Gender lens for inclusive philanthropy written in 2009 is still a relevant read describing the gender lens as “helping us see more clearly the role gender plays in shaping our male and female lives, our work, experience and choices. When gender differences are identified and responded to in grant making, philanthropy becomes more inclusive. When the complexities of gender inequality are understood and addressed, philanthropy becomes more potent. And when those issues and circumstances are identified where it makes sense to invest directly in women and girls because of the flow on effects to children, families and communities, philanthropy has even greater impact.”

The Australian Women’s Donors Network also advocates for greater investment in women and girls and their gender lens toolkit provides a snapshot of the existing disadvantage experienced by women locally and globally and maps out a step-by-step guide for donors and funders on how to review and apply a gender lens to giving.

The Giving Australia 2016 report notes a growing awareness among philanthropists and donors of the gender lens, and its usefulness in developing greater sophistication and understanding of issues in grant making, showing how people are differently affected by issues, stronger program design, and better outcomes for families and communities when women are supported.

The Melbourne Women’s Fund is a collective giving circle which encourages women to pool financial, intellectual, professional and personal resources to benefit groups and organisations dealing with issues that undermine the quality of life and futures of women and families.  Each member commits $1000 per year and has a vote on where the funds are distributed.  In four years they have granted $500,000 to organisations dealing with issues such as supporting older women struggling with poverty, early intervention for women in the criminal justice system and breaking the cycle of disadvantage for young girls.

Capital Giving in Canberra (formerly ACT of Women Giving) enables members to increase the impact of their individual donations through the multiplier effect of being part of a group.  Capital Giving has supported initiatives such as micro-finance support for women, and a mentorship program for girls, trans and non-binary young people aged 10-17 years.

Other collective giving initiatives focussed on women include Women and Change in Queensland, which encourages 50 women to contribute $1000 each towards one major grant each year and  100Women WA has given out 13 grants in four years totalling more than $400,000 and sums up what most of the above-mentioned organisations are doing as “enabling everyday people to be involved in creating a world where all women and girls can live safely with access to health, education and economic freedom.  This is achieved by combining donations and knowledge to provide impactful grants.”

While not specifically female focussed, the Funding Network community of donors who use a live crowdfunding model to pledge support for highlighted organisations will hold a women and girls focussed event in Melbourne this year.

Australia is connected to the international growth in support for women and girls through Women Moving Millions which was introduced by the Australian Women Donors Network in Melbourne and Sydney. This international women’s funding network encourages donors to commit $1 million over 10 years to projects and organisations focused on the advancement of women and girls.  There are now eight donors based in Australia, and this has directly led to the establishment of the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia which aims to catalyse and inspire innovative partnerships, action and system-changing solutions to achieve gender balanced representation in Australia.

And finally, the peak body for philanthropy in Australia, Philanthropy Australia has recently established a Women and Girls Funders group as one of their peer network groups.

The range of support for philanthropic initiatives and support for women is growing, but still only makes up a tiny portion of philanthropic granting.  As of 2011 only 7% of the philanthropic dollar went specifically to women and girls* so while there is growing awareness and more visible activity, there is still room in this space for amazing things to happen and for everyone to #pressforprogress.

*Women Moving Millions – All in for Her, A Call to Action

PS: check outGiving by and For Women: Understanding High Net Worth Donor’s Support for Women and Girls by the Women’s Philanthropy Unit at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

NB: This piece was written for QUT’s Business Insights for International Women’s Day 2018.

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About ozphilanthropy

#Philanthropy. Posts by Sharon Nathani, provisional PhD candidate at Swinburne, philanthropy consultant and blogger. Board member Outer Urban Projects and Pathways Melbourne. Sharon's study is supported through an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship.
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2 Responses to Women & Philanthropy

  1. Fantastic article Sharon – great to see women & philanthropy is growing ! Thanks for the mention – Lesley Harris – Capital Giving

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