Something to Celebrate

Before Women's History Month ends, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate yet another area where women's leadership has made a significant impact.

Women, both locally and all throughout the world, are becoming a powerful force in the philanthropic sector. According to the Women Give Series conducted at the Women's Philanthropy Institute, female-headed households are more likely to give to charity than male-headed households.

The women's funding movement began 30 years ago with the founding of the Women's Funding Network (WFN), the largest philanthropic affinity group devoted exclusively to increasing support for women and girls. Women's Funding Network continues to be a major player in building and advancing women's involvement in the sector. WFN and its 160 member foundations like Chicago Foundation for Women (CFW), strive to bring together communities who see the value of combining their dollars to support work that recognizes and addresses the unique and complex problems women and girls face around the world: disproportionate poverty and violence; limited access to education and health care; and food and environmental insecurity.

Let's close out March with a look at how women are having true impact on philanthropy by leveraging community philanthropy, philanthropic mentoring and bold giving. Together, we are diversifying and strengthening philanthropy.

Community Philanthropy
Imagine joining a group that encourages you to exercise the power of giving individually and collectively. This is precisely the impact that community philanthropy is having on women. Often called "Giving Circles," community philanthropy serves to democratize access to philanthropy for a diverse set of donors while having a great impact on their communities. Indeed, it is often categorized as a "game-changer" because it allows individuals to pool their resources together and mobilize around a particular cause or issue.

According to the Women's Funding Network, CFW was the first women's fund in the United States to develop affinity groups of diverse women to lead community outreach efforts, setting a national precedent. To-date, these affinity groups, or giving councils, have raised over $300,000 to address challenges and opportunities in under-served communities in metropolitan Chicago. Currently they include the Women of Color Giving Council, the LBTQ Giving Council and the Young Women's Giving Council. For diverse women from every background, community philanthropic movements like CFW's Giving Councils give them an opportunity to collaborate and gain exposure to new philanthropic ideas.

Philanthropic Mentoring
We know that mentoring for women in any sector is important and effective. But, mentoring does not need to be solely focused on climbing the career ladder. We know that parents who talk to their children about charitable giving can positively impact their children's philanthropic behavior. Why not also empower seasoned female philanthropists to intentionally mentor the next generation of women about the importance of giving back?

Philanthropic mentoring is a national and global effort. Locally, CFW is engaging philanthropists across generations through it's Philanthropic Mentoring Program. The program brings together experienced professionals and philanthropists from CFW's network with emerging members of the Giving Councils who are in the early stages of their philanthropic development. The goal of the mentoring program is to promote and cultivate philanthropic leadership among women and to support the advancement of philanthropic and professional development.

Giving Boldly
In 2007, Women's Funding Network led a campaign called an organization called Women Moving Millions (WMM) with hopes of inspiring women to make bold gifts of at least $1 million for the advancement of women and girls. Now a stand-alone nonprofit, WMM has grown to a community of 201 donors have pledged over $293 million to organizations and initiatives that advance women and girls throughout the world. With more women making their own fortunes and exhibiting leadership in family philanthropy, I am confident that we will see the list of the most powerful women in U.S. philanthropy grow exponentially in the coming years.

In Chicago, there are many women who are already making her mark. Take, for example, CFW supporter Doris. Recently, Doris committed $1 million dollars to launch a fund for women's rights at Chicago Foundation for Women. The fund provides much-needed multi-year support to innovative advocacy organizations in the Chicago metropolitan region. Doris said she wanted to make a bold statement with a bold gift. She hopes her act will encourage other women to do the same.

It is women like Doris, philanthropic mentors, mentees, and members of groups like the CFW Giving Councils that give me cause for celebration. When I look to them, I have no doubt that women will continue to lead and make a remarkable imprint upon modern philanthropy as we know it. I cannot wait to see what comes next.

To continue the celebration, I invite you to join me at the #WomenLeading Philanthropy Symposium April 2-3, 2014 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. At #WomenLeading Philanthropy, you will learn from leaders in philanthropy, social innovation, and enterprise who apply innovation, disrupt the status quo, create true impact, and effect social change in their communities and across the globe. I'll be there, to present and taking the conversation to Twitter (@KSujata). Join me!