BOSTON, MA—May 5, 2022. Shake the Table, an organization bridging philanthropy and social justice movements, and nonprofit global advisory firm The Bridgespan Group teamed up to examine how to better connect global philanthropy with feminist movements. According to an analysis of data from Candid and the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, in 2017, less than one percent of total foundation giving, and in 2018, less than one percent of gender-focused international aid, was directed to women’s rights organizations. In their joint report, the authors call on philanthropy to invest an additional $6 billion by 2026 to “hold ground against the anti-gender movement and gain traction in shifting power.”
The report illustrates the potential of feminist movements with real-world success stories, highlighting feminist movements in Argentina, Ireland, and Mexico that realized crucial gains in reproductive rights; domestic workers in Mali, Mexico, and the U.S. who secured better wages and working conditions, including curbing sexual violence; and, feminists in Nigeria who organized intense protests to bring an end to an abusive special police squad, among others.
Pamela Shifman, Shake the Table founder, president of the Democracy Alliance, and one of the study’s co-authors says: “At a time when so many funders are calling for transformative change, feminist movements, especially those led by Black women and women of color, are at work around the world, creating the solutions everyone is looking for. Resourcing them at a level that matches their immense power and promise is one of the most potent and underutilized strategies we have to secure the future we need.
“In the United States, for example, where women’s rights and democracy itself are under sustained attack, women of color and feminist movements are holding the line, resisting authoritarianism, and fighting for the rights of all,” said Shifman. “Trusting and investing in their work is our best hope for a just, equitable, and multiracial democracy for everyone.”
According to Bridgespan Partner and Head of U.S Advisory and co-author Nidhi Sahni, “Women, girls, and nonbinary people have faced systemic oppression for centuries often combined with racism, ableism, classism, and more. We see gender inequality manifest across all systems and issue areas, from education to disaster relief and from health to climate change. Our research makes us excited about the power and courage of feminist movements to address these issues, and invites donors to learn with and from these leaders, and resource these movements.”
For purposes of their research, the authors used this definition of feminist movements from women’s rights advocate Srilatha Batliwala: organizations, leaders, and networks working together to change power structures that reinforce gender and other inequalities. They conducted 43 conversations with high-net-worth individuals, institutional funders, and leaders of feminist movements and funds, and they were informed by an advisory council of 32 global movement leaders, funders and intermediaries.
The report showcases the women’s movements tackling myriad social issues including, climate change, education, healthcare and labor rights. “The good news is feminist movements are already doing this hard, integrative work. They provide us with a vision of what can be attained with flexible, sustained, community-driven investments, and they remind us of the immense joy that can come from being part of realizing a collective vision of a more just world.
“This is a pivotal moment for philanthropy as threats to humanity mount—the climate crisis, the rise of authoritarianism, a global pandemic, and extreme income inequality—backing feminist movements has the opportunity to holistically respond to, as well as anticipate, some of the enormous changes taking place on the front lines across the world" says Swatee Deepak, co-author, social justice and philanthropic advisor, and Shake the Table founding partner.
Hilary Pennington, executive vice president of Ford Foundation added, “Women, girls, trans and nonbinary leaders are fueling social movements across the world—with BIPOC leaders at the forefront. We cannot address inequality without understanding the way power and structured discrimination operate. Resourcing feminist movements is critical to how we will build a world which respects the dignity of all people.”
The report also offers practical ideas for everyone, including philanthropists whose core focus is not gender equality, on how to invest in feminist movements, including:
- Understand the power structures that shape our homes, communities, and systems.
- Re-examine risk. Recognize the greatest risk is not investing in the feminist leaders and organizations that are actively tackling systemic injustice—and facing well-funded opposition.
- Fund feminist funds, which are primary funders of feminist movements.
- Shift your practices. Expand your sourcing beyond your close-in network, and ensure your diligence practices are not screening out feminist movements. Fund across the ecosystem and provide long-term, general operating support.
- Measure what matters to movements. The multifaceted work of movements will likely require a range of measures. Work with grantees to define success—and allow them to pivot as needed.
Debby Bielak, co-author and Bridgespan partner summarized, “For individual funders, investing in feminist movements represents a meaningful opportunity to put money into the hands of the women, girls, and nonbinary people who are fighting for equality for all people. We urge donors to lean into the fear, the exhilaration, the joy of this imperative work and to match the movement leaders’ tremendous courage with their giving.”