A Journey in Philanthropy: My Path to a Feminist Approach

My Path to a Feminist Approach

Learn more about yourself and your purpose by letting philanthropy guide you.

It’s no secret that at its core, philanthropy can humble you, teach you, and fill your heart in ways you could never have imagined.

Philanthropy can change how you view yourself and the world. 

It certainly has for me. 


Philanthropy as a path to personal transformation. 

As a funder, I understand that ultimately my philanthropy is about me – giving away money, so I can feel good. 

Early in my journey, I went to visit a women’s savings and loan organization in Uganda. It quickly became clear to me that if I wanted to be seen as my full self, I had to show up as more than my money. 

So began my inner journey. 

I reflected on all my privilege, my guilt, and how I could step into my power and leverage my privilege for good. It wasn’t easy, and it is forever a work in progress. But it is work that I find women to be particularly open to.

When you go into communities, and see the grassroots organizations at work – work that’s actually being done on behalf of all of us – it truly humbles you. It makes you stop thinking so much about yourself, and inspires you to do the inner work for meaningful outer action and connection to others. The connection amounts to a feeling of being in community in a way that allows you to bring your whole self in service of others. 

We’re experiencing a reconciliation to the truth that we are a whole person. 

There’s not a ‘work me’ and a ‘mom me’ – there’s simply me. I can’t be separated, and if I attempt to leave part of me out of my philanthropy, it’s an inauthentic and somewhat shallow experience. I can speak to both parts of me even when I have to name it only to myself.


Philanthropy as a holistic, healthy experience

Historically women, and especially women of color, have always brought more than money to philanthropy. They have given their time, talent, treasure and witness to acts of generosity. It is less about accolades and more about service to community. We are sharing our knowledge, intelligence and offering a full array of our capital. 

Are we even aware of how much influence we have?

I’ve learned that as much as our dollars are needed, that we are needed just as much—if not more.

In addition to sending in a donation, we need to start a conversation. We should read an annual report of our favorite charities to see how money was spent; we should ask for stories, ask questions, build a relationship. We should also ask for real feedback, and then act on that feedback.

Think about what your privilege can offer; opening networks, space, amplification of the work and so on. Be creative and know your assets. 

A full-self experience of philanthropy is transformative when we understand the responsibility of our privilege and step into our power by listening deeply, bringing humility, and centering others.

Alternatively, there is the privilege of life and energy and joy that we can tap into as well; not all privilege comes with baggage. 

I am going to say that I believe women are uniquely but not exclusively positioned for this type of transformation. 

Healing takes place when we can freely and effectively mobilize our resources without guilt, shame or an agenda. 

It’s transformative to the organization when they sense that the giver is authentically seeking to learn and serve. 

The fear is removed, and it’s no longer a transaction – it’s trust. 

It’s transformation. 

And the impact is exponential. 


Women, girls, and feminist philanthropy

People think that applying the lens of feminism to philanthropy means they can only work with charities that focus primarily on women and girls.

We all know that serving the needs of women helps everyone—we are half of the population, after all. And it can also come with some backlash in response to the word “feminist.”

Feminist philanthropy certainly lifts all boats – and ensures that the populations experiencing the deepest challenges and powerlessness are brought to the center of attention and funding.

More than anything, feminist philanthropy is about how we give; boldly, courageously, and with purpose and intention. 

Bring medical care to women and girls → see health outcomes change across the entire community. 

Ensure nutrition programs address the needs of women and girls → entire families are fed. 

If you want to impact climate change, you need to include agriculture – an industry directly related to the climate. Globally, many of the small and medium-sized farms are actually worked by women. Naturally, funders must partner with women farmers to address climate change.

Taking a feminist approach includes working with a wide range of organizations, building their capacity to advance justice for all – an important strategy for equality in general.

This approach includes taking a critical look at the systems that hold problems in place, giving with few restrictions and understanding the intersections of focus areas and funding with a robust urgency. 

A feminist approach works on fixing systems and structures that contribute to the marginalization of various people, by challenging norms and shifting power, and placing the community’s lived experience and voice at the center of what is trying to be achieved.


My journey and our work continues

This philanthropic journey has been one of the deepest joys of my life.

When I dove into philanthropy, and truly learned what was happening with the work in communities through the heroic work of dynamic organizations, I discovered how important your and my contributions were.

Our giving, our philanthropy, can be—and should be—humbling and transformative for everyone.

Let’s talk about what’s important to you and together we’ll start your new journey.