January 17th, 2013
January 17th, 2013
The world is out of balance. We need to support the divine feminine parts of life that are much more loving and peaceful. When it comes to giving, that means breaking through the isolation and barriers that often exist between and among donors and activists. I have had the privilege of being very involved with some amazing, innovative groups like the Funding Exchange, the Women Donors Network and the Ms. Foundation. Not only do these groups financially support the change we need in the world, we also try hard to walk the walk - to work and learn collectively with activists so that as funders, we are part of the shift toward a more loving and peaceful world.
These are certainly not the models of giving, or engaging with money, that I inherited from my family. My mother’s father started Rockwell International – a very masculine business, part of the military industrial complex. As money was made and distributed among the family, the men in the family controlled it. When my sisters and I met with our financial advisors our husbands came along, and the advisors only talked to them. When I was asked to be a trustee of our family foundation, one of my male cousins called to tell me that there had never been a woman trustee, and there never would be.
But I also received a different kind of inheritance. My parents were unusual in our family. They were artists, politically progressive, and firmly believed in civil rights. My earliest political memory is from when I was 4 or 5. We went to a roller skating rink we’d been to often, and were told it had been turned into a club. My mom refused to join, and explained to us that it had been turned into a club to keep blacks out. That has stuck with me forever - the lesson that you don’t give in, you stand for what is right.
My true political awakening came with second wave feminism. Everything became much more personal. I was majoring in metalsmithing in college, and my professor told me that I should instead be going into home economics. Looking for a job as a metalsmith was so challenging! All of my potential employers figured I’d get married and get pregnant, so no one would hire me. It was the first time I had faced prejudice so directly. I got very involved in the feminist movement, subscribing to Ms. magazine and every other feminist publication I could find.
Between the sexism in my family and in my career, I felt stuck. I wanted to do things with my money that felt right, but I didn’t know how. I had a sense that there were people like me out there, but I had no idea how to find them. I started donating what to me felt like a small amount to the Three Rivers Community Foundation. They considered me a major donor, and passed along an invitation to a conference for women with wealth organized by McKenzie River Gathering Foundation, a member of the Funding Exchange (FEX) community. I was in my early 40s when I joined 200 other women in Oregon for this conference, and it was the biggest shift in consciousness in my life so far.
I came home from the conference having gained a tremendous amount of confidence for just having talked honestly about my inheritance with other people for the first time. I found new ways to continue connecting with like-minded donors, including the Haymarket People’s Fund annual donor conferences and the More Than Money journal. I finally got up the nerve to fire the financial advisor I had inherited from my family, who consistently shot down all of my ideas. Once I got my own team together, I finally had the support I needed to start giving boldly in ways that felt great.
It’s been quite a journey learning how to align my vision of the change the world needs with my philanthropy. My passion continues to be support for women and girls – I see that as a critical path toward rebalancing the world. I have found and created wonderful ways to give to women’s causes with other women. In my hometown of Pittsburgh, I connected with a group of women who wanted to start a women’s fund. It took us many years, but we established the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania, and today it is thriving! The Women Donors Network (WDN) has been a vital community for me for many years now, full of progressive women donors from all over the country, and I also recently joined Women Moving Millions.
I enjoy being very involved with the work I am funding – breaking down those barriers between and among donors and activists. I have learned how critical it is to commit to multi-year funding and general operating support, so that the organizations I’m supporting can focus on the change they are creating. I also offer my time and energy. I currently serve as the board chair for the Ms. Foundation, whose work resonates with me deeply. I have had a donor-advised fund at Ms., and have been a part of their Democracy Circle for many years. I’ve also served on the boards of WDN, FEX, and the Women’s Law Project.
At this point in my life, I am very motivated to give boldly. I want to see change happen in my lifetime, not in the next! Each year I give away as much as I live on. I can’t imagine who I would be if I weren’t involved in giving. Who I am in the world is really about my philanthropy. It’s how I’m involved with people. And it’s been my real education. Finding community with other donors and activists, working together to shift the world to be more loving and peaceful – that is where I have found my joy.