Today (December 3) is Giving Tuesday and no doubt your email inbox is filling up quickly with #Give requests. In 2018, an estimated $400,000,000 in philanthropic contributions were reportedly raised on the first Tuesday in December. I love that Giving Tuesday has taken hold as an annual tradition because it’s a deeply needed reminder of our collective power and the tremendous impact we can have when we act together. But what kind of impact are we having?
As a feminist fundraiser working for a women of color-led organization and someone who is committed to gender and racial equity, I have to ask: How much of the $400,000,000 we jointly raise today will go to women and girls of color? How much of it will go to Black women and girls?
Women of color have provided leadership in nearly every progressive movement in United States history and have resoundingly demonstrated their political will and efficacy in recent years. Yet the organizations and campaigns we run receive just a tiny fraction of all philanthropic funding. A study to be released by the Ms. Foundation for Women later this month found that a significant number of transformative community organizations led by women and girls of color have zero funding and are entirely dependent on volunteers.
An op-ed in The New York Times written by Vanessa Daniel, executive director of Groundswell, recently underscored what many women of color have been saying for some time about the ways that we continue to be overlooked. “Our misdirected philanthropy is costing us beyond measure. A mountain of evidence shows progressive victories are surging from groups led by women of color, particularly Black women, that build power on the ground—not trickling down from large Beltway organizations headed by White men.”
Just one generation from now, women and girls of color will account for more than 50 percent of the total U.S. population. For people under the age of 18, that demographic shift—when people of color become the majority—is happening right now. We have just a few short decades to address disparities in health, education, wages, safety and justice that continue to persist. For example, we know that Black, Latinx and Indigenous women fall behind in pay equity. Similarly, the gender gap in education is particularly devastating for Black and Indigenous girls who are suspended and expelled at significantly higher rates than students of other races. And health disparities for Black women abound, as vividly illustrated by shocking rates of maternal mortality.
The Ms. Foundation for Women is working in partnership to address issues that most impact the lives of women and girls of color. We believe unequivocally that it is our duty to call philanthropy into conversation on Giving Tuesday and every day in service of safety, health and economic justice. We need to talk about how the money we move actually impacts the systems that shape our lives and the lives that bear the heaviest load. When we act in collective power, our generosity should address persistent inequities. It can and will if we are committed.
Today, the Ms. Foundation is inviting our community to a digital kitchen table talk. We are asking folks to join us on Twitter for an hour to discuss the implications and impacts of the funding disparities in our sector. We have also asked our donors and followers to pledge their support to women and girls of color this Giving Tuesday, by making a gift to the Ms. Foundation or another woman of color-led organization.
Together we can transform philanthropy and move the funding needle for the leaders who know best how to achieve real change. Any winning strategy must center those who are most impacted. Our Giving Tuesday social media campaign, #FundBlackGirlMagic, foregrounds the efforts of Black women and girls who are on the front lines garnering wins with far fewer resources than their White peers. What would Giving Tuesday look like if the majority of that estimated $400,000,000 in contributions went to them?
I imagine a world where grassroots organizations led by women and girls of color are organizing instead of worrying about how to make budgetary ends meet. I imagine a world where the possibilities for them, especially for Black women and girls, aren’t limited by unexamined structural barriers to resources.
We are all a part of the solution. Let’s get organized and intentional and find out how it looks when women and girls of color have the support they need to live and lead fully. Our future depends on it.
Ruth McFarlane is vice president of advancement for Ms. Foundation for Women (@msfoundation), a public foundation committed to building women’s collective power in the U.S. to advance equity and justice for all. Follow McFarlane on Twitter @ramcfarlane.