Over the last several weeks, we have been reflecting on how we practice feminist principles of philanthropy in each of the Urgent Action Sister Funds, from how we work to build a culture of sharing and the ingredients of ethical and feminist crisis response, to how funders need to rethink risk and what feminist collective leadership has to offer philanthropy in these times.

In this piece, we want to share a snapshot of our journey to building a strong and united Sisterhood and a philanthropic model where we seek to equitably share power. The journey has required rowing against the tide in a sector that still privileges Global North leadership and too often creates the conditions for competition rather than solidarity. We unpack how we’ve learned to undo harmful power dynamics, craft new ways of working and being together, and collectively build a strong ship that we can co-captain through inevitably stormy waters.

Our Sister Funds model intentionally disrupts the traditional paradigm of organizations headquartered in the Global North with branches in the Global South. Each Fund has its own registration, board, staff, budget, and activist advisors; each is solely responsible for its grantmaking and program strategies. We are rooted in our regions, which brings immeasurable strength to the support we provide to defenders and movements. While we are autonomous funds, we have a shared herstory and set of values – a common feminist DNA. Together, we collaborate on advocacy, learning, and resource mobilization, weaving our regional roots into a global network. We are interdependent and independent as a political choice, committed to new ways of power-sharing.

Achieving this balance hasn’t always been easy. Especially in times when resources were scarce and we were all trying to build our individual funds, things could feel zero-sum. If one of us had a donor meeting and it wasn’t for all of us, there was sometimes anxiety and rivalry. We met each other across multiple lines of difference, carrying the burdens of colonial legacies and other inherited systems of domination and subordination. Despite our shared values, we didn’t always share a political perspective. It took time to build alignment and trust.

But from the beginning, there was always love and care, a willingness to recognize the path that shaped each of us and an effort to respect each other as we were. And we shared a bold vision of co-creating something together, though we didn’t know exactly what it would be. Looking back, one practice that helped us was forging ahead even when the path was not clear. We didn’t say we wouldn’t do anything together because it wouldn’t work. We tried things. We kept trying.

Read the full article about feminist philanthropy by Ndana Bofu-Tawamba, Virisila Buadramo, Terry de Vries, Shalini Eddens, Kate Kroeger, Sofía Marcía, Lorena Medina and Vinita Sahasranaman at Alliance Magazine.