In 2020, the Ms. Foundation for Women released a report entitled, Pocket Change: How Women of Color Do More With LessThe report attempted to understand how women and nonbinary leaders of color do their work. It also asked critical questions about how donors support and invest in the work of women and nonbinary leaders of color. According to the report, total philanthropic giving to women and girls of color in the United States in 2017 was just $357 million—about $5.48 per year for each woman or girl of color and just one-half of one percent of the total $66.9 billion given out by foundations.

Last month, the Ms. Foundation for Women released a new report that builds on these findings: Living With Pocket Change: What It Means to Do More with LessThis new report documents the findings from interviews with 15 nonbinary and women of color leaders to further examine what chronic underinvestment in these leaders looks like.

One of the main findings of the report is not surprising: women and nonbinary people of color are drawn to the work they do because it is personal to them. They know change is necessary because when they look at the incarcerated or disenfranchised women they work with, they see their family members and loved ones. They might even see themselves.

As one leader interviewed in the study noted, “These are not just numbers—women who are incarcerated are mothers, wives, daughters, aunts. They’re a part of our community, and so we have to really look at this in a way that recognizes the reality of what families are struggling with.”

Because the women and nonbinary leaders of color are invested in truly making things better for the people they work with, the historical underinvestment in their work is even more disheartening. As many interviewees noted, this underinvestment impacts their leadership—even with the desire to change things, their work is still limited, resulting in the disconnect from people and institutions with access to resources and power.

One new executive director, a young, Black immigrant, noted that she had to start leading with no formal introductions to funders and that it was hard to navigate trying to make the connections virtually and get program officers to take her seriously.

Read the full article about the toll of underinvestment by Rebekah Barber at Nonprofit Quarterly.