Feminist movements are powerhouses for social change, but they are under-resourced, undervalued, and grossly underestimated. New Bridgespan research with Shake the Table shares five recommendations for funders on how to find and fund feminist movements, and calls on philanthropy to invest an additional $6 billion in them by 2026.
Women, girls, and nonbinary people have faced systemic oppression for centuries. And too often, other forms of discrimination—racism, ableism, classism, and more—compound gender inequality. We see the impact across all issue areas, from education to disaster relief and from health to climate change.
Our research makes us excited about the power of feminist movements to address systems of oppression and realize the transformative change donors seek. Feminist movements are organizations, leaders, and networks working together to change power structures that reinforce gender and other inequalities. Led by people with lived experience of the gender power imbalance and other injustices, feminist movements challenge the compounding factors of discrimination, taking an intersectional approach to address our most intractable problems.
And they are effective. In recent years, feminist movements in Argentina, Ireland, and Mexico realized crucial gains in reproductive rights. Farmworkers in the United States secured better wages and working conditions, including curbing sexual violence in the fields. And feminists in Nigeria organized intense protests to bring an end to an abusive special police squad.
To date, feminist movements have achieved their successes with minimal philanthropic support. In 2017, less than 1 percent of total foundation giving, and in 2018 approximately 1 percent of gender-focused international aid, was directed to women’s rights organizations, which we use as a proxy for lack of data on feminist movement funding. Most women’s rights organizations have never received unrestricted or multiyear funding.
Shake the Table and The Bridgespan Group teamed up to understand how we can better connect global philanthropy with feminist movements. We conducted 43 conversations with high-net-worth individuals, insti-tutional funders, and leaders of feminist movements and funds. This report offers practical ideas for all philanthropists, including those whose core focus is not gender equality. Our recommendations include:
- Understand the power structures that shape our homes, communities, and systems.
- Re-examine risk. Recognize the greatest risk is not investing in the feminist leaders and organizations that are actively tackling systemic injustice—and facing well-funded opposition.
- Fund feminist funds, which are primary supporters of feminist movements.
- Shift your practices. Expand your sourcing beyond your close-in network, and ensure your diligence practices aren’t screening out feminist movements. Fund across the ecosystem and provide long-term general operating support.
- Measure what matters to movements. The multifaceted work of movements will likely require a range of measures. Work with grantees to define success—and allow them to pivot as needed.
Read the full article about feminist movements by Pamela Shifman, Swatee Deepak, Tynesha McHarris, Anna Quinn, Nidhi Sahni, Debby Bielak, Stephanie Kater, and Jasmine Reliford at The Bridgespan Group.