The Myth of Philanthropy

1097965_663631206998986_1578851352_nWe hear inspiring stories of wealthy Americans who give back – through the Giving Pledge or interviews where they tell the background behind their generosity. We think: How nice. How different they are from us.

I’ll admit it. It bugs me that so much of what we hear about “philanthropy” is from those with tremendous wealth. But that makes sense, you say. They have the most to give.

Yet the statistics around giving tell a very different story.

In 2011, $298 billion was given to charity. You may already know that the vast majority of charitable donations comes from individuals—73%—with the remaining 17% culled from foundations, bequests and corporations combined.

But here’s the real story: Fully 74% of the total giving by individuals was offered by households with incomes of less than $200,000. That’s right. Working stiffs like us gave $162 billion. Shockingly, families making less than $50,000 gave 37% of that amount.

I truly admire the Buffett and Gates’ families for their business acumen and for the amazing examples they set for large-scale strategic philanthropy. What I wonder is: Why are their stories the only ones we hear? Despite all their wealth, the Gates’ and Buffetts are not contributing the majority of funding to nonprofits. We are.

Dec. 3 is Giving Tuesday, a chance for us to share our stories. It’s also a chance for us to celebrate the fact that each of us—really—can make a difference. Statistically, it’s exactly people like us who are making that difference.

Imagine joining with others who care about the same issues and giving together. Wonderful organizations like this exist for funding women and girls, such as Women Moving Millions (whose CEO, Jacki Zehner, serves on our advisory board), Women Donors Network, and many local groups like Impact 100. But say your interest is poverty or environment or youth development or health. Or maybe you don’t give $100,000 or $5,000 or $1,000 each year focused on women and girls.

Say you’d like to give a bit less or you’re still learning what will be your big issue. You want to explore what’s out there, but you’d also like to learn as part of a community.

This is really what Giving Tuesday is all about. At Catalytic Women we wanted to be part of this incredible movement to offer a new way of giving in 2013: one that allows a woman to give at any level, to share her story as part of a giving community, to enjoy learning and helping, to make an impact with friends, and to change the world … maybe with just a bit more than pocket change. 

So this Giving Tuesday, I challenge you to brag that you really do have enough to make a difference. Share your story with others. Connect with friends—new or old—over the change you want to make in the world. And then, give together and make that change. Each of us really can make a big impact with not-so-big dollars.

Giving Tuesday has inspired us to launch online Giving Circles, where you can join with others to learn about issues and then, as a group, fund nonprofits doing that work. It’s easy, social, fun and high-impact.

Contrary to what we may be told by the media, your story and my story are the ones that create global change. Giving Tuesday is a day to celebrate ordinary people funding extraordinary work. I mean that as the highest compliment. Let’s change how we talk about our impact. Let’s own it.

It’s time to disrupt philanthropy. Care to join me?

cw_picMelanie01_260As CEO and Founder of Catalytic Women, Melanie Hamburger is passionate about making giving accessible. She believes in the power of women’s financial influence, especially in bringing values to the way we use money. Her vision is to mobilize billions more dollars towards solving social issues by democratizing the way we give and inspiring people to give now, at any level.


Want to Build Your Startup Skills? Pitch and Pitch In

If you’re looking to develop your startup leadership skills, try volunteering for a non-profit or attending a pitch conference. 


Having spent most of my career in the corporate and nonprofit worlds, I can tell you that there isn’t much reward for risk-taking. Two of the smartest things I ever did to build my leadership were: go to a pitch conference and volunteer.

Six months ago, I attended Launch. It changed my perspective on everything about my work. Specifically, it made me more focused on profitability and more fearless about playing with the boys. (Sorry to admit it, but seeing them get up there and struggle with pitches made it seem a lot more accessible to someone like me, a working woman new to startup culture.)

Last weekend, I got to walk the talk. I pitched an idea at SF Startup Weekend Women’s Edition. Out of 41 pitches and 14 finalists, our team came in third (with a product to offer impact investing to young professionals). The experience was crazy and awesome – totally out of my comfort zone. I went into it not really knowing anything about the process; at Launch I’d only seen the final result of what happens when you join a team of strangers for 36 hours to make a dream tangible.

What was so special about this Startup Weekend? For one, it focused on women entrepreneurs. And, it created a space where we could be in the majority, doing something that we do so well naturally – collaborate and problem-solve. It also made me think about another ecosystem that has been central to my career success: nonprofits.

Nonprofits offer a safe place for women to build leadership skills. The U.S. Dept. of Labor says that in 2012, “women continued to volunteer at a higher rate than did men across all age groups, educational levels, and other major demographic characteristics.”

Let’s face it, we like to roll up our sleeves, get involved, and give back. Yet there’s another, more personal, reason for women to volunteer – it builds leadership skills that can launch our careers, especially in male-dominated professions.

No one tries to solve big problems on limited resources like a nonprofit. Volunteering – especially on a committee or board – is a great training ground for public speaking, budgeting, project management, and sales and relationship building (skills key to fundraising). Points of Light Foundation (which also has a Civic Incubator – how cool is that?) and VolunteerMatch list thousands of opportunities to get involved.

Women bring unique skills to the table. We knew that even before Lean In. If you’re not getting the leadership opportunities you want at work, get them by volunteering. And then bring them back to your company.

Your success may depend on it.

By Melanie Hamburger (CEO & Founder, Catalytic Women)


This article was originally posted on Women 2.0 on September 20, 2013.

Prosperity, Sisterhood, and Honeybees

Two years ago, in my work as founder of Honeybee Capital, I was trying to describe investing that is truly connected to the world, to the people, to the products and entities that provide meaning and value to our communities. The language I needed was elusive. I examined terms used in the various “integrated health” indices for economies, but Gross National Happiness, while a great broadening from Gross National Product, did not quite hit the mark. Sustainability is also a wonderful term, but I was aiming to describe something even more than that. A type of investing that is regenerative and renewing, thoughtful and full of (dare I say it?) joy.

Prosperity – that is the word that truly describes what I sought.prosperity_opportunities This is a term with both depth and breadth. Prosperity is defined as “to thrive or succeed in a healthy way.” That little word “healthy” is so important – it nods to a more complete view of success, one that includes physical, mental, emotional, and economic well-being; one that extends beyond the individual to include whole families and whole communities. Another layer of meaning is found in the root words – Latin terms for “hope” and “fortune” are, quite literally, the roots of prosperity. So Prosperity is success, yes – but it’s healthy success, broad-based and full of hope.

It was right around this time that I met Prosperity Catalyst, the nonprofit, and Prosperity Candle, the sister enterprise that serves as product marketing specialist. Siiri Morley, the Executive Director, presented to the Pipeline Fellowship, a women’s angel investor training network, where I was a member. So right from the start, we were united by the idea of women helping other women. Actually, much more than that – women investing in other women, and in their prosperity.


Prosperity Catalyst does not come by its name lightly – it earns that name every day, in the work of all who are connected with the group. The organization trains women to run their own businesses. Prosperity Candle, the sister organization, provides the direct link to the market for the Catalyst’s women to sell their creations, ensuring that all of that training and production is both useful and use-able. With this model, Prosperity links locally-focused training and business leadership to broader global markets. This is not an isolated process of training for training’s sake, but a strategy that melds strategic and tactical. Plus, the candles are so beautiful! Siiri and her team helped me to plan the first-ever corporate gift for Honeybee Capital, a beautiful beeswax candle.

The light from those candles is lovely, steady and clear – but it is nothing compared to another sort of light I see coming from Prosperity Catalyst. The most important element I have come to appreciate in this organization is a subtle one: it’s how their program and the people involved are modeling leadership in a powerful and different way. Siiri and the entire Prosperity Catalyst team demonstrate leadership that is bold and attention-grabbing – while also service-oriented and nuanced. They are effective and efficient – and still deeply human. They are determined and devoted – while embracing flexibility and creativity. This is the kind of leadership I want to see in the world.

For all of these reasons, I am delighted to be able to support Prosperity Catalyst. I hope you will join me.

katherineKatherine Collins is Founder and CEO of Honeybee Capital, and author of the forthcoming book, The Nature of Investing.  After a long and successful career in traditional equity management, Katherine set out to integrate her investment philosophy with the broader world by traveling as a pilgrim and volunteer, earning her MTS degree at Harvard Divinity School, and studying the natural world as guide for investing to add value in an integrated way, beneficial to our portfolios, to our communities, and to our planet.  

See more about Katherine’s work at or follow her on Twitter @honeybeecap.


Our Young Selves: Learning, Serving and Celebrating

With the new school year approaching, I’m thinking about fresh starts—for my 15-year-old daughter and for me. She and her peers seem interested in volunteering, but I wonder if it’s more about building a college résumé than offering community service. A study last year reports that the Millennial generation (roughly ages 18-29) actually volunteers and donates more than any previous one. The trick is connecting a young person to a community need that resonates, prompting a lifetime of service and an enthusiasm for giving back.


The Young Woman’s Guide is a nice start. Aimed at women and girls ages 15-35, YWG provides educational opportunities, partners mentors/mentees, and works on a global scale. I also love, a site devoted to helping those 25 or younger (nearly 2 million at last count) to “kick ass on causes they care about.” (If, like me, you’re “old” by their standards, their Old People FAQ gives us some ageless guidance on how to start volunteering.)

A recent Women 2.0 article underscores the urgency of training young women to give, contribute, and lead. Now at 40% ownership, women are anticipated to launch a full 50% of the 9.72 million new businesses expected in the U.S. by 2018. That’s just five years from now. Maybe my daughter won’t be thinking about finding a job but, rather, becoming one of the many women creating a company of her own.

These are exciting times for women, young and “old” (ahem, over 26).


Young Women Funding Social Impact

Catalytic Women gathered in San Francisco in June to hear three experts talk about engaging younger women who are defining their own ways of giving back. While I may not be of this generation, it was such a treat to hear from them and to feel their energy. This is my favoriate audience for our work – the enthusiasm, creativity and optimism is absolutely infectious.

Our panelists were, likewise, three dynamic young women:


Lana Volftsun

Lana made clear some of the obstacles for giving that younger donors face:

  1. Affordability. So many images of “philanthropy” are of older donors, often men, making very large gifts. This is ironic for 3 reasons: women make most giving decisions; the cumulative impact of individuals giving at modest levels now can be so much more significant than a single, large legacy gift; and few of us see ourselves as able to make million dollar donations.
  2. Knowledge. With over 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S., thinking about finding the best fit is downright daunting. It can be hard to know where to start.
  3. Impact. We all want to know that our dollars, at whatever level of giving, make a difference. Sounds so simple, but it’s not.
Erin Geiger

Erin Geiger

I’m a big fan of the “dumb question” – I find it opens dialogue by making it OK for others to admit not knowing it all. Erin answered mine: What is the definition of a Millennial? And, as expected, lots of others jumped in to ask their own questions. None were dumb.

Millennials are between 18 and 25 years old. Next Gen seems to have a broader interpretation, including Gen X and Gen Y. Panelists agreed that these latter tags relate more to life experience and association than to quantitative standards.

We heard other illuminating answers to words commonly used in discussing social impact. Not surprisingly, these answers led to some of the vehicles that young women are using to engage as donors and social investors.

  • Microfinance is a platform, a portal, between those of us interested in making smaller gifts (or loans) and those living in poverty without access to banks and traditional financial resources.
  • Crowdfunding is an online platform where many people can support a single project.
  • A giving circle is the reverse: a group where many people work collaboratively to find one or several organizations to support.
  • Impact investing creates both a return on investment (ROI) and a positive social and/or environmental impact.
  • Impact considers a company or organization’s ability to create positive benefits that are social (e.g. provide jobs or affordable housing) or environmental (such as sustainable land use or clean energy).


Leigh Moran

Leigh Moran

Leigh shared Calvert Foundation’s philosophy of changing the way that capital flows: it is not mutually exclusive to raise money from investors and to deploy it for social impact across the global. Their Community Investment Note allows an individual to invest as little as $20 in creating a financial and social return.

One Percent Foundation has the goal of mobilizing Millennials to give just that: 1% of their income. This September they will launch new giving circles – and Catalytic Women is excited to be partnering with them.


Younger donors aren’t the only ones struggling with learning about options for impact and building financial confidence in how to fund change in the world around us. As Leigh put it, one of their goals is for Millennials to see themselves as investors. By offering ways to invest in causes that are a person’s passion, through initiatives like WIN_WIN_RGB_2inches-1Women Investing in Women (WIN-WIN) and Engaging Diaspora Communities, Calvert Foundation is exploring ways to engage some of the largest groups of potential funders: young adults, diaspora communities with a common origin in a geographic region, and women.

Camp Start Up, Kiva’s summer program launched this year in partnership with Independent Means, provides financial education to young adults and inspires social entrepreneurship. At either end of the spectrum – extreme poverty or extreme wealth – it can be difficult to discuss money.

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 10.00.51 AM is the largest network in the U.S. educating and mobilizing teens for social impact. Why wait until we feel that we have enough to give? All the better if we can start that education earlier (or, in my case, help my daughter build her financial confidence and impact).


One participate asked, If an investment can be made in either a nonprofit or for-profit enterprise, what’s the difference between an investment and a donation? As more giirs-logohybrid options become available, this line seems to blur. Perhaps the larger question is, does it matter? Yet the metrics used to evaluate social impact, such as Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS) and IRIS, are a good place for us to create awareness about impact in any kind of funding for social change.

Storytelling is a powerful way to engage and create impact. One young woman told of a call from her alma mater telling her she was a VIP among alumni donors. She wondered how this could be, with the modest amount that she gave. Yet others were giving less; to them, she was an example of action and impact.


How can young women fund social impact? Their options are available to us all. Here were some of the many possibilities that emerged from the conversation with our experts:

  1. Invest a small amount and get hooked. Put as little as $20 into a Community Investment Note through Calvert Foundation or take $25 to start a lending team with Kiva.
  2. Tell your story. Even better if you tell your story in your own voice – take a video on your phone and post it to Facebook or LinkedIn.
  3. Connect with others around giving. Join a giving circle to meet other women who give, or bring a giving circle – like One Percent Foundation or Catalytic Women’s giving circles – to another group, like a professional network.

Catalytic Women has resources on all the above. Just email me at and we’ll point you in the right direction for making your own, personal impact in your own way.

Elizabeth Share: America’s Worst Charities

When I heard that The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), for whom I work part-Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 8.36.37 AMtime, was researching the practices of “America’s Worst Charities” I was skeptical. One-off exposés of bad nonprofit practices are nothing new.  Over the years, I have railed against many of them as being unfair. Yet when the series launched on June 7, my eyes were opened and my skepticism disappeared.


Kendall Taggart

Mining ten years of data, 26-year-old novice reporter Kendall Taggart, her editors, and a fellow reporter at the Tampa Bay Times (The Times) revealed corruption on a scale much grander than I could have imagined (more than a billion dollars in donations misappropriated) and exposed the failures in our regulatory systems that allow these practices to continue.

Consider this vignette from the first story in the series:

“The worst charity in America operates from a metal warehouse behind a gas station in Holiday, Fla.

Every year, Kids Wish Network raises millions of dollars in donations in the name of dying children and their families.

Every year, it spends less than 3 cents on the dollar helping kids.

Most of the rest gets diverted to enrich the charity’s operators and the for-profit companies Kids Wish hires to drum up donations.

In the past decade alone, Kids Wish has channeled nearly $110 million donated for sick children to its corporate solicitors. An additional $4.8 million has gone to pay the charity’s founder and his own consulting firms.

No charity in the nation has siphoned more money away from the needy over a longer period of time.”

CIR knew it was on the right track when it learned that in response to its investigation, Kids Wish hired Melissa Schwartz, a crisis management specialist in New York City who previously worked for the federal government after the 2010 BP oil spill.

The methodology behind the series was rigorous. CIR and The Times analyzed tens of thousands of pages of public records collected by the federal government and 36 states and flagged charities that pay for-profit corporations to raise the vast majority of their donations.  By analyzing a decade of data, the reporters ensured that they were not focusing on new charities using these services to get “off the ground,” as many do.

Among the findings:

“The 50 worst charities in America devote less than 4 percent of donations raised to direct cash aid. Some charities give even less. Over a decade, one diabetes charity raised nearly $14 million and gave about $10,000 to patients. Six spent nothing at all on direct cash aid.

Even as they plead for financial support, operators at many of the 50 worst charities have lied to donors about where their money goes, taken multiple salaries, secretly paid themselves consulting fees or arranged fundraising contracts with friends. One cancer charity paid a company owned by the president’s son nearly $18 million over eight years to solicit funds.

Some nonprofits are little more than fronts for fundraising companies, which bankroll their startup costs, lock them into exclusive contracts at exorbitant rates and even drive the charities into debt. Florida-based Project Cure has raised more than $65 million since 1998, but every year has wound up owing its fundraiser more than what was raised. According to its latest financial filing, the nonprofit is $3 million in debt.”

In addition to the reporting, the series includes:

  • A database of the 50 worst, with links to their tax returns and snapshots of their practices over the decade;
  • A searchable database of disciplinary actions that includes about 8,000 regulatory actions taken by states against all kinds of charities and solicitors;
  • A link to share a tip on a charity you suspect needs to be investigated.
  • Advice on how not to be fooled by these solicitations.
  • A video by CNN’s Anderson Cooper about the charity that received the dubious distinction of being the ranked “worst of the worst.”

I have worked in the nonprofit sector for thirty years and yet I have fallen for scams like this in the past.  One solicitor called after my mother-in-law died to ask if I would continue her twenty-year legacy of generosity.  Another called one week after a flood in my town to replenish an emergency fund on behalf of my local fire department. Well-timed, well played.

I’d like to think this series could lead to a large chunk being cut out of the profit made by these players.  Share it widely if you agree.

Elizabeth ShareElizabeth Share is the founder of Wise Giving, a consulting firm the helps individuals, foundations and nonprofits maximize their impact through wise philanthropic investments and greater organizational effectiveness. Catalytic Women has been honored to have her serve on our Advisory Board

Launch for Social Impact?


I just spent three thought-provoking days at Launch2013, a San Francisco conference of 5000 startup founders, and was struck by the parallels between those involved in startups and those of us in social impact: the messy, not-quite-sure-what-will-work challenges combined with our crazy optimism, intellect and creativity.

First of all, I need to give a huge shout-out to keynote speaker Chamath Palihapitiya. After taking Facebook from 30M to 850M users, he’s bringing the same extraordinary vision to Social + Capital Partnership, his new VC firm whose aim is to “use tech to break barriers and solve big problems.” When he asked the key questions, “What’s the value?” he meant value the same way nonprofits mean value. “It’s not the exit check,” he said, “it’s the legacy. If I spend every bit of my Facebook money trying to cure cancer, I’m OK with that.” He was a remarkable speaker, both charming and sincere. And he has the means to make a very big impact. I hope for more people like Chamath on our side.

Launch is a big conference, and I expected to be surrounded by 5,000 super smart young men who had already figured out the elements of creating a successful business. Indeed, I was surrounded by about 4500 men and most of the ones I met were smart, but the rest came as a surprise.

A major part of the conference is the “pitch” sessions, where entrepreneurs have 20 minutes to present a concept and convince a tough panel of judges (from the venture cap or angel investing worlds) that their products can fly.  Far from what I expected, most of the judges on the panel, along with the presenters, were … old guys. Some may have been a little younger than myself (just shy of 50), but I didn’t see any 20-year-olds up there. That was a huge surprise and it made me feel like “one of the guys.” I mean, I could have been up there with them. My fear of feeling outdated among gads of youthful, confident startup geniuses was completely unfounded – from an age standpoint, I fit right in.


Shock #2: Although their vision seemed crystal clear, many of the “pitchers” struggled with concrete metrics for the initial tests (aka betas) of their products. No bold, audacious vision was lacking. They knew what they wanted to do, just not how to do it. So like nonprofits! Most of presenters hemmed and hawed about the number of actual users, average revenue per user, and so on. But while the judges may have been frustrated by these responses, from my perspective, it was refreshing to hear (and a little funny). Again, I felt like each of them was one of us.

Lastly, I was stunned by the enormous gap between creative ideas and concrete action. Less than 25% of attendees had taken steps to try to bring their vision to reality.  Few of them had created an actual demo or applied to an accelerator (boot-camp for startups). Most of them came with little more than a dream.

As I sat there, I realized that the people behind these startups may not be all that different than the rest of us.

In another regard, a special kudos to Jason Calacanis, conference organizer and host of This Week in Startups, for his efforts to get more women in the room. Judging from his opening comments and the women speakers he invited to the Launch diversity panel, I believe his efforts were sincere. But in terms of the attendees themselves, there was only a smattering of us – maybe 10%.

Finally, I could feel the humility when Vivek Wadhwa, who writes about the tech world and is an advocate for more inclusion of women and other underrepresented groups, admitted “I used to be so adamant that Silicon Valley was the ultimate meritocracy,” because he saw so much ethnic diversity. True. It doesn’t look all white when you have so many shades of East Asian. He humbly admitted that diversity includes a breadth of perspectives that aren’t (yet) mainstream in tech: women, blacks, latinos. It’s all in how we choose to see it. And I thank his wife, whom Vivek credits with helping to expand the lens through which he now sees these issues.

After three full days of Launch2013, I’m left with a tremendous sense of hope, possibility and camaraderie. Social entrepreneurs like myself and other Catalytic Women aren’t the only ones who haven’t figured it all out.

On Women Directors: Vote with Your Financial Influence

So here we are again, February, the month famous for Valentine’s day, Black History Month and, of course, the Oscars. An indulgent glance takes our eye to the evening’s buzz: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Roll and, finally, the Best Dressed Woman among so many nominees in exquisite dresses. But as this year’s Oscars approach, Catalytic Women wants to recognize the women in film, not just for their clothes, but for their contributions to the female voice in the male-dominated film industry. Women buy most movie tickets. It’s refreshing to see a story told with a woman’s influence.

Last fall we hosted a panel discussion at Google on Women, Film and Philanthropy featuring women thought leaders who use film and media for social impact. Our panelists included Susan Cartsonis (Women in Film), Eva Maria Daniels (Impact Emotion Films) and Vivian Kleiman (documentary film consultant and producer). Our blog article about the November event lists a variety of resources for those interested in supporting women and film.

These women also emphasized how each of us can use our personal influence to effect social change right now. We don’t need to sit on the sidelines, waiting for Kathryn Bigelow to nail her next blockbuster.

This theme of financial influence and its connection to film arises in unexpected ways. As the Academy Awards approach, it feels like a veritable tidal wave (nod to writer María Belón in The Impossible) of media on the subject. First we heard mumurs of the great women directors at Sundance. Now those names are displayed next to other great male directors at the Oscars.

And the message doesn’t need to come to us on the big screen. Here are some of our favorite articles by women writers exploring the connection between women, their wealth and financial influence, and media and film:

  1. Susan Cartsonis, in Women Make Good Box Office suggests that women are influential because of their large numbers in the audience and the tickets they buy for their children and others. Her advice is to, “Get out and vote with your dollar. See women’s movies. Women drive over 60% of messaging in social media — talk about the movies you like and encourage your friends to go. If you’re a filmmaker, keep making films and find a way to invest in your own work financially so that you can drive the creative and financial decision-making process. Your voice and your perspective are legit and profound and powerful — and will find an audience.”
  2. Carrie Rickey takes a different approach in Female Directors Grab Helm: More Top Titles of Past Year Shot by Women. It’s not as though women neatly fit into one type of women director. The offerings this year cross nearly every category, from comedy to drama to faith-based to documentaries. According to BoxOfficeMojo, this year “Nine percent of the top 250 movies at the domestic box office last year were made by female directors…higher than the 2011 figure of 5 percent.” But still not anywhere near the over 50% of the population that women represent.
  3. Kimberly Gadette, in Hollywood in 2012 Was Female-Action Packed, encourages us to dig into character analysis and plot development. She describes the significance of not only the women directors, but of the female characters in their films in each genre.

When you tune into the Oscars this year, we hope you will pay special attention to the women directors. Notice what effect they had on us this year and how we were shaped by the images and stories they brought to us in film.

Is a woman’s lens (both literally and figuratively) different? Of the films you saw this year, did you feel differently about them after you found out they were made by women?

The assumption in Hollywood is that women will go see movies with male characters, but men will not see films with women leads. So what do you think of that? How are this year’s Oscar-nominated characters created by women directors telling different stories?

Funding Film and Media for Social Change

The recent Hollywood Reporter article on George Lucas’ $4 billion funding for education got me to thinking about high impact organizations focused on the issue of gender equality in the media. These are the types of innovations we see and share with members of Catalytic Women who want to give at any level for big change, and the topic of our November 15 event at Google in Silicon Valley on Women, Film and Philanthropy.

Women in Film/Women in Film Foundation

Women in Film (WIF) is a nonprofit that helps women thrive in the global entertainment, communication and media industries, and also preserves the legacy of the professional women who came before. For nearly 40 years WIF and its Women in Film Foundation have provided members with an extensive network of contacts, educational programs, scholarships, film finishing funds, access to industry jobs, mentorships and more.

Not in the entertainment business? Join WIF as a Friend of Women in Film or donate to one of their special funds: the WIFF Film Finishing Fund provides cash and in-kind grants to complete films by, for or about women; the WIF PSA Program trains young female filmmakers who produce free PSA’s for charities; the WIFF Legacy Projectpreserves the legacy of women in front of and behind the screen through documentary portraits; and the WIFF Mentoring Program guides women new to the industry. A collaboration between the Sundance Institute and WIF will study statistics regarding women filmmakers from the 2012 Sundance Festival, analyzing challenges they face moving projects forward, and will host a symposium in Los Angeles to share learnings and foster solutions.

Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media/See Jane

At the Women’s Funding Network conference in May I had the pleasure of hearing Academy Award winner Geena Davis speak—super smart, successful, and surprisingly modest, just like many Catalytic Women. (One of my favorite quotes from her keynote speech is on our News page.)

Six years ago, while watching children’s entertainment with her young daughter, she noticed a remarkable imbalance in the ratio of male to female characters. From there, Ms. Davis commissioned the largest research study ever undertaken on gender in children’s entertainment. The research showed that in the top-grossing G-rated films, there were three male characters for every one female—a statistic that still has not improved. From that was born the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, the leading resource for gender in media research, trends and education for the entertainment industry and the public. See Jane is a program of the Institute that utilizes research, education and advocacy to engage and collaborate with entertainment creators on leading positive change through varied portrayals of female and male characters in movies, TV, and other media aimed at children 11 and under.

If a young women can see it, she can be it.

Where Women Gather in May and Inspiration Follows…

Admittedly, we’re a bit biased. While Catalytic Women gatherings may be the best place to engage with women who are thought leaders in wealth, philanthropy and social innovation, we do hope you’ll support these upcoming events among friends and collaborators: