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. 

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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)

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

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Volunteering. It’s never too early to start

What’s the best age to start piano lessons? How about gymnastics or soccer? If you’ve seen toddlers meandering around a soccer field, staring at the sky, you know that some parents think it’s never too early to begin.

volunteeringAs parents and role models, we want to expose our children to all sorts of enriching experiences, and one of the most rewarding is volunteering. There are three powerful reasons I think middle school is an ideal time to introduce kids to the concept of serving others.

Volunteering is an excellent way for middle-school students to learn about their community and themselves. They are mature enough to understand the concept of civic responsibility, the value of helping less fortunate people and the significance of donating time, money and service.

Second, adolescence is typically a time of an intense focus on oneself and peers. It’s a challenging time of self-discovery. Volunteering eases that relentless inward glare by encouraging tweens and teens to connect with people of different ages, experiences, backgrounds and values.

Finally, a solid foundation of volunteer experience that begins in middle school shapes a young volunteer’s view of the world and amazes college admissions officers. One important way to tell a student’s story in an interview or college application is through lessons learned in volunteering and community service.

Jeannie Burlowski (http://www.bebrilliantincollege.com), an expert advisor on college applications that stand out from the pack, offers vital advice about how to approach middle school: “Begin early to create the long record of service and leadership so important for future scholarship applications.” She says the middle school years are not too early to begin keeping a written record of community service hours. If you Google for “community service forms”, you will find dozens of links to record-keeping forms.

And remember that volunteering as a family is also a terrific way to learn about organizations in your community and make them part of your family charitable giving strategy. That strategy can be as simple as a change jar in the kitchen where everyone drops spare coins and bills that are regularly donated to the local homeless shelter.

Here are four on the San Francisco Peninsula that offer volunteer opportunities geared specifically for kids:

The Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto is planning its seventh annual Mitzvah Day (to take place on Martin Luther King Day, January 20, 2014). If you have suggestions or want to get involved, please contact Luba Palant at (650) 223-8656 or lpalant@paloaltojcc.org.

My New Red Shoes has a mission all kids can relate to: to provide new clothing and back-to-school shoes for low-income kids. The Burlingame-based non-profit offers a number of service events centered on families, including kids as young as four years old: http://www.mynewredshoes.org/get-involved.html

Home & Hope (formerly Interfaith Hospitality Network) provides homeless families with temporary housing at local churches and synagogues. Families can volunteer to cook and serve dinner at the host site, play with the younger guests and even babysit. Find out more at http://homeandhope.net.

There With Care provides fundamental support services to families and children facing critical illness during medical crisis. Volunteer opportunities range from visiting children in the hospital to sorting in-kind donations at the TWC office in Menlo Park. Learn more at http://bayarea.therewithcare.org/.

I’d love to hear about how you encourage your children of all ages to volunteer and take part in improving their community. What volunteer work is meaningful to your family, and how do your kids participate?

It’s never too early to start.

070d8d0Emilie Goldman began her career in personal finance in 1993 as an investment analyst. In 2003, she earned the CFP® designation from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. Emilie was a partner with Blue Oak Capital in Palo Alto, chief wealth management officer with Sand Hill Advisors in Palo Alto, and a portfolio manager with Hutchinson Capital in Larkspur, CO. She holds an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and received her undergraduate degree in finance and marketing from the University of Denver. She is a Certified Financial Planner TM professional and a Chartered Financial Analyst. She is a member of the CFA Institute, the Securities Analysts of San Francisco, and the Financial Planning Association.

 

Gender Lens Investing: Newcomers’ Webinars

It’s confession time and I’m coming clean.  I am completely new to the work of Gender Lens Investing.  (A moment please while I hide my face in shame.)  At this point you may be wondering why I’m suddenly interested and the answer may surprise you.

I recently overheard women discussing hand bags.  Hand bags! Ever wondered who makes these beautiful essentials carried by women everywhere?  I learned that, ironically, something universally used by women (and any number of other consumer goods) can be produced in conditions that are detrimental to women’s well-being.  And I learned that I can choose to spend my consumer (and investment) dollars in a way that supports women. This conversation, and those I been involved in since becoming part of Catalytic Women, has inspired me to want to learn more.

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Jennifer John

I’ve recently had the pleasure of hearing Jennifer John, Project Manager of Criterion Institute, speak on this topic during our monthly collaborative webinars on gender lens investing.  What’s even better, these webinars focus on newcomers (like myself) and are meant as an entry point into dialogue.  During May’s webinar Jennifer was joined by panelists Siiri Morely, Director of Prosperity Catalyst, and Becky Bailey, Senior Portfolio Manager and Acting Director of Operations of Agora Partnerships.  These three dynamic women provided such a vibrant and informative discussion that I couldn’t help but be inspired.  Below are a few excerpts from May’s discussion.

Jennifer began by defining gender and explaining what it means to invest with a gender lens.  According to Criterion Institute, “Gender is term that refers to your gendered life experience in the social construct that you live.  It is thought more of as ‘gender identity,’ and varies over time and from place to place. Investing with a gender lens involves making investment decisions that support gender equality while seeking positive financial return.” I sensed a definitive message forming here.  Investing with a gender lens -with gender equality as a focus-  makes you a smarter investor.  More importantly, it means “moving trillions versus millions,” of dollars (quoted from Jackie Zehner, Chief Engagement Officer and President of Women Moving Millions).  Wow! Trillions versus millions? Tell me more…

Siiri Morley

Siiri Morley

Siiri Morley then went on to speak about her non-profit organization Prosperity Catalyst, and its for-profit social enterprise partner Prosperity Candle.  Their focus is to help women take control of their own economic agency.  Prosperity Catalyst provides an environment where women from poverty can become self-sustaining entrepreneurs.  Prosperity Candle “empowers women to rebuild their lives through candle making.”  Providing women with the resources and tools to take control of their own lives is profound.

Becky Bailey

Becky Bailey

Siiri’s dialogue was an excellent segue into Becky Bailey’s work with Agora Partnerships.  Agora strives to “unleash the potential” of impact entrepreneurs.  To do this Agora provides entrepreneurs with the necessary knowledge, networks and capital so they have the tools to solve critical problems in their focus area.   Agora works with entrepreneurs on the ground through accelerator programs in order to affect, and scale, positive change. Genius!

What did I take away from this event?

That I want to invite others to the dialogue, to bring women to the table and most importantly, to think outside the box myself when I consider my own purchasing and investing decisions .  And, of course, to continue my quest for more knowledge on the work of gender lens investing and women funding social impact.

Women Who Create, Disrupt and Collaborate

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Big problems require lots of people (and resources) looking for patterns of disruption. Yet traditional philanthropy tends to be risk averse. This can be a conundrum — one that women may be particularly well positioned to solve.

Women now own most wealth in the U.S. and make most giving decisions. I believe we can be a bit curious about investments with a social impact, new models for social impact and, especially, creativity and disruption. Evidently, I’m not alone.

I recently read two articles, both in the Harvard Business Review, on women challenging the status quo. Tara Mohr (entrepreneur, author and member of Catalytic Women) spoke about the challenges of “good girls” (Haven’t we all been, or wanted to be, at some time or another??) learning to be disruptive.

And what about Mukti Khaire’s new Harvard MBA course about Creative High-Impact Ventures profiling entrepreneurs who changed the world in six “culture industries”: fashion, publishing, art/architecture/design, film, music, and food. Perhaps social entrepreneurs have a lot in common with serial entrepreneurs, who must persist until they succeed.

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Collaboration plays into creativity and disruption in a big way. Khaire talks about the 4Cs. “Commentary influences Culture, which influences what we Consume, which is influenced by what is actually out there in the market [Commerce]. If you can shift one of these elements you can actually create a new market.” Her HBS colleague and author Amy Edmondson says “using thoughtful design to solve big problems in the world… I became interested in how people come together and work together to innovate, to problem-solve, to do better things.”

If you’re looking for ways to collaborate for social impact, here are a few ideas:

  • Be part of a collaborative event — let us create a panel on your favorite issue or organization, or come listen & learn.
  • Join the only nationwide network of women funding social impact at any level and to every issue area. It’s free.
  • Help financial advisors create the content that women want on leveraging their wealth, intellect and values.
  • Attend an upcoming event on social impact. (See the full calendar in our members’ only online library.)
  • Think like a serial entrepreneur and create disruptive change. Share your story of creating change. (Read some of our favorite articles on disruptive women, below.)
  • Read more ideas on collaborating

I’m looking forward to collaborating with you to innovate, problem-solve, create and disrupt.

Launch for Social Impact?

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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.

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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?

Dorka Keehn and Charity Kenyon on the Power of One (Woman)

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Last week I had the chance to listen in as two inspiring women — Dorka Keehn and Charity Kenyon — shared their stories of social impact. The real message was the Power of One — how one busy woman learns about issues, funds solutions and, sometimes in the process, creates a movement around an idea.

What I heard from these women resonates at every level in thinking about how to fund your passion.

  • Be curious about other people’s stories. How does one person make cw_blogEcoJudyBondschange? Surprisingly often it happens in an utter dearth of resources. By exploring your curiosity about others who do something amazing, you’re likely to gain a social impact momentum of your own. Dorka shared the story of Judy Bonds, an Appalachian coal mining daughter who won the Goldman Award for her work against destructive mountaintop removal and, in turn, was Dorka’s inspiration for writing ECO AMAZONS: 20 Women Who Are Transforming the World.
  • Networks are the tools that turn ideas into impact. This is especially true for women, who often lack connections needed to access and influence decision-makers. Charity’s long-ago support of the League of Women Voters laid the groundwork for her ability to influence access to good, clean, fair food for all through her leadership in the Slow Food Movement, first through her local chapter and, now, as a national governor.
  • Childhood experiences lay the groundwork in unexpected ways. Dorka’s dad raised her as a girl who could do anything; seeing so many women who lacked this support and confidence inspired her to found Emerge and Ignite as organizations to encourage women and girl’s political leadership. Charity’s trip to study abroad in Denmark exposed her to the challenges of family farming in a way that was eye-opening. This planted the seed for her work as chair of a new committee for Slow Food, helping foster collaboration on statewide policy issues that find creative ways of meeting the challenges of small rural nonprofits.

Dorka Keehn and Charity Kenyon are two amazing women. Yet their message involved a beautiful simplicity of focus and action. Their journeys started in their own homes and backyards, and they hit their stride during the busiest times of their lives.

And neither story is about women, per se. Dorka shared a critical lesson learned by Emerge in the early days: “Gender is secondary to the issue. At Emerge, we learned that having more women in political office wasn’t a concern for most people, but the impact of these elected women’s unique communication style and approach to leadership was highly effective.” Sometimes isn’t not even about what we do, but the way we do it.

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Charity saw the magnificent Great Central Valley of California and the world’s most productive farmland disappearing under subdivisions. Perhaps her career as a First Amendment, environmental and appellate law attorney shaped her passion. She asked around her own community: What organization addresses this issue? Restarting the local Sacramento Chapter of the Slow Food Movement led her to deep involvement in their work across the US and the globe — from her backyard of Sacramento (Well, actually, Galt. I couldn’t resist the reference, knowing Ayn Rand’s book will become a film this year.) to the 1,000 Gardens in Africa project.

cw_blogEcoAmazonsDorka’s “other life” is all about art: as an award-winning conceptual artist, avid speaker on art in the public sphere, writer of EcoAmazons and the recent article for San Francisco Magazine on The Philanthropists: Eleven Women Who Exemplify the Power, Economic and Otherwise, of Social Entrepreneurship. She works in diverse mediums including radio, film, and sculpture — and women’s leadership.

Interesting that both women, from their unique paths, have developed a shared passion for environmental sustainability. So what’s next for these women?

Charity is enjoying retirement with her husband, Mike Eaton, on their 5-acre Kingbird Farms, a WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), site and has hosted some 85 young farmers from around the world at their home.

Dorka’s interests have expanded beyond women-focused issues to the issues themselves. She sees the opportunity for creativity and consciousness to impact our world, and to focus on how we approach and engage around the larger concerns that affect us all.

Stay tuned. More to come from these Catalytic Women.

Women Innovators and the Freedom to Fail

I recently listened to the Bloomberg Women to Watch interview with women tech leaders at Facebook, SurveyMonkey, Stella & Dot, and Accel Partners.

cw_NewsLtr01_WtW365_01Midway through the interview, they talk about comfort with failing. Or, as the organizer of the annual FAILFaire conference puts it, “if you’re not failing, you’re not considered to be innovating enough.”

Women who are funding social impact share much with entrepreneurs, tech innovators and startups. The models are evolving. The outcome is unclear. There is a very high risk of failure.

Catalyst has fascinating studies showing that women, in particular, feel a lot of pressure to educate ourselves – especially when forging ahead into new territory. I think it boils down to this: women want to feel credible. And we want good resources and advisors to help point us in the right direction.

women + financial influence + community = social impact

The formula is straightforward, but the available information is not. Women now own the majority of private assets in the US. (See sidebar infographic.) Consider the impact of this emerging demographic of wealth: women influence most financial decisions, yet make decisions differently.

Catalytic Women is building a dynamic community of women who want to leverage their intellectual and financial resources for social impact. This new community is free, by application only. It takes 5 minutes to apply online.

If you know women – friends, clients, colleagues – who are curious about peer learning networks, please share this email with them. If you advise women learning how to fund social impact, let us share our resources with you. And if you’re already a believer, invite me to speak at your next event. As you can see, I’m passionate about this topic.

For those tackling a new business, big idea or a major social issue in 2013, best of luck with your failures.

A Gender Lens: Women In Film And Stem

What an inspiring discussion—to hear women leaders in film production and social ventures inspire us with their experiences and wisdom on Film and Philanthropy at Google. Our panelists—Susan Cartsonis, Eva Maria Daniels and Vivian Kleiman—are blazing a trail to transform the way people see women and the world, through film and video.

Before I share their fabulous resources for film philanthropy from our discussion on November 15 at Google, I want to ask your help in directing our programs in 2013—join the Launch Team of our all-new Partners program and connect with experts, best practices and other smart women seeking innovations in philanthropy. Start now and let Catalytic Women help you make yearend giving decisions with ease, impact and confidence. As with all our programs, they start with smart women like you and I’d very much like to know what else we can include in benefits for Partners to meet your needs.Will you join us now and help shape the future of Catalytic Women? Your support is instrumental to our success.

I’m still thinking about high impact organizations focused on the issue of gender equality in the media, and the resources shared by our panelists. Read on!

Susan Cartsonis is founder of Storefront Pictures and would love to hear from youS.Cartsonis at: susan@storefrontpics.com. She suggests:

  • Women in Film (WIF), a nonprofit that helps women thrive in the global entertainment, communication and media industries, and also preserves the legacies of professional women who came before. Susan is the board chair of theirWomen in Film Foundation, offering funds for film finishing, mentoring and other important issues.
  • SeeJane.org educates, advocates, engages and collaborates with entertainment creators on leading positive change through varied portrayals of female and male characters in movies and TV. They have some powerful research from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media on images aimed at children 11 and under.
  • Women and Hollywood has a blog and weekly e-news on new films by and for women.
  • Catalyst does amazing research on women leadership in business, science and technology, including the increased ROI of publicly-traded companies with gender diversity on their corporate boards.
  • Taking action: buy tickets to major motion pictures with strong women characters, especially since the vast number of movie tickets are purchased by women.

Eva Maria Daniels is founder of Impact Emotion Films and can be reached at E.Danielseva@evadanielsproductions.com. She shared:

  • Impact Emotion Films, a new film fund co-founded by Eva Daniels Productions and led by two women partner, which seeks to produce smaller movies with social impact that are box office successes.
  • The power of collaboration, since virtually every film made now is the product of several people who had a vision and started talking with friends and funders.
  • Use social media to tell friends about a great film with a social impact, raising awareness to influential others like the Motion Picture Academy that chose impact film The King’s Speech for best picture last year.

Vivian Kleiman is a documentary film consultant, director and electronic mediaV.Kleiman producer, and can be reached at vivkleiman@gmail.com. She had great practical suggestions to support documentary film makers, such as:

  • The ability to leverage our professional expertise for documentary films in need of assistance with legal, accounting or publicity.
  • Voting with our dollars at our many wonderful local film festivals, which can attract press and have a big impact on the mainstream distribution of a documentary film.
  • Crowdfunding for early investment in film production, such as the first crowdfunding platform IndieGoGo.comRocketHub.com for creative projects, NewJelly.com for artists and films, and the largest crowdfunding site, Kickstarter.com, which had 730 projects in their Film and Video category when I checked today.
  • Become an advocate by buying copies of DVDs of the films you love for your community, school or college library.
  • Follow the advice of author and speaker Scott Kirsner, whose recent book Fans, Friends and Followers presents creative possibilities for online video and new technologies changing the entertainment industry.
  • Media Impact Funders (formerly Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media) has an online database that connects seekers of funding and donors to media projects in the public interest.

And a few others we mentioned:

  • The School Fund, founded by our Google host Matt Severson three years ago as a platform to help students in the developing world to pay for books and supplies, provides the opportunity to pursue secondary school when they otherwise could not afford to do so.
  • GoldieBlox: The Engineering Toy for Girls and their fabulously successful Kickstarter campaign, was created by Stanford engineering graduate Debbie Sterling to tackle the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Roominate is another building toy for girls who are artists, engineers, architects and visionaries.

Lastly, I’d like to give a shout out to Devi Kamdar, who was too sick to moderate our panel, and the Palo Alto International Film Festival she helped launch, which completed its second year in September 2012. Catalytic Women was proud to sponsor their local documentary film program. Tremendous thanks also to our partner in creating this 2012 series for Women Giving Under the Radar, the Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership at UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business. And thanks to Albayk in San Mateo for the great Mediterranean food.

Read more about opportunities to promote film and media for and about women on our last blog post on November 9 below

How can we help you leverage your scarce time, abundant intellect, and resources at any level to give well? Email me at melanie@catalyticwomen.com or call my cellular at 415.999.3197. Very much looking forward to our next conversation—I hope when I welcome you to the Partners Launch Team of Catalytic Women!

Inspiring Women Impacting Poverty, Film and Philanthropy

Talk about inspiring women in philanthropy… This past week I’ve been in Boston and beyond, meeting the leadership of Indiana University Women’s Philanthropy Institute, 100 Women in Hedge Funds, 85 Broads, Criterion Ventures, and others at the Convergence XII gathering on gender lens investing. Wow. It’s a reminder of our powerful, understated approach to philanthropy, and the diverse ways that women have an impact on really big issues.

And, speaking of an inspiring woman, I have a request form Katherina Rosqueta, a member of Catalytic Women’s advisory board and executive director of The Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice. They have been commissioned by the Annie E. Casey Foundation to conduct a study on donor learning groups—especially for funders in the area of vulnerable youth and families.

This is right up our alley of convening women who exert their financial influence on our communities—so we’re asking on their behalf… Do you have some experience with this issue, including significant annual philanthropic contributions? Do you know someone who does? If so, please consider a phone interview with Jennifer Landres.

Another recent conversation—this time with two thought leaders in film, Executive Director Devyani Kamdar and Founder Joon Yun of the Palo Alto Institute and International Film Festival—reminded me of the close link between film and philanthropy as powerful strategies for achieving impact. Catalytic Women is thrilled to be sponsoring the Local Shorts Program on Friday, September 28, at 6:30, which includes several Bay Area documentaries illuminating a cause.

All this talk about documentary film made me curious about producing a film to raise awareness of an issue. Like many of our programs, I reaching out to others I admire to see if it was a topic on their minds. With the help of these creative thinkers, we will launch on October 9, in Silicon Valley, a series for Women Giving Under the Radar—and looking for high-impact giving opportunities at all levels. I am thrilled to be working with Nora Silver, Director of the University of California Haas School’s Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership, Linked In, ImpactAssets and Kim Wright-Violich on this program.

This series will profile favorite high-leverage giving tools from a dynamic panel of experts, followed by “open space” (attendee-directed) small group discussions on topics related to women’s wealth and giving. We’re trying it out in Silicon Valley—come let us know what you thnk and how we can expand it to smart women in other regions.