Philanthropy’s Most Powerful Women 2017

In 2017, we saw the power of women grow in society like never before, and their influence in philanthropy continued to increase simultaneously. The following four women were standouts in the philanthropy community.

Melinda Gates, Co-Founder,  Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Forbes writes that Gates continues her run as the most powerful woman in philanthropy as co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Her laser focus on health is having a real impact as she showed in the foundation’s first “Goalkeepers” report which presented hard metrics behind the giving. Maternal deaths in Ethiopia are down 57% since 1990 thanks, in part, to foundation efforts to get more mothers to give birth in health care facilities.

Alexandra Cohen, Co-Founder, Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation

Alex is the wife of the controversial hedge funder Steve Cohen, who commands one of the largest fortunes in finance. The Cohens focus mainly on healthcare and education, with the arts as another major interest. All signs point to continued increases. Forbes explains that while the couple is quite private, Alex is a key figure in their giving, with a backstory that helps explain why: She grew up in a low-income New York neighborhood.

Jennifer Buffett, Co-Founder, The NoVo Foundation

According to Inside Philanthropy, The NoVo Foundation that Jennifer Buffett leads may not rank among the largest foundations in the U.S., but it is one of the biggest family foundations led by a woman and it gives at a very substantial level: $56.7 million in grants in 2012 alone. And it’s only up from there, given that Warren Buffett has pledged shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock to NoVo that will ultimately total several billion dollars.

Eliza Manningham-Buller, Chair, The Wellcome Trust

Established in 1936 at the behest of pharmaceutical entrepreneur Henry Wellcome, the Wellcome Trust is now one of the biggest medical trusts in the world. The trust continues to tackle the globe’s biggest health problems, including working on a vaccine for Ebola and a potential cure for three tropical diseases. The trust announced that it’ll donate over $1 billion in 2017-18.

Female heads of nonprofits usually make less than their male counterparts. GuideStar’s 2017 Nonprofit Compensation Report found that male CEOs make 21% more than female CEOs of organizations with budgets of $50 million or more. With that in mind, it is even more important to acknowledge Melinda Gates, Alexandra Cohen, Jennifer Buffett and Eliza Manningham-Buller as 2017’s most powerful women philanthropists.

Seven Strategic Philanthropy Lessons

Although mission-based philanthropy is highly individualized, there are some broadly applicable lessons. The following seven strategic philanthropy lessons, followed correctly, will be a recipe for success in your philanthropic adventure.

1. Align Investments with Mission

Nearly $1 trillion currently sits in foundations and donor-advised funds. This money is committed to charitable missions, has received a tax deduction and can’t be returned. Each year, just 5 to 20 percent of that amount is distributed to nonprofits. The rest is usually invested for the single bottom line of financial growth.

2. Go Deep, Not Large

Donors and beneficiaries alike reward donors when they focus deeply on a scaled-down selection of meticulously chosen key concerns or will cause. Wealth Management.com explains that impact investing that uses mission-related investing, program-related investments and socially responsible investing tools can help you achieve much more bang for your philanthropic buck.

3. In Decision-making, Use Two Lenses

The Denver Post suggests that when setting philanthropic goals, donors should look through two lenses. The external lens helps us answer the question, “What are we hoping to accomplish for our community, country or world?” The internal lens helps us answer, “What am I hoping to achieve for my family, business or self by donating hard-earned money and precious time to charity?” Both questions are important. Your answers inform an effective strategy to achieve both internal and external goals through philanthropy.

4. Create a “Safe Zone” for Family Philanthropy

In most cases, philanthropy represents a small fraction of a family’s assets. Bruce Debosky recommends that you create a separate table for consideration of these assets, and invite all members of the family to sit there as equals. This is a key step toward creating a “safe zone” for improved communication about philanthropy, which can lead to more engagement, enhanced family dynamics and greater impact.

5. Give Boldly and Take Risks

People rarely donate so much to charity that they can no longer provide for themselves or their loved ones. Yet many of us can give far more than we do. Your financial advisor can help determine what you can really afford to give, and then give boldly. Taking calculated risks with grant making may be the only way to find new solutions to old problems.

6. Engage Other Stakeholders

Business stakeholders can include employees, directors, shareholders, customers, vendors, regulators, lenders and community leaders. Each stakeholder offers a different and valuable perspective on the role of the company in the community. This tactic enhances internal and external effectiveness.

7. Give While You Live

When you give while you live, you can learn about and experience the internal and external impacts of your philanthropy in real time!

Philanthropy, done well, is a powerful tool that adds joy and purpose to life and enhances business success. Follow these seven strategic philanthropy lessons and you will make the most of your philanthropic experience!

How Corporate Funders Are Stepping Up for Puerto Rico

According to Triple Pundit, after three hurricanes that have disrupted thousands of lives and generated billions of dollars in damage over the past month, many Puerto Ricans feel ignored. The military, various federal agencies, and disaster relief organizations are working to evacuate residents, distribute aid and repair damaged power grids in Puerto Rico. But private U.S. companies, including  Google, Facebook and other Silicon Valley powerhouses, are also stepping up to offer support and crucial services.

Google

CEO Sundar Pichai announced that the company and its employees are planning to raise one million dollars in donations to various relief organizations including the Red Cross, World Food Program and UNICEF, to help residents of Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands get back on its feet.

Starbucks

The coffee retailer, which employs hundreds of Puerto Ricans, has pledged $250,000 for disaster recovery efforts for the island. The company has also allowed customers to make donations through its smartphone app to benefit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Facebook

Fortune.com writes that Facebook is donating $1.5 million to recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, with the money to be split between the World Food Program and Net Hope. Facebook also sent a “connectivity team” to Puerto Rico with emergency telecommunications support.

Apple

Apple announced that the tech giant’s “community” (which includes the company’s employees as well as customers who donate directly through the Apple App Store and iTunes) has provided more than $13 million to hurricane relief efforts in the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean, including over one million dollars for Puerto Rico.

Airbnb

The room-sharing startup has been working to provide housing for thousands of people who have been displaced by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and now Maria over the past month. Airbnb’s website offers options for users in need of shelter in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, while also providing ways for people with available housing to offer space to those who have been displaced.

Some businesses are lending a hand by providing services and donations, like food and supplies.  AT&T and T-Mobile are waiving cell phone charges to those in impacted areas. Western Union will offer free money transfers to Puerto Rico from the mainland U.S. as soon as the network on the island is stable. While PR residents may feel disappointed in the mainland’s support during this horrible time, corporate funders are stepping up with donations of not only the monetary kind but physical donations as well.