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.

What is the Center for Disaster Preparedness

If you are like millions of people around the world, you watched in horror as Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath tore up Texas and Louisiana. Many individuals were moved like the members of the Cajun Navy to move into the area to provide immediate help while thousands were moved to donate their hard-earned money to help victims. Most of the giving came within a week of the disaster and almost 80 percent of donations will come in the first month. Yet, recovery is a long-term process. As of September 12, 2017, 692,030 people had applied for federal emergency disaster help through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Who is the Center for Disaster Preparedness?

Nearly everyone who opened their Facebook and Google accounts to be confronted with a request for donations. Facebook even announced that they would match donors pledges up to $1 million. Those donations went to a Washington D.C.-based think-tank called the Center for Disaster Preparedness led by Bob Ottenhoff that has been in operation since 2012. In 2016, this organization operated on a seven-person staff with a $4.4 million budget. This is the first time that the organization will handle anywhere near the amount of donations they are likely to receive. In addition to providing funding for organizations working on hurricane relief, the group assists with disaster funding for lesser-covered events like the severe flooding in Asia.

What Does the Center for Disaster Preparedness Do?

Storm victims are unlikely to recognize this nonprofit in the immediate wake of the hurricane. In fact, they may never recognize the name because this organization is not aiming to do hands-on relief. Instead, it is a clearinghouse that will distribute funds to organizations that are providing relief now and far into the future. It is the goal of Center for Disaster Preparedness to identify unmet needs and encourage organizations to meet those needs. The center takes only 5 percent of donated funds to cover their administrative costs, and it allows donors to determine what disaster their donations will help fund. The first funds will not be distributed for two to six months after Hurricane Harvey wrecked havoc as it came on land at Rockport, Texas.

Who Directs the Center for Disaster Preparedness?

Robert Ottenhoff is the Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Disaster Preparedness who is the former director of GuideStar. Regina A. Webster is the vice president of the center. In addition to working with FEMA, she has managed the emergency portfolio for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.