The following is a conversation with Pamela Shifman of Shake the Table and Nidhi Sahni of Bridgespan, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.

Denver: Many feminist movements have achieved their successes with only minimal philanthropic support. In fact, as of 2018, only about 1% of gender-focused international aid was directed to women’s rights organizations. Lighting the way is a report for philanthropy on the power and promise of feminist movements. And here to discuss its findings are its two lead authors, Pamela Shifman of Shake the Table and Nidhi Sahni of Bridgespan.

Welcome to The Business of Giving, Pamela and Nidhi.

Pamela Shifman of Shake the Table and Nidhi Sahni of Bridgespan

Pamela: Thank you for having us. Happy to be here.

Denver: Let me start with you, Pamela, and ask you to tell us about Shake the Table.

Pamela: Sure. Shake the Table is an organization that I founded in 2020, and it was really founded to bridge government, philanthropy, and movements for racial, gender, and economic justice, which would facilitate the flow of resources and creative ideas toward collective liberation.

We named ourselves Shake the Table because we wanted to make clear that we don’t just want a seat at the table, but we want to have a future in which we all have the resources and the power that shapes decisions that impact our lives.

So, Shake the Table is small and nimble and really builds on years of collective experience, my own experience working in philanthropy, as well as the experience of my co-collaborators in the Shake the Table team, all of us who have worked in philanthropy, all of us who have worked for women’s and girls’ rights, and racial and gender justice for many years and felt like we wanted to bring our collective effort to bringing more and better resources to the work of transformation and to the work of feminist movements.

Denver: I like the name, I really do. Nidhi, how do you define “feminist”?

Nidhi: Again, it’s wonderful to be here and wonderful to be in conversation with Pamela again. This was such a fun, an important piece of work to do. So feminism, in our work– and it’s really quite simple– what it really means is a belief that cisgender and transgender women and girls, and non-binary people have full social, political, and economic equality. It’s that basic. 

And what underlies it is this realization and observation that the reason that does not exist is because the power that frames our lives and our systems and our institutions– from family to community, to the political institutions, to the private institutions– power is holding cisgender and transgender women, girls, and non-binary people behind.

And unless we actually observe and work at shifting power, we’re never going to have this equality. So, that’s how feminism and feminists approach the work. It is this understanding that to truly get to this equality, it is about naming, observing, and then working at shifting power.

“…gender inequality and patriarchy are very, very present, and they are intertwined in all of our societies. And yet, the most important thing about this is: it is not inevitable. It is not inevitable. And I think, sometimes when something is so prevalent, it seems like you actually can’t make change. But the reality is, change happens all the time.”

Denver: Pamela, in what ways is gender inequality hardwired into our mindsets, into our policies, into our practices?

Pamela: Hmm. Very interesting questions. What I would say is that gender inequality and patriarchy are very, very present, and they are intertwined in all of our societies. And yet, the most important thing about this is: it is not inevitable. It is not inevitable. And I think, sometimes when something is so prevalent, it seems like you actually can’t make change. But the reality is, change happens all the time.

I lived and worked in South Africa for many years, and there was a woman there who said something to me once, which I thought was so powerful when we were talking. And she said, culture is a river, not a rock. And I feel like that is true.

That is: our cultures are always changing. Our practices are always changing. Like we’re always evolving and moving. And I think that is the thing to keep in mind about how we’re going to transform our society to be a place in which everyone can live with freedom and dignity, including all women and girls everywhere.

Denver: What are some examples, Pamela, of feminist movements or other movements that have taken a feminist lens in recent years?

Pamela: Hmm. Oh, goodness. Okay. There’s so many, and I actually would love to call … on Nidhi as well… because I feel like we can, this is one that we would love to…

Denver: You’re a tag team on this one?

Pamela: We’ll tag team this one, I think, because it’s really, it’s fun to talk about. So I’m going to talk about one in the US actually that I think is a really important movement, and many of us have been following this movement well, which is the movement for racial justice and in particular, the movement against anti-Black racism.

The Movement for Black Lives, which I think many people in this country were first made aware of in 2020, but of course has been a movement that has existed for a long time, but I think really came to the fore in 2020 when George Floyd was murdered. And when so many people around the world took to the streets to really say, “We need an end to this kind of police violence; we need an end to racism.”

And what is so important about that is that movement was really started by three Black feminist women who describe their work as explicitly feminist, right? They describe how they think about the work to end racism as a feminist movement. And I think of this as feminist in nature because what it does is: when you look at how we end racism in this country and around the world, if we don’t take into account the particularities of the way that racism impacts Black women and girls, it is impossible to also undo racism. Like it actually requires an analysis of gender and gender inequality in order to actually end racism.

And I think the power of the Movement for Black Lives, the power of so much Black feminist work in the United States is really because of just the brilliance of many Black feminists, including one of the co-authors on this report is a woman named Tynesha McHarris who is a co-founder of the Black Feminist Fund, which really is such a powerful way of saying that we actually have to invest in Black women and girls and Black feminist movements in order to get all of us free, in order to end racism, and sexism, and misogyny, and homophobia, and all kinds of inequities.

Denver: Yeah, interesting. So feminist movements don’t really exclusively focus on gender. There’s a lot of intersectionality involved in it all.

Pamela: I think it is Kimberlé Crenshaw… who coined the term ‘intersectionality’… really talks about the ways that when we look at oppression, one is not Black and a woman, one is a Black woman, and that is like a compounding… there’s compounding oppression and discrimination based on identity. And so that is so important to think about.

And honestly, if we look at every social movement of the time, feminists are leading it– the climate movement, right? The indigenous women are leading climate struggles around the world, like every social movement that is, that we know about, there are brilliant, powerful feminist women leading. And I’d love actually Nidhi, do you want to add to that? Because I know you’ll want to share some examples.

Nidhi: No. You shared it so brilliantly. And I know the report has a number that’s scattered all over it. I’ll share one that has been mentioned in the report, but it gives a sense of how organizations that are taking this feminist movement perspective can shift outcomes, even within traditional silos that people tend to work in.

And that’s something that we are trying to get at with this report: have people break down silos and think about sectors like education, healthcare, and livelihood with a feminist lens as well and elevate leaders that are taking a movement and feminist lens to this work.

So there’s an organization in India that’s called Breakthrough Trust, and their approach to education,… very often when you see education being done in women and girls’ silos, what you see is this focus on getting girls into school, RCTs on math and literacy outcomes.

And what you don’t actually name is that the reason why girls in a lot of communities are held back, even after primary education, even after secondary education, is because society and  systems have not normalized that girls have a right to their lives, that girls have a right to their choices.

And what Breakthrough Trust is doing differently is they’re actually taking an approach where they’re integrating a study of power into the education system. So we aren’t as 20-year-olds, and 30 and 40-year-olds sitting in dialogues and diversity dialogues and trying to undo learning, but we are building a generation that is relooking at what masculinity means and what it means to have equal agency.

And that’s what it means to start to shift power, and using an institution like education to actually teach people how to live and how to have a right to their lives. And so that’s another example where taking a lens of power can actually shift how you think about what real success means, even in traditional, siloed sectors like education.

Pamela: Can I add one thing to this? Because I feel like maybe you’re coming to this, so I don’t want to interrupt, but I’ll just add one thing, which is, I think it’s really interesting as we face a lot of rising authoritarianism around the world, threats to democracy everywhere. The very people who are most often, the very first people harmed by authoritarianism are women and girls.

One of the first things Viktor Orbán did was to shut down gender studies programs. It’s like Vladimir Putin trying to decriminalize domestic violence. Like authoritarians want to restrict access to abortion. So it’s like they’re the canaries in the coal mine, actually are women and girls. So I think they often lead like the larger struggles for democracy. And if we don’t take seriously those threats, we’re not going to be able to take seriously the threats to democracy.

“…feminist movements lead with an ethic of care and that we are building a more caring society. We’re building societies where the care of children and the elderly and the most vulnerable are actually like the most valued, and that is something that feminist movements all over the world are offering. And I think we will all benefit when we create a more caring economy, a more feminist economy that actually values that work and that values the people who do that work, which is so often women.”

Denver: Pamela, how do solutions of feminist movements differ from other solutions?

Pamela: I will maybe say a couple things about that. I think there’s a couple ways that I think feminist movement solutions are different. One is that feminist movement solutions are holistic and look at both the so-called private sphere and the public sphere because so much of what happens to women and girls, which is harmful, happens in our own homes. It happens in our families, in our communities.

So it is not enough to only have sort of public equality, and it’s not only enough to look at what happens in the public space. We have to look at how we make people safe in the most intimate of spaces. So I think that is one thing that feminist movements really offer.

We talked about  the interconnectedness of issues. I think feminist movements by their very nature are kind of multi-issue and are interconnected with multiple issues all at the same time because as the famous Audre Lorde said, “There are no single issues because people don’t live single-issue lives.”  So that is like a gift that feminist movements offer to the rest of the world.

And I think a thing that feminist movements have really brought to the fore, which is really, really important and has become increasingly important as we’ve seen during this COVID crisis around the world, is feminist movements lead with an ethic of care and that we are building a more caring society.

We’re building societies where the care of children and the elderly and the most vulnerable are actually like the most valued, and that is something that feminist movements all over the world are offering. And I think we will all benefit when we create a more caring economy, a more feminist economy that actually values that work and that values the people who do that work, which is so often women.

Denver: Well said.

Nidhi: Can I add?

Pamela: Can you add, Nidhi? Yeah.

Nidhi: I think that’s so well said. I would just add maybe a couple more things to that in my experience with feminist movements, especially when you juxtapose them with other solutions. They work on multiple time horizons in our experience, so they understand that problems that are lifetimes and centuries in the making cannot be solved in three years. And if you take a three-year lens, you’re actually losing time.

And so they really take this long-term view, and yet they work on the everyday urgency as well. And so they hold these two time horizons in contrast. I think the reason it’s important to articulate that is because that’s not often how donors think. And I think it’s important for donors to understand that without that, we will always fall short on long-term, transformative change without giving people that runway to do the long-term work because you have to see the ground, you have to be able to shift. So I think that’s one.

The other two that I think also important to mention is who is leading these solutions? And feminist movements, they’re almost always led by individuals who have a personal lived experience of the problem. And hence to Pamela’s point, they cannot but  understand the fact that it cuts across silos.

And the reason you are not an equal participant in the democracy, it’s not just about voter registration, it’s about norms. It’s about what happens in their homes. It’s about policy. It’s about the way the system is structured. And so I think they have that lived experience, and it is almost inconceivable for them to be able to narrow and focus in a different silo because they realize that actually we never get long-term change.

And finally, I think because of the experience, they think about risk very differently than other solutions. In their mind, risk truly is about the risk of not doing this work and what happens if they do not invest in these solutions. And because of that, they’re willing to take on the political risk that others define the way they do. They’re willing to take on the implementation risk that others define of: what if you cannot implement?

All those are worth taking because the risk of not doing this work is so large because they’re facing the headwind given where they are. So in our work, we try to learn from them and really try and encourage donors to try on some of those ways of working as well if they’re truly going to be in solidarity with feminist movement.

“And so it is important to understand how is power, both in the home and in our societies, actually impacting how women are experiencing certain issues and experiencing life? And how does that lead to the outcomes because your solutions need to address that. And if your solutions fail to address that, you will never achieve long-term outcomes because you’re always going to be putting band-aids on the symptom as opposed to getting to their root causes.”

Denver: In this report, you do discuss five things that someone can do to support feminist movements. And Nidhi, you just touched on one, which is to reexamine risk. Let me stick with you and ask you about another one, and that is understanding power structures, both formal and informal. Speak to that and also what questions a person should ask to understand the power structure.

Nidhi: Yeah. So, we led with the understanding that this is a hard one to ask individuals to do, and yet if you don’t do this, one will always fall short of investing in feminist movements.

So what we mean by understand power structures is that no matter what your entry point into the work, whether it’s climate change, whether it’s democracy, whether it’s education, whether it’s healthcare, a donor needs to be able to understand: How are the outcomes disproportionate for women and girls, in particular transgender, women of color, women of other marginalized communities, women and girls, and non-binary people of marginalized communities, and then be able to really dig deep into the why.

And the why is often people stop at the access or why aren’t girls being educated? Why do women have access to vaccine? Why are women 14 times more likely to die in a natural disaster than men are? And it becomes more technical. Oh, we just have to reach more women with our solutions.

But when you dig into it and you start understanding power structures, what you realize is, and because of the way our communities are framed, and because of the assumptions we have been taught to just believe, women are very often, women are not taught how to swim and so cannot help in natural disasters. Women are in caregiving roles and are in community; information is shared in public spaces.

And so it is important to understand how is power, both in the home and in our societies, actually impacting how women are experiencing certain issues and experiencing life? And how does that lead to the outcomes because your solutions need to address that. And if your solutions fail to address that, you will never achieve long-term outcomes because you’re always going to be putting band-aids on the symptom as opposed to getting to their root causes.

So questions that you have to ask yourself, starting off with: what is the data? And then asking yourself, like, why is this happening? What are the norms? What are the behaviors? And what are the policies that are in place, both implicit and explicit, that are creating different experiences for women than it is for men? So, for example, when you think about financing solutions, why are women not… or don’t have access to certain credit?

Very often, it is unsafe to put money on your body because a woman’s body is not safe. And when you start understanding that because of the communities we are in, women do not have certain choices or certain choices are unsafe for women, it forces you to both address different issues, but also come up with different solutions of where actually having money in the house might not be the right solution, and savings is the right solution for women as opposed to loans.

And so I think asking yourself, how are those power structures kind of showing up? And then asking yourself, what does it mean for our solutions to actually address these power structures  is the other question that is worth asking. And in all of this, whose voices are you embedding? It would be kind of arrogant of me to think that I can, sitting in my room, come up and understand how power manifests itself– Black, transgender women in the US— because I don’t have that lived experience.

So it is both important, the questions you ask, but potentially even more important is who are you listening to to understand that. And we really encourage people to be listening to people with the lived experience and really using their input as central to coming up with solutions.

Denver: Got you. And in the report, I think you even cite that in Afghanistan, in terms of formal identification, 94% of the men had it, but only 48% of the women. And then you can just take it from there and say, and what does that suggest?  And what are the consequences of that?

Nidhi: Exactly.

Denver: The third one is fund feminist funds, Pamela, and these are particularly pronounced in the Global South. Tell us about these and where listeners can find out about these feminist funds.

Pamela: Yeah, great. There is such a robust network of feminist funds that are able to reach grassroots feminist organizations much more easily than many donors anywhere can do because feminist funds have their relationships with grassroots feminist organizations.

They know them. They’re able to be in relationship with them, and they actually often really practice a much more kind of participatory grantmaking process. So there is a more democratic grantmaking in order to be able to reach the organizations and the actors who are doing the most powerful, transformative work.

Just to share one example, during this really difficult period in Afghanistan recently when the US was leaving the country, and the situation was very, very dire for many people, including and especially many women. And so many donors were wondering: How do we support people in the country? Like, how do we get money in to be able to support these women who are under such threat and are also just doing such powerful work? And we want to be able to support them.

And the reality is, the people who are best able to do that work, who are best able to support women on the ground in Afghanistan were women’s funds who already had relationships with them and could be creative about how to get the money there. So MADRE, for example. Afghanistan has a largely cash-based economy, and so it was like figuring out how to get the money.

MADRE’s grantmaking team sent its funding via Western Union, and then coordinated with on-the-ground partners to ensure that women had  safe transportation to be able to pick up the cash. They also… MADRE  had really prepared for this ahead of time and had figured out how to ensure that they would be able to get money into the country in advance.

So as of February 2022, Madre moved more than $500,000 to women-led, women-focused movements in Afghanistan, with another $400,000 scheduled to go. And that is a lot for that region in terms of what was able to get into grassroots women’s organizations. And so it is truly that those actors are just often the most effective and the best way to do this.

And there are women’s funds all over the world including here in the United States where we have several, including the Ms. Foundation for Women as one example in the United States, as well as others. But the women’s funds list is actually available on our website, and we include that on the Bridgespan, and I believe on the Shake the Table website. There’s the other place that you can look. So you can look on the Shake the Table website for more information on women’s funds. You can also look at Prospera which is a network of women’s funds, where you can find a list of all the different women’s funds.

And I will say one more thing, which is that sometimes funds are not explicitly called women’s funds or feminist funds, but they also are able to do a great job of reaching grassroots organizations that are often very feminist in how they work. Grassroots International is one example, or Thousand Currents is another example.

And those are organizations that are regranters that, again, are reaching grassroots social movement organizations that are very often led by feminists, that are feminist in their orientation, and that are really shifting power. So that’s always a great place to look for donors who are trying to reach those trying to have the most impact.

Denver: Fantastic. Nidhi, the fourth thing on this list of what people can do to support feminist movements is shift your practices. And boy, there are a variety of practices that you list there. Share with us a couple of them.

Nidhi: Sure. I think the first practice is to give now. There is a lot of delay in this sector, and the reason we put feminist funds and really elevated them is because in our work with individuals as well as families, one of the reasons for delay isn’t that people don’t want to give; I think people do aspire to give, but a barrier often is this desire to get it right and to spend time studying and understanding of problems so that you don’t make mistakes.

And the beauty of feminist funds is that you can do and learn in parallel as opposed to sequencing the two and delaying the giving. And so the first one, I would say, do not delay. These problems are already kind of… we are already like decades, centuries late, and it is just getting worse the more we delay. So I would say give more and look at feminist funds.

I think some of the other more practical ones is this unrestricted long-term funding, is one that we are encouraging people to give more and more, in particular to feminist movements, is because as we mentioned earlier, this is long-term work. And the leaders on the ground understand how to use this capital and how to actually be able to shift as needed.

When investors give to private sector organizations, they do not help private sector organizations. I’m only going to fund this one product and please don’t invest in your leadership, and please don’t invest in your backend technology. We actually give leaders the license to do the right thing to create the right long-term change. And our recommendation is to take the same mindset and trust leaders because they know what is needed.

I think the other one is funding the ecosystem, is one that we don’t talk about enough, is that movements really work in solidarity with each other. And we’ve gotten into a scarcity mindset in the social sector. And as a result, we are creating an environment where organizations are competing for funds.

So I would say when you’re taking this approach, and again funds do this naturally, how are you funding multiple organizations? When you fund an organization, ask them for more recommendations. So you are using them as input to reach more organizations. And so, let’s not pick winners; let’s create ecosystems when we are talking about this work because that is what is needed for the long term.

And then finally, in our sourcing and due diligence practices for donors, there are legacy criteria that are used very often because a lot of people that have the capital to be able to put to this come from a world where technical criteria just fits well because they are easy answers. You can measure it; you can observe it. And so we go to that, but we are really encouraging people to understand the bias in their criteria and in their sourcing processes.

And so expand your sourcing channels to be closer into where movements are. Ask your first set of cohorts that you funded for recommendation. For the second, ask funds for recommendation. And then in your criteria, eliminate criteria that has bias, like: what is your definition of good leadership? Is your definition of good leadership white, colonial definitions of leadership about where one went to university? Your proficiency of English, does that equate to good leadership?

And sometimes unknowingly, we are doing that. In a track record, very often it’s a very narrowly defined criteria for people which goes to RCTs and measurable short-term outcomes. Free yourself from that, and really think about what is needed for this change.

And so really going into the criteria that they underreport outlines a number of them because that’s where we see there’s great aspiration. But as donors start doing the sourcing and due diligence, you end up with the usual suspect because you’ve filtered them out because of your framework for understanding impact is often narrow and needs to be expanded.

Denver: You have to look at these problems with fresh eyes, and as you said, even to the second one, reexamine risk. And some of these feminist movements may be a little bit less predictable, but that’s where the payoffs are going to be coming from. You know what I mean? High risk, high reward. We know that in every other aspect of our life, and that is exactly the dose that philanthropy needs at this moment.

The final one, Pamela, is: measure what matters. What matters?

Pamela: Yeah, First, can I just say, I love what you just said, Denver, because it’s so true. We need risk capital and we need patient capital. We need both. The opportunities for investing the risk, it’s so great. The transformation is so powerful, and we’ve seen it. I’ve seen it with my own eyes over and over. So I just think that is what philanthropists are going to find.

And if I can, I would just love to lift up one suggestion that Nidhi gave before, she said this, but I think this is such a powerful and easy way actually for philanthropists to broaden their frame, is to ask their grantees for lists of other organizations that they love.

Ask them for what are some of the leaders and organizations who you most trust, who you learn from? Because that is a very easy, low impact way of just expanding your awareness. So I just wanted to lift up that one piece that Nidhi shared to me.

Denver: And very consistent with everything else you guys have said. And again, not funding in silos, but really the way people live their lives and that’s through an ecosystem. It isn’t one grant to one organization, problem solved. It’s, no, that’s the way nobody lives their life. You’re trying to do it the way people actually exist, and that’s where the ecosystem is such an important point, so I’m glad you reiterated it.

Pamela: Exactly. Yeah. So in terms of measuring what matters, I think unfortunately, philanthropy has too often taken a real top-down approach to measurement, and philanthropy has too often been the folks who decide what is actually measured. But the reality is, we need to flip that. And it’s actually the people doing the work and the movements who are best positioned to actually figure out how and what a measurement of success looks like. It is the folks who have the most at stake, who are the most interested in solving the problems before us.

So, I really love Melinda Gates’ quote. Melinda Gates says, “Philanthropists are generally more helpful to the world when we’re standing behind a movement rather than trying to lead our own.” It’s actually like this idea of really deep listening and collaborating with grantees to figure out: what does success look like?

How do we figure that out? How long is that going to take? What about the deviations along the way? How do we work with that? And coming up with a range of different measurements. So it’s not always going to be like sort of technical measurements, but it’s often a narrative change. It’s often the lived and felt experience of a community.

So it’s really broadening our understanding of measurement. And I want to say, that does not mean that we’re not being rigorous. It’s actually like redefining rigor, and it’s understanding how we can be rigorous and successful in this work, and I think that ultimately is by deep listening and respect for those who are doing the work on the ground.

Denver: Can’t agree with you more. Numbers in a box …the way we have to put on these reports really tell you nothing. So it is a narrative. It is  storytelling.  It’s actually going in there and listening and asking questions and finding out, that’s how you really find out what’s going on and how you can be of assistance. Finally, Nidhi…

Pamela: And to create an environment of learning… Can I add one thing? To create the environment where grantees can share, “Oh, we tried that, it didn’t really work.” This gets back to what Nidhi shared about investing in leaders to be able to try things, to make mistakes, to succeed big. That’s what we need to give to our feminist movement leaders, is those opportunities.

And we need to allow them to try things and then maybe not to work, but that doesn’t mean you pull the grant. That means you figure out: okay, what else can we try? Like, how do we actually partner in this to make the change that we are both committed to making?

Nidhi: Yeah. And just on that note, I think it’s so important, but why are people measuring? Very often, philanthropy takes a lens of measuring to evaluate and to pass judgment on like: Should there be another grant? Should there not? Did you succeed? Did you fail? It’s like binary, but the reason why measure is to inform the journey, to inform pivots, to inform which path to take, to inform what multiple paths to take.

And I think like that mindset of measurement really is, to Pamela’s point, is about learning and supporting and navigating a very dynamic system. And usually, things happen because the world around us changes, seldom because the right decision was made …but you still persist even if the right outcome did not happen because the system requires you to persist longer than you thought.

And so how are you in that learning conversation with the organizations… as opposed to an evaluative conversation, which then creates this power dynamic in the relationship which comes in the way of important work being done?

Denver: I agree. Measurement too much is looking backwards to evaluate what’s been done, and good measurement is driving change in the future, and you just flip it along those lines. Now, after I’ve disparaged numbers, I’m going to ask you, Nidhi, to tell us about numbers. And that is, What is the minimum baseline that you guys are looking at to support feminist movements?

Nidhi: Our minimum baseline is $1.5 billion in addition to what is going in today. And so if you take that over about four years, that is $6 billion. And we truly do believe that’s like the minimum baseline that is needed, and we are hoping people will come in much higher than that.

And how did we come at that number? It’s really very simple math. Pamela spoke about feminist funds. Today, feminist funds give out a hundred million a year. Our research… and Bridgespan has done a lot of research on funds, on collaborative funds, and we’ve taken a lens of funds that focus on gender, which isn’t even just feminist funds.

I think feminist funds, the need would be even higher, but funds that focus on gender can take at least 10x more than they’re getting today. So that’s simple math. You have a hundred million, it’s 10x of that, which it takes you a large way through that number. And this is because Mama Cash shared, I think earlier this year or last year, that they get over 1,000 applicants, and they’re only able to give 10 to 15 organizations funding as a result of it.

And then you think about investing in the capacity of funds, not just the fact that they need to give more money out because the demand is exorbitant, but also funds like any other organization needs to build their own capacity to continue to scale and do it effectively. So we think 10x is the minimum that funds can absorb.

Then if you think about feminist movements today are being given about $600 million a year, feminist movements today get, and in our conversations, and in our interviews, and in our research, and the Shake the Table’s extensive experience with these organizations, one could easily double that amount.

If we just talk about what these movements are being forced to just pay people that work with them, if they can pay it as well. If people just start investing more in the existing work, you can double it. And then there is even more that can be done, which doesn’t include the $1.5 billion. So I think when you take the funds and the doubling of just what goes to feminist movements, we get to this $1.5 billion.

And then I think over and above that, we think there is a lot more than that can be given when you think about allowing them to amplify their work, each of the feminist movements being able to fund new funds that are coming up, new movements that are being seeded as well.

Denver: Yeah. And if you can spend 10x  right now, I bet you could endow some of these funds, and that would be even a bigger win.

Nidhi: Exactly. Exactly. Everyone thinks endowments is like a stodgy instrument, but we think it’s like an…

Denver: I love endowments.

Nidhi: …innovative way, such an innovative way to bring an instrument that we have used in other sectors very often. And we see it with education institutions, hospitals, but if you can use them to really give these leaders of color, women and girls, and non-binary leaders the runway to be able to do this important work.

Denver: Pamela, this is such an important work…

Pamela: It’s also…

Denver: Oh, go ahead.

Pamela: Can I add one thing to what Nidhi said? The other thing around the $6 billion figure, it just so happens like we actually have an opposition. There are people who are opposing exactly what feminist movements are doing. And around the world, we have like anti-gender movements who are opposing reproductive rights, who are opposing LGBTQ rights, who are opposing everything that we stand for.

And the Global Philanthropy Project estimated that they were spending $6 billion on anti-women, anti-LGBT, anti-children’s rights. And so it actually so happens that we actually need to do much more than that. We need to not just meet what they’re doing, but actually surpass what they’re doing. And again, to what Nidhi said, this is really a floor. This is really a floor and not a ceiling.

Denver: The report is lighting the way– the power and promise of feminist movements. Pamela, can people get this report online?

Pamela: Yes, they can. The report is available on It’s also available at the Bridgespan website, so you can get it either place. Also, you can follow us on social media at weshakethetable where we post updates and information that will be relevant to people who are interested in resourcing feminist movements or learning more about the power and possibility of feminist movements.

Denver: A great report and a very timely conversation. I want to thank you, Pamela and Nidhi, for being here today. It was an absolute delight to have you on the program.

Nidhi: Thank you, Denver. It was wonderful.

Pamela: Thank you, Denver. You’re so good. Yeah. Thank you so much. 

Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Trusted Advisor and Executive Coach to Nonprofit Leaders. His Book, The Business of Giving: New Best Practices for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders in an Ever-Changing World, will be released later this year.Listen to more The Business of Giving episodes here. Subscribe to our podcast channel on Spotify to get notified of new episodes. You can also follow us on TwitterInstagram, and on Facebook.

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