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Women taking the lead in philanthropy

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Only a decade ago, non-profit organizations were focused on finding the “millionaire next door.” At that time, he was a 50-something-year old married man who owned his own business and drove a Ford Explorer. But a lot has changed over the past ten years, and organizations are beginning to take notice. There are more women controlling more wealth in the U.S. than ever before. Of those in the wealthiest tier of the country — defined by the I.R.S. as individuals with assets of at least $1.5 million — 43 percent are women. And unlike the women who preceded them — who gave to the museum and the symphony and their dead husbands’ alma maters — these donors are more likely to use their wealth to deliberately and systematically help women in need.

Globally, more than 145 funds, with assets of nearly half a billion dollars, exist to improve the lives of women and girls. Many focus their efforts domestically and about a third work internationally. Collectively they now form the Women’s Funding Network and have plans to increase their pocketbooks by another billion dollars by 2018, in concert with a drive called Women Moving Millions, which is encouraging individuals, mostly women, to donate $1 million or more. Their goal was to raise $150 million in three years, a target that was exceeded by $30 million this past Spring.

Behind all of this giving lies the theory that helping women and children is the way to change the planet. “Seventy percent of people living in poverty around the world are women and children,” says Christine Grumm, former president and C.E.O. of the Women’s Funding Network. “If women have a roof over their heads and a home free of violence, and good and affordable health care, then so do children. In the larger picture, it’s not just about women, but entire communities. Women are the conduits through which change is made.”

Some of these new-style philanthropists have familiar names. Oprah Winfrey comes to mind, as do Abigail Disney, a grandniece of Walt’s, who, with her husband, Pierre Hauser, created the Daphne Foundation, in 1991; and Jennifer Buffett, daughter-in-law of Warren, who is co-chairman of the NoVo Foundation with her husband, Peter; both give much of their money to programs that support low-income women and girls. But most names are not as well known — like Kayrita M. Anderson, the daughter of a housecleaner, whose family foundation has given more than $2 million to help stop child prostitution. Or Jacki Zehner, the first female trader to become a partner at Goldman Sachs and whose family foundation pledged a million to the W.M.M. campaign.

Our local fund, The Atlanta Women’s Foundation has been alive and well in the Atlanta community since 1986, dedicated to breaking the generational cycle of poverty for women and girls. They have invested over $11 million into our local community and continue to work in partnership with men, women, corporations and foundations to create a ripple of change throughout Atlanta. But this is not a feat that can be done alone. According to the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, Atlanta remains the poorest city in the U.S. for children – more children in Atlanta live in poverty than in any other city. The plight of women and children is one that is left in our hands, and we, as concerned residents, everyday philanthropists and byproduct beneficiaries, need to make a commitment to helping those in need.

To become more involved with the Atlanta Women’s Foundation, or any foundation focused on uplifting women and children in our communities, visit any of the enclosed links.

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