This article originally appeared in The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Sudnya Shroff started off as one of many donors contributing to Fremont, a film that tells the story of a young Afghan woman whose work as a translator for the U.S. Army in Kabul, Afghanistan, puts her in danger so she is evacuated when the Taliban regains control. As someone who has worked with displaced women in refugee camps, Shroff was impressed by how the story conveys the plight of refugees. She was also attracted to the movie because it was primarily a women-led project.
Last year, Shroff went from being just another donor to one of the film’s main producers after Marjaneh Moghimi, the founder of the nonprofit producing the film, died weeks before the film started shooting. Shroff and the film’s other producers had to scramble to find money to complete the film in time to submit it to film festivals, a key step to get independent films out to a wider world.
Shroff planned to give $150,000. She was elated when she heard about a program — backed by Melinda French Gates — to match donations that aim to increase the power and influence of women in the United States, including their artistic endeavors.
“This particular matching program could give me and my philanthropy double the power,” Shroff says. “That was the part that really excited me, that there was somebody, finally, that was willing to focus and target releasing funds in the world of women’s rights.”
Pivotal Ventures, French Gates’s limited-liability company, has committed up to $20 million to match gifts made by members of three donor networks — the National Center for Family Philanthropy, the Philanthropy Workshop, and Women Moving Millions. The goal is to channel more money to U.S. nonprofits that work to get more women into positions of authority to help set policies for the country, in the workplace, and in their communities — and where they will have an equal say in how money and other resources are used.
“We know that when women are in those positions, you start to see different decisions being made, decisions that are more inclusive and more favorable for all,” says Nicole Bates, Director, Strategic Partnership and Initiatives at Pivotal Ventures. “When we think about issues that are impacting women and girls, less than 2 percent of charitable giving is going toward organizations focused on these issues.”
Pivotal officials worked with the donor networks to identify their individual matching program goals. Women Moving Millions and the National Center for Family Philanthropy each set a goal of raising up to $5 million from members, and the Philanthropy Workshop set a target of $10 million. If each network meets its target, then the program has the potential to deploy up to at least $40 million to charities working on gender equity. "While North America is on track to be the first region to close the gender pay gap, that’s not going to happen until 2081.
To qualify for the match, the nonprofits receiving the money must work in one of six issue areas: