DBP: With such a wide range of women’s organizations nationwide, is there a specific area of work that you focus on?
TY: We do our work a little differently than most foundations because we do not divide our support into silos. We partner with, and back organizations across all industries whether it’s health, environmental justice, reproductive justice or anything else. It’s important to understand the complete range of work done by the organizations we’re supporting. Our basis for organizational development is that we believe women have the answers to help and heal their communities.
For example, there are folks who are working in youth leadership, but also doing reproductive justice and voting rights work, so they span multiple fields. Most non-profits are not doing just one thing, they’re doing many things for their communities. What we’ve gleaned from listening to the folks we work with is that it’s essential for them be able to tell us their whole story, instead of just a piece of it.
There is issue area expertise within the Ms. Foundation, predominantly around reproductive justice as we believe it is central to our work. One of our grantmaking initiatives called Ms. South is a multi-year grantmaking strategy that is focused on the southern U.S. There are 14 key states in that region where we are working to amplify the leadership of WGOC (women and girls of color) and support the sustainability of the ecosystem of organizations. We also have a girls’ initiative, a birth justice portfolio, activist collaboration, a care fund with rapid response dollars and more!
The organization’s position is that we don’t exclusively have to be the ones moving money, we just need to have relationships with those who are. We sit in collaboration with a lot of other philanthropic institutions and by having influence and creating relationships in those spaces we are influencing the broader philanthropic field to increase funding and resources for organizations and initiatives that are in line with our mission.
DBP: What are some new initiatives the Ms. Foundation is working on?
TY: We’re currently working on a 50-stop listening tour across the United States. At each stop we meet with people from all different spaces and listen to their perspectives on creating the world we (all people) deserve and what that looks like for them. On the tour we talk to activists, businesses, professional firms, and beyond.
A lot of the feedback we hear boils down to the concept that basic human rights are the premise of the world we deserve. We’re going to collect all the information we hear at each stop, and bring the information back to analyze deeper issues surrounding human, and in particular, women’s rights in the United States.
We are also doing a ‘Creating the Future’ campaign to raise 100 million dollars. It is one of the largest campaigns for a women’s foundation in the country and globally.