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Giving Tuesday: Donating to women of color has ‘the greatest level of impact,’ Ms. Foundation CEO says

Ms. Foundation for Women Founder and CEO Teresa Younger joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss how supporting women of color benefits businesses and helps communities.

Video transcript

MARQUISE FRANCIS: Welcome to "A Time for Change." I'm Marquise Francis here with Alexis Christoforous and Anjalee Khemlani. Today is Giving Tuesday, the annual day earmarked for donating to charities. Get ready for a big number-- $471 billion. That's the total amount of money donated to charities in 2020 in the United States. On the heels of that record, there were also some grim stats-- like how less than 0.5% of philanthropic dollars went to women and girls of color, or how 47,000 organizations focused on women and girls make up just 3.4% of all charitable donations given to these type of organizations within the US.

Alarming statistics to some, and a harsh reality to others-- here to talk through all of that on this Giving Tuesday is Ms Foundation Women President and CEO Teresa Younger. Teresa, thank you for joining us this afternoon.

TERESA YOUNGER: Thank you for having me. It's wonderful to be here.

MARQUISE FRANCIS: Great. So when you hear that number, $471 billion raised in all of last year, but then when you know women and girls of color are receiving less than 0.5%-- I'm just curious, what's the first thing that goes through your head?

TERESA YOUNGER: You know, when I heard that the first time, I think I was so shocked that I was like, what does that amount to? And we say half a percent. In all actuality, that's $5.48 per woman and girl of color in this country. That's a cup of coffee. And that's all that we are investing in on the philanthropic side.

MARQUISE FRANCIS: Absolutely. So I'm just curious, how does your organization kind of stop-- try to combat that, right? I know you all are speaking a lot to people. And obviously, word of mouth is a big part of donations. But I also know that 2/3 of Americans donate to people they're just used to donating to, whether it's a word of mouth from friends, family. How do you kind of supplement that with the work that you're doing?

TERESA YOUNGER: So the work of the Ms Foundation is to amplify and lift up the voices of women and women of color-led organizations throughout the country who are working to make systemic change. And one of the things that we offer to donors is to say to them, you don't have to have all the answers. You need to look at organizations like the Ms Foundation.

And we have vetted organizations that you can make a grant to us or give us a contribution. And then we will distribute them. So you can trust that the dollars are going to have the greatest level of impact. And we support grassroots movement building organizations throughout the country.

And you know, we oftentimes try to give room for people to learn about organizations. But when you're trying to make a contribution, you have some in your pocket, go to where you think the greatest impact that's going to have. And for us, we believe that giving money to women and girls of color allows for the greatest level of impact.

They have been the largest movement-builders in almost every social justice movement that this country has ever seen. And so we're an intermediary. We raise the dollars that we move to the field and we support and trust our grantee partners all across the United States and in the US territories.

MARQUISE FRANCIS: I love that you touched on impacts, because I think it's one thing to hear a bunch of numbers, it's another thing to really understand the impact. And so I know this year alone already, your organization has raised $4 million. But what does that impact actually look to these women and girls of color? What does that impact actually look like?

TERESA YOUNGER: So the majority of these organizations-- we all know how challenging this time has been during COVID. So the money that we are able to move to our grantee partners, which are general operating support-- so they're able to turn their lights on, and pay their staff, and move money to the field, and help their communities in all of the ways that are most important. They're able to ask the questions that need to be asked.

And that is really instrumental to having change happen the way we need it to happen. We have to learn to trust that our partners in the field know what they are doing and that they are actually closest to where the impact is being felt.

So one of the things that we continue to stand up and support is that we're looking at generational change. We're not looking at something that's going to change tomorrow. So what's that investment look like? To start investing in folks over years. And the majority of our grantee partners have budgets under $1 million.

So the grants that we're able to make them ensures that they can keep their lights on, ensures that they can pay their staff, and ensures that they're able to service their communities, and then go to their own state capitals and work on the policies that need to make change happen in their communities.

MARQUISE FRANCIS: Right. And I love the graphic that we're showing right now-- I saw some gentlemen in the video wearing feminism shirts. And I think in some way, shape, or fashion, we all should be feminists, right-- just the idea that women deserve an equitable and share in equal parts of this world and, of course, this country around us. And so just thinking-- I love to look at a bit of cause and effect.

So the philanthropic support for women and girls reached $7.1 billion in 2017, which is a large number to most people. But that made up just 1.6% of overall donations. So where do you find the disconnect from the people giving and it actually going to some of the organizations that are most in need?

TERESA YOUNGER: Well, I think the reality is we have to be very intentional about where we are giving our dollars. Sometimes we just assume that we are giving our dollars to where it's going to have the greatest level of impact. And we assume that if we give our dollars to a hospital, or a library, or a university, that it's going to affect women and girls. And that's actually not true.

It is women's funds-- it's the women's funding community, it's the Ms Foundation that is very intentional about what we are striving to do. We are working towards racial and gender equity. And we believe that in order for us all to live our best lives, the one place we can drop the pebble in the pool of inequality is over women and girls of color.

And the ripples that will come out of that will affect everybody in that pool, whether you're a person of color, whether you're a person with disabilities, whether you're gender nonconforming, you know, there are a lot of-- LGBT-- there are a lot of folks who are in this pool of inequality, and sometimes it's a class, sometimes it's race, sometimes it's gender, sometimes it's ethnicity, sometimes it's disability-- all of those people need to feel the impact.

And what we say to people all the time is you don't have to know all the groups out there. But find a group like the Ms Foundation for women or other women's-specific funds that are working towards gender equity and support those organizations. Because they will get you to the place you want to have the greatest level of impact.

MARQUISE FRANCIS: Yeah. Absolutely. And I want to get to the stat that you're seeing on the screen right now, because it's not all doom and gloom. I want to share some positive stats. Data shows that reproductive health organizations saw an 85% spike in donations from 2012 to 2017, outpacing general organizations and gender-based violence organizations. So what goodwill do you kind of pull from these numbers and the positivity of numbers, hopefully donations, increasing over time?

TERESA YOUNGER: So I think there's a reality around where these donations are going and where they're increasing. One is there's a greater level of awareness and acceptance around bodily autonomy and a recognition that we can control our own bodies and our own dollars that are affiliated with that. So it really is, I think, exciting and positive that in 2020 and 2017, we've seen this uptick in dollars going into the field around reproductive justice, domestic violence, raising a level of awareness and supporting those organizations.

We need to continue to do that and support organizations that are looking at healing justice and environmental equity, reproductive rights and justice, looking at a whole cadre of issues. And what we do know also is that organizations that are doing this work in their communities are doing this work around multiple issues and using multiple strategies to have that happen.

And so what we are seeing is, you know, while you may be giving to reproductive justice or to domestic violence, they are also doing work that's looking at health care and they're also doing work that's looking at voter rights. And we want to see dollars continue to go to those areas. And you know, the work of being a feminist, the work of supporting gender equity is everybody's role. Everybody needs to play and contribute to the movement towards gender equity across the board.

MARQUISE FRANCIS: I really appreciate that. Teresa Younger, Ms Foundation Women and President and CEO, thank you so much for joining me this afternoon.

TERESA YOUNGER: Thank you for having.

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