Women writing philanthropy

Last year, a philanthropist, an advisor, a fundraiser, and an executive director walked into a bar. What reads like a leadup to a punchline, began a nearly year-long exploration of what shared power looks like in these roles when we confront the dynamics of race and class.

Ever since, we’ve been meeting in-person and online, sharing books, articles, and our personal stories. We asked each other questions posed by Vanessa Daniel of the Groundswell Fund: What does it look like when women of color and white women team together to dismantle white supremacy and advance racial equity? What does it look like for white women to step back and share power and leadership with women of color? What becomes newly possible in philanthropy when we learn to listen, and truly hear each other? 

These conversations evolved into a bold new project of The Feminist Press, called Women Writing Philanthropy. We are delighted to invite you to join a group of 18 truth tellers in the gender equity space. Women Writing Philanthropy is a multi-session writers clinic (for all writing levels) with the dual purposes of advancing the conversation on shared power in philanthropy, and elevating women’s voices within it. We are sending you this invitation because we believe you would bring a valuable perspective to this endeavor. 

Detailed information on the program, curriculum leaders Jamia Wilson & Vanessa Valenti, and The Feminist Press is below. We would be happy to share more about this leadership journey and the other feminist geniuses (whose ideas we would love to see in print) invited. If you are interested in learning more, please reach out to Crystal Song at crystal@feministpress.org and RSVP by September 16th.

In Solidarity,

Lauren Embrey, Chantal Bonitto, Courtney Harvey, Vanessa Valenti, and Jamia Wilson

The Feminist Press publishes books that ignite movements and social transformation. Celebrating our legacy, we lift up insurgent and marginalized voices from around the world to build a more just future. Our vision is to create a world where everyone recognizes themselves in a book.

Women Writing Philanthropy: Writing Clinic Program Overview

Leaders in the gender equity space are invited to participate in a writers clinic to explore the theme of shared power. In a series of 6 sessions (online and in-person) starting in the Fall, participants will work to advance intersectional solidarity through storytelling and the power of the pen. 

The clinic is for established writers, emerging writers and aspiring writers, and has been designed to help participants own their narrative power, and hone their storytelling skills. Led by two media experts, participants will receive tailored support in writing and publishing, and support from the Feminist Press editorial team. It is our hope that stories brought forth from this project will form a guidebook for a new feminist conversation about philanthropy, rooted in interdependence, beloved community, and transformative truth. 

The goals of the clinic are threefold: 1) advance the conversation on shared power in philanthropy; 2) increase the visibility of women in philanthropic conversations; and 3) strengthen participant’s writing skills and confidence.

Duration: October 2019-June 2020

Participants: A curated group of multiracial, intergenerational, and otherwise diverse women leaders in the gender equity space including philanthropists, foundation executives, executive directors, development directors and other relevant stakeholders for a cohort of between 15-18 participants.

Writing clinic architects and editors: Jamia Wilson and Vanessa Valenti from Fresh Speakers will provide meeting space and facilitate the clinic, leading writing prompts and sharing their storytelling expertise to help guide and support participants. Editorial and copywriting support will come from Feminist Press staff, including Lauren Hook, Senior Editor and Nick Whitney, Editorial Assistant. 

Clinic Timeline and Content At-A-Glance: Over eight months, participants will gather for six sessions held in-person and online. Each session will be accompanied with a writing/resource prompt that will serve as an icebreaker and point of departure for discussion and narrative building. Participants will receive these prompts and accompanying resources in advance in a clinic specific workbook. All in-person sessions will take place at the Feminist Press at the City University of New York.

  • November 8, 2019: Launch first day-long writing clinic: Cover community agreements, introduce effective storytelling framework tools via skill building, practice free-writing prompts, provide tips to overcome writer’s block, and engage in community building exercises. By the end of the day, the team will craft a group mission statement and brief manifesto about the intersection of gender, race, philanthropy and the importance of co-writing a new narrative of shared power in the present and future.

  • January 10, 2020: In-Person letter writing and article planning workshop: Using the manifesto, facilitated writing exercises, and narrative frameworks as a guide, participants will author letters to themselves, to their constituents, to their grantees, and/or their donor partners and supporters about their vision for shared power. Participants will workshop these letters together at the end of the day to identify through-lines, points of synergy, divergent theories of change, and possibilities for co-authoring. Attendees will take the letters they have written and identify opportunities to shape these into article themes, and pieces for online, print, or book/book proposal publication. They will be encouraged to partner with each other to co-author pieces when possible and appropriate. Facilitators will provide tools to help participants draft editorial calendars and work plans to actualize their ideas. 

  • January 24, 2020: Pitch and planning session-Zoom conference and interactive and individual coaching time- Following an AM webinar on author resources such as pitching, placement, book proposal writing, participants will engage with Jamia and Vanessa for direct feedback on their individual and/or team writing plans, media pitch ideas, and story outlines. These times will be scheduled throughout the day and conducted virtually.

  • February 7, 2020: In-Person writing clinic and workshop: Attendees will bring drafts of their work to this session for discussion and review. The circle will check-in on progress, and engage in feedback, workshopping, and editorial development activities. After a session on how to give constructive writing feedback, participants will work with each other to share insights and sharpen their prose in a supportive and collaborative community. Participants will finalize their pieces and begin pitching as soon as they are done in time for Women’s History Month placements in March and beyond.

  • March/April TBD, 2020: Zoom conference for pitch, publicity and marketing, check-ins, individual coaching and editing: for longer term projects, and provide online space for a community feedback session. 

  • May 15, 2020-The Final Gathering: Participants will meet to discuss the outcomes of their projects and whether they would like to co-author a joint book proposal or compile an anthology together based on the writing they generated as a community. Attendees will be encouraged to pair up as writing accountability partners and will receive tips on how to keep their creativity and output flowing.

Fees: We invite participants to support programmatic and editing costs. Core support from the Embrey Family Foundation has allowed us to keep fees low, and we invite a conversation if they are still prohibitive.

  • Individual participant: $500

  • Non-profit supported participant: $1,000

  • Foundation supported participant: $1,500

Facilitator Bios

Jamia Wilson is an activist, feminist leader, writer, and speaker. As director of the Feminist Press at the City University of New York and the former VP of programs at the Women’s Media Center, Jamia has been a leading voice on women’s rights issues for over a decade. Her work has appeared in numerous outlets, including the New York Times, the Today Show, CNN, Elle, BBC, Rookie, Refinery 29, Glamour, and The Washington Post. She is the author of Young, Gifted, and Black, the introduction and oral history in Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World, and Step Into Your Power: 23 Lessons on How to Live Your Best Life.

She lives in New York City and serves on the board of directors for the Omega Institute and the Groundswell Fund.

Vanessa Valenti is a social entrepreneur, writer, and activist. She the CEO and Co-Founder of FRESH Speakers, a next generation speakers bureau focused on diversifying public speaking, and is a Partner of Valenti Martin Media, a social change communications consultancy. Valenti also co-created the award-winning blog Feministing.com, and #femfuture, an experimental initiative on building sustainability and impact in online feminism. 

Over the last decade, Vanessa has worked with a range of institutions and organizations across the globe, including TED, Intel, the Gates Foundation, UN Women, The Clinton Global Initiative, Planned Parenthood, Women Deliver, and more, plotting and creating online movement-building, content development and curation, and storytelling, both online and on stage. 

She has won several awards for her activist work and Feministing, including the Hillman Prize for Exemplary Reporting that Fosters Social and Economic Justice. Most recently, she was the 2016 recipient of the TED Residency, where she delivered a TED talk on how we can inspire minds to redesign thought leadership.

Feminist Press Organization Overview

The longest-running feminist publisher in the world, the Feminist Press began in 1970 as a revolutionary intervention to disrupt the white-male-dominated literary canon. As with many branches of the mainstream media, the publishing industry is demographically homogeneous. A 2015 survey conducted by Lee & Low Books estimated that the industry is 79 percent white, 88 percent heterosexual, 99 percent cisgender, and 92 percent nondisabled. 

Those represented by these statistics are the gatekeepers of their industry, determining who gets hired and promoted within the field, and whose stories are worthy of print.

Throughout its nearly fifty-year history, our organization has been dedicated to amplifying the voices of those who are relegated to the margins of society due to their gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, and/or ability. We publish in order to enact transformative change in the world, targeting three levels of impact. We seek, first, to empower our authors with the platform to tell their stories, and to provide them with the resources to sustain their creative work. Our books have transformative effects on readers as well: they may educate, inspire, challenge, affirm, and galvanize to action. Finally, through our publications, we seek to shift public discourse and foster systemic change by offering compelling alternatives, critiques, and novel possibilities to the hegemonic narratives that too often rule our culture.

Our commitment to a vibrant, inclusive feminist community underpins everything we do. It inspires us to cultivate unexpected and untold stories, promote creative innovation, and invite the broadest possible audience into conversations about literature, feminism, and social justice.