Taking Bold Risks and Championing Leadership

By Gwyn Lurie   |   May 20, 2024
WMM Board Chair, Stacey Keare, participates in WMM’s Annual Member Day in May 2023. (Photo by Myleen Hollero Photography)

We had just finished distributing the first edition of The Giving List – Bay Area when I received a call from Stacey Keare, a Silicon Valley philanthropist and Board Chair of Women Moving Millions (WMM). 

“I love The Giving List book; my family uses it for our giving,” Keare began. Then came the question that would change the trajectory of my life’s work and that of our company. “Would you ever consider doing a Giving List Women?” Keare posited. 

And so began my years-long journey into understanding how profoundly underfunded nonprofit organizations are that primarily focus on women and girls. 

More importantly, as I talked with Women Moving Millions, whose mission is to catalyze unprecedented resources for a gender-equal world, I began to understand that the irony of the perpetual underfunding of women and girls is that women and girls are widely understood to be the most powerful lever for the very impact most philanthropists and donors seek to bring about.

Women Moving Millions inspired me to think more deeply about how we can support donors at every level to understand the importance of treating women and girls as a lens, and not a lane, in philanthropy. I became motivated to consider what it would take to drive billions of donor dollars to organizations that focus primarily on this demographic.

And so The Giving List Women was born. We are grateful to WMM for joining us as our first partner in this exciting new venture.

“Women have the unique combination of skill sets that the world presently needs,” says Sarah Haacke Byrd, CEO of WMM, a vibrant, dynamic network of nearly 400 female philanthropists committed to building a gender-equal world. 

In its 15 years, WMM has catalyzed an impressive $1 billion in funding from its members specifically benefiting organizations and initiatives that empower women, girls, and gender-expansive people. Now the organization is committed to unlocking the next $1 billion at an accelerated pace.

WMM sees itself as a convener, educator, and resource advocate, uniting changemakers around a shared cause while also building their capacity for greater impact and pushing forward the broader movement for women’s rights. 

“Members join Women Moving Millions because they want to be part of a supportive peer network with other philanthropists who care deeply about improving the lives of women and girls,” Haacke Byrd explains. “They also seek out this community to enhance their own philanthropic education.” 

Mona Sinha, former WMM Board Chair and current Global Executive Director of Equality Now, agrees. “My community at Women Moving Millions both challenges me to be better and brings me so much joy,” says Sinha. “It is understanding the power that each one of us has, what we can do together, and how we can meet the urgency of our times. The support and closeness that the WMM community offers is a wonderful model to share with other communities and spaces that I engage with.”

The organization champions core values of trust-based philanthropy, encouraging members to take bold risks and move major resources while giving grantees more flexibility. This contrasts starkly with the wider landscape, where less than 2% of all U.S. philanthropic dollars goes specifically towards organizations empowering women and girls.

A critical message WMM pushes is just how strategically smart – and profoundly ethical – it is to invest in women-focused programs. “Investing in women and girls is the smartest social change strategy. If you care about impact, why are you not investing in the most effective and proven and researched way to accelerate change? When you invest in women, everybody benefits. From strengthening public health to reducing poverty, research clearly shows lifting up women creates a halo effect benefiting families and communities more broadly,” says Haacke Byrd.

WMM spotlights members’ stories to inspire others to join the movement. Profiles of young inheritors like WMM members Elsa Soderberg and Vanessa Evans showcase how women are driving social change wherever they are in their own unique philanthropic journey. These narratives also counter staid assumptions that female philanthropists are inherently more risk averse. “Women are truly leading a new approach to giving, using their voice and influence,  embracing bold collaborations, and taking risks in their giving all the time,” says Haacke Byrd.

By positioning members as forward-thinking leaders in this space, WMM focuses on building the confidence of its members to dream even bigger. This capacity building connects to the enormous intergenerational wealth transfer currently underway, with women set to inherit over $30 trillion in the next decade. Haacke Byrd wants to leverage this milestone to make women’s giving even more visible and accessible and by supporting women to step into their leadership.

“I think that women inherently are more inclined to build consensus, collaborate, and ensure everyone has a seat at the table,” says Haacke Byrd. “Rather than making unilateral decisions, women tend to lead through compassion, respecting complexity, and elevating alternate standpoints.”

These inclusive leadership traits prove doubly important considering the escalating crises our society currently faces. “The challenges before the world today are too complex for us to manage alone, or by a small group of men in some back room,” says Haacke Byrd. “It’s just simply not possible to actually meet the moment and what’s being required of humanity.”

Instead, realizing change requires unlocking women’s collective leadership and influence across public, private, and social sectors. Through community building and capacity-expanding platforms like WMM, Haacke Byrd sees immense potential to advance gender equality through bold, trust-based philanthropy. True to its name, Women Moving Millions seeks to exponentially accelerate resources benefiting women and girls worldwide by catalyzing women’s innate power to transform lives.

According to Keare, WMM is only starting its journey to positively impact the rights of girls and women in this country and across the world. “Women and girls are beginning to make a huge imprint on the vision of a better world,” says Keare. “The goal is no longer fitting into a man’s world but creating one that will be better for everyone. A world in which we protect the Earth, include everyone, create new forms of leadership, and work together to make life better and fairer for us all.”


Women Moving Millions

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Director of Community Engagement: Amanda Griffin


Women Moving Millions believes that if women step into their leadership and make big, bold investments, we can accelerate progress to realize gender equality.

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