As someone who grew up reading Little Women and Five Little Peppers and feeling that the way to happiness was to be poor and struggle together, I had “issues” with people who had money. Attending Berkeley in the late 60’s only confirmed those issues. When my husband’s business began to be successful, I definitely struggled with being part of the 1%. As I began my philanthropic journey, I saw no reason to have my name on donations and reveled in my “anonymity”. I felt that by giving secretly I was beyond the “ego trappings” associated with the feel good component of philanthropy. But gradually as I became more serious about what money can actually DO and saw how other women were stepping into their power to have serious impact, I recognized that being public had its advantages too.
I like to think that I bring my whole self into my philanthropy. It’s not just about writing a check but trying to think strategically about the world I would like to see and how I can contribute to it. I am personally involved with most of the organizations I fund and firmly support their missions by sharing the work they are doing with others. This often means leveraging my donations. I have found that by sharing my passions with others, I am often able to bring in additional funding for the organization.
I have also found that through my membership in affinity groups such as Women Moving Millions, Women Donors Network, and Beyond Our Borders I learn so much from the other women. I gain new insights into funding strategies, I learn about new opportunities and I experience the power of collective funding for greater impact. I am proud to have my name associated with others.
When my husband and I first started our philanthropy, I spent a couple years reading, researching and trying to figure out what to do. I read about social change, philanthropy, evolution, evaluation, peace, etc. and had an “aha” moment when I recognized that we live in a world that has been “male” designed. From a species viewpoint, there may have been a reason for this (strength, linear focus, survival, etc.) but now the world desperately needs what women have to offer (nurturing, collaboration, communication skills, etc).
This is not about women claiming their place at the table of existing power structures. It’s about reaching that tipping point of women who create a paradigm shift to bring about a world that is more just, sustainable and peaceful. I want to be a part of that world and so I am proud to put my name out there and be “all in for her”. Won’t you join me?
Cynda Collins Arsenault is co-Founder and President of Secure World Foundation, an operating foundation working for the secure and sustainable use of outer space for the benefit of humanity and contributing to global stability on Earth. She focuses her personal philanthropy on women, peace and security. She is active with Women Building a Just Peace Circle in the Women Donors Network and part of the Women, Peace and Security Working Group of the Peace and Security Funder’s Group. She is on the family Boards of One Earth Future Foundation and the Arsenault Family Foundation.