The Power of Donor Organising

Girls and young feminists bring incredible organising power, creativity, and courage to their activism, working tirelessly to create change in every corner of the world. They are often doing this at great risk to their safety, health, and wellbeing, and with minimal resourcing (less than 1% of global funding). Recently we’ve seen this with the girls and young feminists who are leading protests in response to the death of Mahsa Amina in Iran, those fighting the impact that racism, poverty, and colonialism is having on the planet (their resistance has already resulted in cutting emissions from some of the largest contributors to Climate Crisis: US and Canada), and girls resisting genital cutting in Sierra Leone. As funders, it’s taken us mighty long to recognise and honor the ways girls and young feminist organise and to show up for them in ways that are authentic and less donor-driven. As the With and For Girls Collective, we have been learning to show up with the same organising power, creativity, and courage in the ways in which we move resources to their activism and advocate with our funder colleagues to do the same.

It is in that spirit that the With and For Girls Collective (WFG — Collective) recently launched its first learning and advocacy agenda, with the intention to make our own institutions more accountable in our funding to girls and young feminists and reorganise power to drive more and better resources to their politicized work. The agenda challenges us to deepen our own learning and internal accountability practices and mechanisms, forcing us to first focus inward on what we can do to center girls and young feminists in decision-making to meet their needs and support their dreams. From our own institutional commitments and transformation, we are then able to turn outward, sharing our learning and inspiring others to step up to the challenge and be part of the movements that are remaking a better world for us all.

Going Deeper by Centring Girl and Young Feminist Activists

Developing this agenda came at a critical moment in the history of the WFG-Collective, which both reflects its legacy and the global moment we are in. The Collective was launched in 2014, established as an awards program for girl-led and centred organizations at a time when there were very few funders centring girls, especially organizations led by girls and women from the communities where they work. In its first five years, it played an important role in recognizing and giving awards to girl-centered organizations for their brilliant work and demonstrating the power of their activism and efforts on public stages and spaces. Five years later, we knew it was time to go deeper, both in our ability to reach girl-led and centred organizations and in our commitment to shifting the philanthropic sector.

Looking at our own funding history, we recognised that we had moved a lot of resources in the name of girls, but not always into the critical ways girls lead work in their communities. While organisations were receiving resources, girls were not necessarily in control of those resources and adult allies leading this work often went unrecognised in the process. In order to reach girl-led organisations, we needed to build a more robust infrastructure that could meet the ways in which they are working. By separating the activities of the With and For Girls Fund and the With and For Girls Collective, we have moved with a deep intentionality to fund work that girls and young feminists truly lead, with flexible, multi-year commitments and in ways that can reach the informal and formal work girl and young feminist activists are doing, as well as continuing to recognise and fund critical intergenerational work.

We also wanted to change the ways in which we approached the spaces we had created in the name of girls and young feminists to be more accountable to them, their work, and ways of organising. Through deepening our commitment to philanthropic advocacy and organising as a Collective, we have created an opportunity for members to learn together how to transform our own practices and use our influence and power in philanthropy to organise and transform the sector so that it is more accountable to girls and young feminists.

Illustration with activists and funders. The text says: The Power of Donor Ogranising. And includes a quote by Audre Lorde: “Power that is not used is dangerous because power is never quiescent; it’s never neutral.”

Our strength comes in the diversity of entry points that bring us to funding girls and young feminists, from children’s rights to women’s rights to feminist philanthropy to youth rights and beyond. Girls and young feminists unite our work because they show up across every sector and movement. In other words, no matter what sector or issue or population a funder focuses on, girls and young feminists are relevant to their strategies and work because of the intersectional and cross-movement ways in which girls and young feminists organize, strategize, and power social transformation. Regardless of how the members arrive at the decision to fund this work, we all bring a common commitment and accountability to moving resources to girls and young feminists. Because, we all know that if we do not use our power, we will not be able to achieve sustainable systemic change. As Audre Lorde’s wisdom reminds us:

Transforming the philanthropic sector through collective learning, advocacy and organising

The philanthropic sector exists because of inequality and exploitation fueled by a colonial legacy which is clearly noticeable when we take a look at the largest and most powerful philanthropic institutions in the world. It is also visible when we look at the way in which funding is not reaching communities that have and continue to be marginalized and experience multiple forms of oppression. Recognising that the systemic change needed in the sector is only possible through collective organising efforts, as a Collective, we have been working together in creative, vulnerable, and community-centered ways with girls and young feminists. As Sandile Ndelu, Advocacy Manager at FRIDA | Young Feminist Fund — a WFGC member, reflects:

Donor organising has been essential in breaking silos and rooting our efforts in ways that are generative for the ecosystem and transform our common interests into concrete action. It also allows us to move money beyond our own organizational priorities as we know that people’s lives and needs — in a rapidly and constantly changing world- do not follow neat logic models Coco Jervis from Mama Cash -a WFGC member- reflects:

Our role and responsibility is to ensure we are working in ways that are relevant to the needs and context of girls and young feminists. This requires us, as funders, to be constantly learning from and with each other, and girls and young activists, and to be vulnerable about our own limitations and the challenges we face in philanthropy. Based on the history of philanthropy and the ways in which it is exclusionary and often built on a culture of perfection and performance, funders aren’t often vulnerable together and certainly not externally or with partners. Therefore, there are few spaces where funders can truly learn together and transform their practices. As a Collective, we’ve set out to create a space where funders can be vulnerable and learn from each other’s experiences. We are also intentional about cultivating opportunities for funders and activists to be in dialogue with each other. We know this is easier said than done but we have found commitment and camaraderie in the Collective partners and a willingness to experiment and learn together.

Learning together, sharing risks, holding ourselves accountable to girls and young feminists, and experimenting outside of the Collective has already transformed Collective members’ funding practices of accountability mechanisms. As our Collective member, Global Fund For Children, shares

Most importantly, donor organising has unlocked resources for girls and young feminists. The Global Resilience Fund is an example of the power of donor organising in the midst of crisis — bringing together many members of the WFG Collective as well as other funders across the ecosystem to resource girl and young feminists at the forefront of COVID-19 response efforts. Fueled by the Global Resilience Fund (GRF) and With and For Girls Fund members, we have moved over $5M to more than 500 girls and young feminist grassroot groups — both registered and unregistered- in the past 5 years. This also provides more evidence of how combining our resources results in further reaching girls and young feminists. For some, this is about sharing risk and an infrastructure that is built around the needs of girls and young feminists. Many funders are not able to fund unregistered groups or lower other barriers such as due diligence, application processes, and reporting requirements, which are necessary for funding most girl and young feminist-led groups. For others, girls and/or young feminist may not be an institutional priority, but the With and For Girls Fund becomes a place where Collective members can move resources to girls and young feminists and learn about their work. By pooling our resources and sharing risk, more resources can flow in ways that are critical, not only to the work led by girls and young feminist, but their whole communities.

As an ecosystem, we acknowledge that it’s not just funding girls or nothing; there are many ways of being in community with girls and young feminists that extend beyond funding and are supporting for them to receive other resources and access they need. We hold a strong responsibility to facilitate other forms of nurturing and holding spaces that allow girls and young feminists to be seen, heard, and funded to thrive. We commit ourselves to learn with and from girls and young feminists, questioning our norms in order to truly be in community with them.

We are building on the legacy of feminists supporting girls and young feminists in their communities for centuries, often without resources. We can no longer continue to benefit and celebrate how ‘little’ it takes to do girls’ work. We must be willing to show up for them in generous ways that break cycles of scarcity. As Dr. Ramatu Bangura rightly says,

About Us

Jody Myrum has a lifelong commitment to the dignity, safety and freedom of all girls and young people. Grounded in social work and a deep commitment to racial, gender and youth justice, Jody is a feminist activist, strategist, and centers lived experience in research and storytelling to transform narratives. She works across movements, organizations and philanthropy to center girls and young feminists and to move resources and power to those working to build their collective power.

Purity Kagwiria is a feminist activist and a storyteller based in Nairobi, Kenya. She is the Director of the With and For Girls Fund and Collective. Purity is passionate about girls’ freedom as well as enabling girls and young women to access spaces to advance themselves and their communities.



A feminist movement-building hub that amplifies girls’ voices, resources their resistance, builds solidarity and catalyses collaborative philanthropy.

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A feminist movement-building hub that amplifies girls’ voices, resources their resistance, builds solidarity and catalyses collaborative philanthropy.