Conclusion

Throughout this book we have offered a range of analyses, case studies, and model initiatives to make the case that effective funders know how to institutionalize deep diversity, an essential step in creating agile learning organizations and democratizing philanthropy. To be effective, learning organizations name Norm, unmasking those often-invisible judgments and so-called “neutral” standards that deaden creativity. And in the process of naming Norm, effective learning organizations tease out subtle and notso- subtle ways that gender stereotypes permeate institutions and collaborations to the disadvantage of women and girls and men and boys. Effective funders have come to know in their bones that funding Norm doesn’t effectively fund Norma—or anyone else, for that matter.

Whether as “bottom up” grant making and/or thoughtful “top down” grant making, effective philanthropy includes stakeholder input and stresses the importance of responsible, mutually respectful relationships between funders and grantees. As the case studies and model initiatives in chapters 3 and 7 document, such democratized philanthropy makes an effort to include those working closest to the ground in foundation decision making and priority setting.

The case studies and model initiatives in chapters 3 and 7 also demonstrate other benchmarks: risk taking on the part of both funders and grantees; funders making core-support grants and sticking with grantees over time, leveraging support from other funders on behalf of grantees, and building collaboratives with other funders that can publicize for public benefit both grantees’ and foundations’ expertise. And, not least of all, transparency—clear guidelines and accessibility coupled with internal and external evaluations of the effectiveness and impact of foundations’ own grant making as well as evaluations of the quality and impact of grantees’ work, all of which enable funders to improve both their own expertise and their accountability.

As we document in the case studies in chapter 3, these benchmarks are intrinsically tied to foundations’ ability to look beyond the obvious in both their grant making and their own internal organizational cultures. Effective foundations have learned to name Norm, to recognize the difference between the good norms that protect and help order our organizations and the bad norms that get in the way of the health of our organizations. Throughout this book we have seen examples of hidden assumptions, unspoken expectations, and unyielding attitudes that make Norm so dangerous for deep diversity. Chapters 4 and 5 showed that universal funding can be effective only when Norm is exposed. Neither universal nor targeted funding for women and girls works well when Norm assumes the face of neutrality, the appearance of being “universal”—genderless, objective, colorblind, classless—and dictates policies, procedures, and informal cultural interactions and assumed values that in fact are neither neutral nor universal.

And despite international funders’ documented history of gender awareness, chapter 6 made clear how international philanthropy also needs to do a better job naming Norm. Success in linking population “control” to improving women’s health, education, and the health of their families, for example— essentially efficiency funding strategies—has improved the lives of many women, but such strategies also have allowed funders to ignore essential, systemic roots of discrimination. When hard times hit, those strategies are too easily lost, or susceptible to calls for gender mainstreaming, which, like universal funding, risks being ineffective when gender mainstreaming fails to recognize the insidious, invisible Norm.

We wrote this book to help both U.S. and international organizations recognize Norm, the arbiter of “proper and acceptable behavior” that too often becomes the unnamed, undiscussable elephant on the table, that invisible dead center of organizations and collaborations that pushes to the periphery all the categories of group identities included in our definition of deep diversity: gender, race, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, geography, nationality, religion, and other diversities—anyone “not Norm.” The point here is that organizations and the people who lead them—as well as those who work in sector-wide collaborations and help manage the shape and direction of both national and international philanthropy—all these leaders must spot and avoid comfort zones and “normal” organizational and collaborative imperatives that reproduce “the way it’s been done” instead of reaching for effective governance, staffing, and innovative partnerships.

The links between a comprehensive understanding of gender to help name Norm and all our benchmarks for effective philanthropy are clear. Understanding gender in the context of other diversities (race, class, disabilities, and culture)—which also means recognizing the insidious, unconscious, and unacknowledged preference for “normal”—is essential for building healthier institutions and doing more effective grantmaking. Throughout this book, we have introduced you to funders who developed increasingly sophisticated understandings of gender and deep diversity. A foundation’s commitment to deep diversity helps democratize its board and staff, helps create a learning climate, and more effective philanthropy results. We saw examples of organizations succeeding when they incorporated the best ideas and energies of all stakeholders into their institutions. And we saw that without those understandings, “learning organizations” don’t learn.

Gender is the thread that, when pulled, unravels the Emperor’s old clothes. Understanding gender is essential for creating agile, effective learning organizations, for understanding difference, and for institutionalizing deep diversity and Norm knowledge. And by definition, understanding gender is essential for practicing effective philanthropy.

The philanthropic practices that most benefit women and girls are the same practices that strengthen philanthropy generally and help foundations to do effective philanthropy. The awareness that women’s rights are human rights, accepted practice in at least some international venues, is key to improving philanthropic effectiveness. Understanding how gender, race, ethnicity, disabilities, and culture are defining factors in poverty, labor-force participation, wage disparities, access to capital, child care, aging, health, and politics—as well as in the development of healthy organizations and healthy collaborations that practice deep diversity—all of this knowledge is essential for effective philanthropy.

We have included appendices in this book that offer basic demographics and links to a broad range of information that readers can use to document and expand much of this book’s analyses. We also include links to evaluation toolkits that readers can use to test knowledge and applications of deep diversity, including gender knowledge. And not least of all, we include in the appendices talking points readers can use for explaining to colleagues and friends why they need to read this book.

Both the philanthropic and nonprofit communities are filled with vibrant, creative people working long hours to do important, often unheralded work. A major goal of this book has been to highlight some of that good work and provide thoughtful analyses and resources that will enable us all to do our work better. We intend the ideas presented in this book to be part of an ongoing conversation. Our interpretations—even though informed by a wide range of research and diverse perspectives and experiences—are far from the last word on any of these concerns. These analyses and resources are offered as food for thought—and some new language—for what has been a divisive, often contentious subject. Our expectation is that others will join this conversation and help point the way to still more opportunities for effective philanthropy.