Radical Generosity

Ana Oliveira President and CEO
July 12, 2018 News

Welcome to our new blog!

If you’ve been keeping up with us, then you know that for the past 31 years, The New York Women’s Foundation has been investing in programs, organizations, and people working to make gender, racial, and economic justice a reality.  But for those of you just getting to know us, allow me to fill you in.

The Foundation was founded by a group of fierce women who shared three revolutionary beliefs: (1) problems and solutions live in the same place; (2) communities know best how to fix problems they experience; and (3) philanthropy is more powerful when it is collective and inclusive.  Put together, these beliefs embody what we think of as Radical Generosity.

As a community foundation, we are backers of women leaders and their nascent organizations and programs in New York City.  While some might characterize our bold early investment strategy as risk-taking, we don’t see it that way because of our confidence in local leaders who have solutions to local problems. What they need is funding, plus investment in their leadership— which we provide via coaching, mentoring, and opportunities to network with other visionaries—and opportunities for visibility. In fact, over 80 percent of organizations funded by The Foundation in the last 31 years are still in business—robustly supporting underinvested communities across the five boroughs.

Time and again, we have seen our “risk”—often the first or largest grant an organization has received—underwrite immense transformations.  Here is just one example: The Foundation was the first funder of Restaurant Opportunities Center NY (ROC), which launched out of the ashes of 9/11 to help Windows on the World restaurant workers grieve, heal, and figure out what to do next. ROC NY grew from a vibrant local organization to a powerful national labor organization, advocating to improve wages and working conditions for the 14 million people across the country who work in America’s restaurant industry through campaigns like One Fair Wage.

Our community focus extends to how we approach grantmaking.  We follow a participatory strategy that challenges traditional notions of how philanthropy works.  We involve community members in the decision-making process itself, bringing together women from every corner of the city to learn about—and from—the ground-level efforts of our grantee partners.  We entrust them to use that knowledge to help choose the next set of our grant recipients.

We also challenge the idea of who can be a philanthropist.  From the beginning, we have told our supporters, “come as you are and give what you can,” and value the $10 donations to our efforts as much as the million dollar pledges.  We embrace the power of collective action to create change and so you will find that philanthropists from every level are embraced by The New York Women’s Foundation.  The collective of radically generous donors that we have created has enabled The Foundation to give $66 million to more than 350 organizations since it was founded!

Now we are working on fostering a new generation of philanthropists who see investment as something that depends as much on community involvement as it does on money.  How are we doing this? One way is by cultivating new philanthropists among young women of color—leaders whose voices need to be heard—through our “girls in grantmaking” program in partnership with the YWCA of New York.

As we expand the idea of who makes philanthropic decisions—and see the combined effect of many women giving gifts that are meaningful to them—we create alliances with the power to transform the lives of so many underinvested women and families.  We also activate a lever that can dismantle the racism, sexism, and elitism that exists in the world of philanthropy and giving.

In these difficult times, we must embrace a new kind of Radical Generosity, an inclusive philanthropy where communities with varied resources work together. Because generosity is more than an act. It is the coupling of action and hope.

I hope you enjoyed our first post and invite you to subscribe to our blog below.


We asked our supporters what “radical generosity” means to them. Here are some of their responses!

“Bold, purpose-driven philanthropy.”

“Innovative, risk-taking philanthropy.”

“Rethinking how we give… both in terms of type of giving, amount, and who we give to. It’s time to take risks.”

“Being generous in disruptive and varied ways—by donating your intellectual equity, providing leadership, word of mouth support, in addition to financial giving.”

“Giving until it hurts.”

“Going where no funders have gone before! Daring to support organizations and leaders whose visions challenge us to think harder and stronger about organic and sustainable solutions to seemingly insoluble societal inequities. We can foster change by giving at the strongest levels we can.”

“It means that when I make generous donations I also equip The Foundation to be bold in its grantmaking and support of community groups who need it the most.”

 “Pushing beyond perceived limits of giving.”

 Tell us what radical generosity means to you! Write to us at

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