What a “Maverick Collective” of High-Dollar Donor Women Plans to Do

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May 19, 2016; NPR, “Goats and Soda”

There’s a new charity on the block, and it’s recruiting high-net-worth female philanthropists to invest more than just their money in causes supporting women and girls around the globe. In a recent NPR interview, Kate Roberts, co-founder of Maverick Collective, shares how the new organization is taking a different approach that promises measurable solutions to gender-based issues in the developing world.

Each member of Maverick Collective pledges a minimum $1 million toward a “sponsored project” that aims to address issues affecting women and girls, such as reproductive, maternal and child health, and gender-based violence. The participating women also share their intellectual capital and remain heavily involved post-donation as key leaders, even traveling to the countries where their respective projects are based to evaluate progress.

This degree of involvement on the donor’s part is something not often seen in philanthropy, particularly in organizations working in this specific space, according to Roberts, who created Maverick Collective with none other than Melinda Gates.

“I was noticing that the funding didn’t match the rhetoric. So I wanted to develop a platform that would amplify impact for women philanthropists,” Roberts said.

While there are plenty of advocacy and charitable organizations that exist to advance the well-being of women and girls, Maverick Collective’s portfolio of powerhouse females at its helm coupled with the application of a venture philanthropy model stands out as a newish way of doing things in this area of the sector.

Women-focused philanthropic endeavors, especially to raise awareness and funds around issues that affect women and girls, have pressed on full speed ahead in recent years. Organizations like Girl Effect, All for Her, and Women Moving Millions, which could perhaps be considered as a sort of prototype for Maverick Collective, have helped bring to society’s attention the need for initiatives wholly dedicated to issues that discriminate exclusively against women. Scholars like Debra Mesch from Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy have compiled data that tell us women give more and more often than their male counterparts. Their findings have undoubtedly spurred myriad fundraising strategies that take into account that women might actually have a say in their household in how philanthropic dollars are allocated.

Yet despite all this, less than two cents of every international development dollar is put toward an adolescent girl, as noted in NPR’s report. All in For Her: A Call to Action, a report published by Women Moving Millions, highlighted that as of 2011, just seven percent of all philanthropic dollars had been invested specifically in women and girls. Roberts and her fellow lady Mavericks hope that their pilot programs and less risk-averse attitude toward pledging private philanthropic dollars to scalable projects will help bolster the currently meager international support targeted to benefit women and girls.

Whether or not Maverick Collective ends up achieving what it is setting out to achieve, it is at the very least shaking things up, and as Roberts claims, it’s a positive disruption in an arena that has seldom been on the receiving end of such impact. Until more data on the outcomes of this risky yet innovative framework for philanthropy is made available, our fingers remain crossed that the experimental and bold ideas these women bring forth will continue to generate conversation surrounding the marginalization of women—including those on opposite ends of the philanthropic spectrum.—Lindsay Walker