April 23rd, 2015
Making Philanthropy a Family Affair
It is a powerful thing, watching people come together to move the needle toward greater justice; even more so to participate. When I have done so, faith has always played a part. I call myself a follower of Jesus Christ. No one cared more for the poor than Jesus. He was clearly a social revolutionary, and those who want to follow those footsteps are called to agitate for justice. Sojourner Truth, Dorothy Day, Gandhi, Ida B Wells are my heroes. I don’t consider myself a thought leader, but I know a good idea when I see one and I love to jump in to be a #2.
I was raised a southern belle in the Southern Baptist tradition. My father was an oilman and it’s been said that the TV show Dallas was modeled after our family. One difference was my family attended a Southern Baptist Church. I went to vacation bible school and summer camps with some of the most disadvantaged populations in the Dallas area. After college, I became a high school teacher in the poverty area of Dallas. I saw firsthand the disparities between communities— where I taught trash wasn’t collected, roads & parks were in disrepair, and street lights were typically broken so it wasn’t even safe for parents to come to parent-teacher night.
As was expected of me, I married a businessman. When he proposed, my father took him behind closed doors to talk about my finances. Neither of them ever included me in those conversations. In those days, women were not supposed to talk or ask questions about money. Men handled money and I was told they were doing me a favor. I didn’t even know that I would inherit some family money until my sister and I read about it in Forbes.
My sister Swanee and I were determined to learn about this money and we attended a Council on Foundation conference. Swanee is an extrovert, while I’m an introvert. She was out meeting everyone while I went down to the rooms with booths, gathered annual reports and brought armloads back to our room. I was appalled; in all the reports, the donors were all wealthy white men! Then I came across San Francisco Women's Fund where there were both activists and donors on the board. So the Boards were cross race cross class cross socio-economic. It was a visionary model, one I wanted to be a part of. Dallas was very segregated; all the people I grew up with came from privileged similar and I longed to discover the rest of my human family. So I asked them to come to Dallas. Tracy Gary, another bold giver, did and the Dallas Women’s Foundation (DWF) was born!
During this time, I had gotten a divorce, and moved with my two children to New York City. While the children were in school I decided to learn about money and how to trade stock options. I made a lot of money, and wanted to give it away. Women in New York had learned that I had helped co-found the Dallas WF. They came to me asking me to help start The New York Women's Foundation, so I did, and chaired the board during its first six years. Our board was so diverse, with women from across the city and from such different economic situations from welfare to wealth. It transformed me to work with women from such different backgrounds than mine and to become real sisters. We became a part of each other’s lives, caring for each other’s children and supporting each other through personal struggles. We sensed we were transforming the field of philanthropy and also being a part of an emerging new global network of women’s philanthropy.
After 15 years or so, as an introvert, I needed to go inside. I realized that I’d never formally studied feminism so I pursued a doctorate in feminist studies. I wanted to study the Religious Roots of America. Feminism intrigued me because I felt that high net-worth women were terribly repressed in different ways, yet had so much power waiting to be unleashed. During my studies I discovered that during the Women’s Suffrage movement, even as activists were putting their lives on the line wealthy women sat on the sidelines!! They were funding the ballet and their husband’s alma mater. Many working class women gave $50, $100 or $200, but the big gifts of $10,000 or $50,000 came from men. I was so depressed about that fact; women gave heart, mind, body, intellect, will, blood, sweat and tears, but not their dollars. This was a major reason it took women 70 years to get the vote.
I suddenly realized that my life’s Mission or Calling had been to shift this dynamic. Gloria Steinem - whom I consider my “north star” when it comes to wealthy women - said, “High net worth women need a private place to talk about the abuse and injustices they have encountered.” I started working with the Women's Funding Network to help raise the bar in women's philanthropy. Women Moving Millions was born. We invited women to make million dollar gifts to their local women’s funds. At the time women said, "I can't afford to give a million dollars," but slowly they began to warm up to the idea. While they might give big to their kids' schools or their husband's alma mater, this was the first time that women were giving to women’s causes at this level. We were creating a new culture of giving and a new stream of funding, inspiring women to fund their own advancement and find their own voices. We called it Women Moving Millions and I told every new member, “Welcome to your place in history!” This was the first time in history that wealthy women were giving boldly for women. There is wonderful new leadership carrying on with this work today.
Today, I’m working with my husband Harvell Hendrix on some of the most beautiful work I’ve ever felt honored to do. I was halfway through a PhD in clinical psychology when I met and fell in love with Harville. He was a Baptist minister obsessed with the conundrum of couplehood and had a passion for transforming the conflicts couples fall into. I proposed, he accepted, and we’ve worked hard to create a good marriage (which isn’t easy!). Our relationship was a crucible for the theory and practice that became “Imago Relationship Therapy". All the work I have done so far had been around women and equality, which tied in so beautifully. Together, we have authored ten books on intimate relationships and parenting, including; Making Marriage Simple and the Getting the Love You Want Workbook. To help people learn to shift from conflict to connection, we developed a series of programs we call Safe Conversations which we’re piloting in Dallas. These conversations take the science out of the clinic and into the community. We use simple tools to help couples learn to relate positively in a safe setting and structure. We’ve also removed obstacles by providing child-care, translation of the materials and the classes at no charge. Dallas is responding! Now we want to create a relationship revolution and take this model to across the country. I have faith that God is once again calling me, this time to be part of this global relationship revolution.