Shauné Zunzanyika, Tides deputy director of Philanthropy

From climate justice to reproductive rights, girls and young women of color are envisioning, organizing for, and building a feminist future that serves all people. The Advancing Girls Fund is a new Tides Foundation collaborative fund with the goal of resourcing this powerful and growing movement led by girls and young women of color around the world. Shauné Zunzanyika, Tides deputy director of Philanthropy, talks about why this fund is necessary now.

What is the vision behind Advancing Girls? What does it hope to achieve, and over what time span?

Our aim is to shift grantmaking for girl-centered and girl-led programming from a small group of niche funders to something that all funders are thinking about and committing resources to in their own work. Although as a sector, philanthropy has drastically under-invested in adolescent girls and young women of color globally, there’s a long history of girl-focused grantmaking by donors who recognize how central gender justice is to all movement work. Tides has been part of this history; for 45 years Tides has provided catalytic capital to progressive social movements, including as an early funder of the gender justice movement. With the Advancing Girls Fund, Tides is now re-entering the space with a targeted focus on supporting adolescent girls and young women of color.

Over the next three years, through the Advancing Girls Fund, Tides will work to expand the number of donors and the amount of new funding directly supporting girls’ grantmaking. Over the same period, we hope to learn about and support critical grassroots work being led by girls around the world and to help build systems that allow them to thrive. In the long run, we want the sector to recognize investing in adolescent girls of color as central to all grantmaking.

Why fund adolescent girls and young women of color specifically?

When you look at the most innovative strategies pushing social change forward around the world, whether it’s climate justice, reproductive rights, prevention of gender-based violence, or combating racism, adolescent girls and young women of color are leading efforts for change. But as a population, girls and the organizations centering them remain significantly under-resourced as compared to other groups and issue areas. Investing in girls means we are seeding the future and putting needed resources behind girl-led solutions and strategies so that the voices, brilliance, and vision of girls and young women of color around the world do not remain unheard, unseen, and unsung, but can shape the world to come.

Over the next three years, through the Advancing Girls Fund, Tides will work to expand the number of donors and the amount of new funding directly supporting girls’ grantmaking.

How do you define girls and young women?

When it comes to adolescence and girls, the definition remains fairly broad and is informed largely by culture and gendered experience. The majority of girl-serving organizations we surveyed (89%) defined the adolescent age range they serve as 11–24 years old. The Advancing Girls Fund will include a slightly larger range in its grantmaking, including those up to 25 years old.

Our definition of gender identity is expansive and inclusive of anyone who identifies as a girl — including cisgender and transgender girls, as well as gender expansive and gender nonbinary. We understand that adolescent girls and young women of color live at the intersections of multiple identities and social issues; any solutions to support their health and well-being must also work at those intersections.

Where does Advancing Girls live among all the different efforts supporting the rights and well-being of girls?

The ecosystem of institutions supporting the rights and health of girls and young women is vast and diverse. It includes institutional funders, individual donors, intermediaries, girl-led programs, and girl-serving organizations. The Advancing Girls Fund is among a distinct group of intermediary funders who are intentionally focused on aggregating and directing more resources to programs and organizations led by and accountable to adolescent girls and young women of color across the globe.

Building a pooled fund model means that donors will be a part of a coordinated effort to learn with one another and directly from staff and grantee organizations centering girls and feminist leadership. As an intermediary, Tides will be a hub for donors seeking to increase their impact by investing more resources in the well-being of adolescent girls and young women of color. This includes building partnerships with grantmakers who are interested in shifting power in philanthropy and investing in the leadership of adolescent girls of color, but who may not yet have a committed strategy around girls’ grantmaking.

How does the Advancing Girls portfolio differ from the work supported at NoVo, where it originated? What’s the same?

The NoVo Foundation invested in a broad strategy to strengthen girl-supporting organizations, individually and as an ecosystem working toward shared goals. Building off of the work that the Nike Foundation began in 2005 with its initiative focused on improving the lives of adolescent girls in the developing world, the NoVo Foundation launched the Adolescent Girls Grantmaking Initiative in 2016, with a seven-year funding commitment focused on adolescent girls and young women of color in both the U.S. and global south. NoVo invested across the board in direct services, strengthening and building sustainable institutions, policy change at the local, regional, state, and national level, narrative change and reframing, and movement building to increase engagement and critical societal changes needed to support adolescent girls.

The field of organizations working to support girls and young women of color has grown globally since then. Girl-centered and girl-led nonprofits are global and local; they are U.S.-based, and in the global south; they range from staff sizes of 40-plus to a single staff member; with organizational budgets from under $500,000 to multimillion-dollar intermediaries.

This context is important. We come to this work with the recognition that girl-serving organizations are not a monolith. As we continue to strengthen the ecosystem of support for adolescent girls, including investing in both systems and services, our underlying aim is to provide ongoing support to work that disrupts societal structures that create disparities at the intersection of race, gender, and class. The Advancing Girls Fund will bring aligned donors together who are committed to providing multiyear, general operating grants and seek to engage adolescent girls’ and young women of color perspectives, from programmatic investments to decisions on resource distribution.

Our underlying aim is to provide ongoing support to work that disrupts societal structures that create disparities at the intersection of race, gender, and class.

What kinds of work and organizations does the Advancing Girls portfolio prioritize? Why?

The Advancing Girls Fund prioritizes Black, Indigenous, and people of color-led and serving organizations, programs, and strategies that are girl-led and reflective of girls’ and young women of color’s lived experiences. Despite consistently being on the frontlines of movements and organizations advocating for equity, this group has been historically excluded and significantly under-resourced. We will prioritize organizations that are close to specific communities, uplift and value proximate leadership, and understand the context of the places where girls live and learn.

Because we believe girls have the wisdom, knowledge, and lived experiences to address the conditions and injustices that exist in their own lives, we will prioritize funding organizations that center girls’ power and voice. The Advancing Girls Fund will create a girls advisory body where adolescent girls through the grantmaking process can inform decisions on the fund’s investments. We will provide stipends to advisory body participants to honor and pay for their time and lived expertise.

We believe it is necessary to invest in both systems and services in parallel in order to support adolescent girls and young women of color while they participate in long-term efforts to build more equitable systems at the intersection of race, gender, and class. As such, the fund will also resource the design and holding of spaces where adolescent girls, young women, and adult allies can come together. These critical investments allow for relationship building across geographies, environments, and cultures, and help build longer-term capacity and collective power to move social justice for girls and young women of color globally.

What are your funding priorities?

The fund will prioritize organizations that are:

  • Led by and serve adolescent girls and young women of color
  • Actively engaged in advancing gender and racial justice strategies
  • Based in the U.S. and the global south
  • Connected to impacted communities

Because we believe girls have the wisdom, knowledge, and lived experiences to address the conditions and injustices that exist in their own lives, we will prioritize funding organizations that center girls’ power and voice.

We know that some of the most critical work is being led at the community level. Tides will administer grants and partner with intermediaries that have a place-based approach to regrant to priority organizations in order to reach hard-to-fund populations and to support nonformal organizations (individual leaders, girl and young women organizing/programs not associated with a formal organization, small and nascent organizations).

In addition, knowing that the anti-gender movement is heavily resourced by philanthropic dollars, we seek to level the playing field by investing deeply in efforts that focus on systems and cultural change that benefit the health and well-being of adolescent girls and young women of color. This investment includes but is not limited to efforts that focus on shifting policy at the local and national levels, organizing efforts that move an anti-racist and gender justice agenda, and narrative change that aims to shift patriarchal conditions and behaviors, harmful gender and racist norms, and address gender-based violence.

Which organizations can apply for funding and when?

To learn more about ways that funders can support the work of adolescent girls and young women of color, go to our website or send an email to [email protected]