Catching Goodness Through The Power Of Sisterhood

3 March 2016

An article by The Funding Network CEO, Lisa Cotton, recently featured in Generosity Magazine about the importance of collaboration between women and philanthropy. 

Sisterhood Giving

When it comes to giving, the gathering of women is particularly powerful.

I believe that this is because of a particular set of characteristics that they hold: compassion for others; an understanding of equality; and the ability to share accomplishments and collaborate effectively.

I have seen this in action time and time again.

Back in 2006, when I worked as Director of Social Investment at Social Ventures Australia, we acknowledged that our funders were largely male, and recognised the lack of focus on women as a powerful source for philanthropic engagement. This is why we created an Angel Investor Network (AIN).

AIN was designed as an immersive, year-long experience for women, during which members from Sydney and Melbourne pooled funds, met regularly to discuss philanthropy and the social sector, and followed the progress of their supported charities.

What transpired was profound. Many said that the collaboration in the meetings allowed them to personally connect and feel deeply committed to the varied roles they played in the sector, whether that was providing strategic advice, mentoring or sitting on a board.

A key feature of the giving circle was to enable the women members to have a range of experiences and access to different perspectives.

One such experience was a field trip to Forbes to visit Indigenous communities. The members witnessed the confronting challenges that face Indigenous people, and they also saw, first-hand, their ingenuity and determination to create better circumstances for future generations of Indigenous people.

Needless to say, the conversations between the women members around the dinner table at the local pub were highly spirited, and for many, a turning point to explore the deeper meaning of their philanthropy.

In our fast-paced society where so many connections are digital, women coming together under one roof and achieving something together is all too rare. It’s powerful, and it’s working to help address some of our most intractable problems.

The Funding Network (TFN) offers promising collaboration between women with its Women and Girls events, which have been supported by Women in Focus, the Women Donors Network and 100 Women.

TFN is a capacity building model that conducts live collective giving events and enables its participants to meet and pool donations and in-kind support for an impact far greater than they can achieve alone.

In May last year, four charities with programs supporting women and girls pitched at a Sydney TFN event. These included Kookaburra Kids, that supports young women living in families affected by mental illness; Pollinate Energy, that trains female entrepreneurs in India’s urban slums to sell and service clean energy technologies; Women’s Community Shelters, that helps to establish women’s shelters in partnership with local communities, and Enterprise Learning Projects, that works with women in remote Aboriginal communities to develop inclusive, creative and sustainable initiatives that support family and community goals.

As these charities were rehearsing and calming their nerves before their pitches, there was a palpable air of excitement as the audience, comprising 130 women (and a few men) spilled into Commonwealth Bank’s Darling Park Tower and started mingling.

As pitch time approached, presenters wished each other well. They proceeded to pitch for six minutes each, before answering probing questions from the audience. While some were comfortable with public speaking, others called on raw adrenalin to get them through. And, boy, did it get them through.

The goal for each charity was to raise $10,000.

In just 30 minutes, over $113,000 was pledged from 80 per cent of the audience, plus enormous goodwill amid tears and laughter.

Networks were shared, new friends were made and old friendships were strengthened.

As Australians, I think we miss out on so much economic, personal and social value if we don’t create the right environment to enable women to flourish. The Funding Network’s Women and Girls events do just this.

I believe that the secret with this type of collective giving, especially for women, is surrounding ourselves with the kinds of people and behaviour that we aspire to ourselves.

In the right environment, it’s possible (quite literally) to catch goodness.

As former AFR Boss Editor and TFN Selection Panel member, Narelle Hooper says, the infectious energy in the room extends long after the pitches are done.

Now that has to be good for society.

By Lisa Cotton.
To view the article, visit