Put Your Money Where Your Values Are

  • Mar 3, 2016
  • maya

By Natalie Kaye Arazi, Emerge California Class of 2016
City of Los Angeles, Lake Balboa Neighborhood Council – Vice President

Women are on the cusp of a revolution. We are one of the fastest growing philanthropic groups in the U.S. and our contributions send a strong message that we will financially support those things that are important to us. “As women flex their developing muscle and money, their giving is exploding in multiple arenas across the U.S. and world.”1

I have seen this phenomenon firsthand, working with nonprofits of all sizes across the United States. A number of years ago, I was engaged by a foundation as their Capital Campaign Director to help raise $7 million to support women’s leadership initiatives, programs supporting the victims of domestic violence, and women’s college scholarships. This was a large undertaking for the organization, and one of the many hurdles we faced was women’s reticence to be named and acknowledged for their contributions, along with their resistance to asking for large sums of money.

I see this often in my work. There is a belief, particularly prevalent among women, that it is distasteful to receive accolades for their financial support, and that this recognition somehow makes their support less worthy or dignified. Nothing could be further from the truth. We need women to step forward and flex their financial muscle, and model for other women that supporting our values with our pocketbooks sends a powerful message. It gives us a voice, and is an impactful tool that women can wield. We worked to address this in the organization as we brought in the first two $1 million+ contributions that the Foundation had ever received. We talked with these very generous women about the importance of letting us recognize them publically for their generosity, so they could model for other women that there was honor in their financial support. We talked about how they could leverage their contributions to raise even more money for these important programs, and encourage others to support the cause. These women agreed…and we went on to raise $7 million in just 18 months, more than two years ahead of schedule. The fundraising campaign ultimately went on to raise more than $10 million by the time it was done. 

In the political sphere, modeling the importance of political giving among women remains just as vital. According to The Women’s Campaign Forum, “[W]omen do not necessarily think their money matters in showing support for a candidate’s campaign and the issues she champions. They do not tend to connect political leadership with positive, productive social change. Women also do not view political giving as a civic responsibility, like voting or volunteering for a campaign.” 2

We need to change that. 

For the first time in a recent election cycle, we saw a decline in the number of women elected to public office. This decline was directly correlated with a decline in women’s political giving during that same period. And data compiled by OpenSecrets in 2014 revealed that of the top 100 individual donors, only 16 were women giving in their own names (not listed as giving with their spouses).

Top five [political] individual donors in 2014, women versus men



Amy Goldman


Thomas Steyer


Virginia James


Michael Bloomberg


Anne Earhart


Paul Singer


Laurie Michaels


Robert Mercer


Laura Arnold


John Joe Ricketts


Data source: OpenSecrets 3

However, this data also shows that when women give to political campaigns, they have a voice in the process and MORE WOMEN CANDIDATES WIN. And when women win, all of our voices are elevated to effect real change. 

The shift towards increasing women’s participation in political giving begins with each of us, right now. We don’t have to give $1 million to make a difference, we just need to give what is meaningful for us in our own lives. Recently I was faced with my own choice when a colleague wanted me to buy two expensive tickets from them to see a performance they were unable to attend. While I love the arts and go to performances whenever I am able, I was torn. All I could think of in this election year were the campaigns of women I have chosen to support this election cycle, in local, state, and federal races. I thought of the platforms they held, and beliefs they espoused. I thought of their voices at decision-making tables, the policies they would champion, the ongoing debates they would influence, and the lives they would change. And I realized there really was no choice.

I politely declined my colleague’s offer…and wrote my check to a political campaign instead.


Natalie Kaye Arazi is an expert on the nonprofit sector, and has raised millions for various philanthropic causes across the United States. She won her first public election in 2014, and serves on the City of Los Angeles, Lake Balboa Neighborhood Council as the 1st Vice President. She also serves as the Chairwoman of the Economic Revitalization and Development Committee, and the Chairwoman of the Van Nuys Airport Noise Committee.

1 Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, “Making Philanthropy Count: How Women Are Changing The World.”

2 Women’s Campaign Forum, “Vote With Your Purse – Lesson Learned: Women, Money, and Politics in the 2010 Election Cycle”

3 Washington Monthly, “In Big Money Politics, Women Donors Still Lag”