Stories in philanthropy

‘This is not just a movement, it’s a moment’: Deanne Weir

In the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp, 2018 Gender-Wise Philanthropy Award recipient, Deanne Weir, says that while more conversation and action towards gender equity is needed, there’s reason to be hopeful. Her capacity building philanthropic support of the International Women’s Development Agency is just one of the ways Weir is walking the talk: “It’s not about massive dollars, it’s about real impact at all levels.”

Nicole Richards, July 2018

 

“There are more conversations happening about advocacy in philanthropy now which is fantastic, but of course philanthropists should be advocating for social change and improving the world,” says 2018 Gender-Wise Philanthropy Award recipient, Deanne Weir.

“There’s no point in only contributing to projects that put band-aids on problems – we should be trying to avoid the problems in the first place.”

Along with her award-winning philanthropic endeavours, Weir is a media entrepreneur, chair of the Sydney Film Festival and passionate advocate of storytelling with a background in law and communications. She is also a member of Women Moving Millions and past chair of the Australian Women Donors Network.

Weir’s philanthropy through the WeirAnderson Foundation which she established in 2012, is unapologetically focused on supporting women and girls. When it comes to achieving impact, Weir says the evidence is clear.

“Strategies that specifically aim to improve the position of women and girls have greater lasting impact than non-gender specific strategies,” Weir says.

“It’s not about massive dollars it’s about real impact at all levels.”

The WeirAnderson Foundation has supported a range of organisations including the Documentary Australia Foundation, Sydney Women’s FundPlaywriting AustraliaSydney Writers’ FestivalBell ShakespeareSydney Film Festival and the Garvan Institute.

Weir’s most enduring philanthropic partnership however, stems back to her earliest days as a law graduate and the decision to take advantage of workplace giving to direct $10 from each pay packet to support the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA). Decades later, Weir’s support of IWDA has grown substantially and she served as a board member for three years.

At the 2018 Australian Philanthropy Awards, Weir’s commitment to best-practice philanthropy was honoured with the Gender-wise Philanthropy Award which specifically recognised her support of IWDA and its initiatives to advance gender equity.

Weir has committed funding of $500,000 over five years to IWDA which has helped facilitate a brand review and redeveloped communications strategy that has already delivered a 350 per cent increase in web engagement.

IWDA CEO, Bettina Baldeschi, says the WeirAnderson Foundation’s support has been a “special and unique philanthropic gift” that recognises the importance of communications and advocacy.

“These types of support services are often seen as ‘overheads’ and are rarely funded philanthropically,” Baldeschi says. “The WeirAnderson Foundation’s gift directly impacted a number of key projects but more importantly built capacity within IWDA to do more and reach more people.

“Through a sustained investment in our ability to communicate and advocate for women’s rights, we have seen an ultimate impact of a more sustainable organisation,” Baldeschi says.

For Weir, IWDA’s ability to share compelling stories was a critical factor for long-term impact.

“There were such amazing stories about IWDA’s work on the ground, but they needed to be told in a meaningful and impactful way,” she says. “The inspiration for my support of the project came from those very simple stories of impact on the ground and how it’s changing people’s lives. It’s so important that non-profits connect with people on an emotional level and not just an intellectual level.”

 

Action in the age of #metoo #timesup

Weir, who remains an active member of Screen Australia’s Gender Task Force, says she wasn’t surprised by the raft of #metoo and #timesup revelations.

“I think Trump and Weinstein have accelerated a move towards a point where we are much more focused and understand that the time for action is now,” she says. “It’s not acceptable to put up with that kind of behaviour anymore.”

“This is not just a movement, it’s a moment.”

“We can’t afford to continue ignoring the incredible level of disparity and discrimination against women and girls. You can’t be a whole society unless you give opportunities and recognition to everybody.

“There’s no logic in limiting opportunities on the basis of gender. It’s as absurd as saying, ‘You were born with red hair so that limits your opportunities’.”

Importantly, Weir says, real change won’t come about without the support of men.

“This can’t just be women talking to themselves - we know all this stuff already!” she says.

“It has to be a conversation with men to help them understand that the way things ran in the past is not the way they’re going to run anymore and that’s for the better because we’re going to get all these different contributions.

“It’s important to note though,” she adds, “that while we need sensible conversations, we also need to act.”

 

To learn more about gender-wise philanthropy, download a free pdf copy of the Australian Women Donors Network report: Strengthening Society by Investing in Women and Girls.

The 2018 Gender-Wise Philanthropy Award is presented in partnership with the Australian Women Donors Network and sponsored by Netwealth.

 

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