Help! I’m the only woman invited to speak on a panel


All your confidential philanthropic queries answered

Philanthropy confidential is your space to safely and anonymously get advice on ethical dilemmas in the sector. Tell Regi, our secret philanthropy correspondent with impeccable standing in the global philanthropic sector, what’s on your mind. Go to

Dear Regi, I’ve been invited to speak on a panel but I’m the only woman as we fund in a male dominated area. Would I be letting the side down if I said no or yes? Please help! 

Dear Lonely,

Imagine that you have been chosen to be an astronaut on the next trip to the moon but you are the only one and that’s wrong, so you refuse to go. Do I need to say anymore? Imagine where we would be if Marie Curie chose not to participate. What if Jacky Robinson refused to play baseball because ‘he was the only one’? I LOVE being ‘the only’ on a manel. It is an opportunity to sing for your side. And in order to make sure you and all the others that look like you are heard, ensure that every reference you utter is to a hero from your side who sang before you, or a current amazing leader who doesn’t get quoted because she or he doesn’t look the part. Use the podium, raise your voice, sing your truth.

Brightly, Regi

Dear Regi, I’ve been asked by one of Family Foundation’s board members to write to several large charities which we fund to request an endorsement for a public honour for this board member. It’s not a big deal if I just do it, right?

Dear Welcome to the Real World,

Have you ever read the endorsements written on the dust cover of books and imagined that they were written by the people who signed them? Well no, they are written by the publisher’s promotion people. Public honours of this kind are a charade for the rich, powerful and talentless. As you write the letters, say the following mantra: ‘numpties rise to the top, numpties rise to the top…’

Onwards and Upwards, Regi

Dear Regi, Philanthropic organisations seem to be interested in participatory grantmaking but unable or unwilling to consider funding community-led funds serving the communities they are trying to reach. Should community-led funds continue sharing their expertise and experience with them?

Dear Community-Led,

If this year has shown us anything, it’s that strong support systems at the community-level are absolutely essential – particularly in times of crisis. Some of the only good news emerging from this pandemic are the stories of communities pulling together, of neighbours helping neighbours and of local solidarity. Are there really philanthropic bodies that still do not understand the value of supporting community-led funds? It’s beyond me and, frankly, if I were you, I’d be tempted to give up the fight. However, who wins when we give up?

Watch and Learn! I would recommend watching more cheesy television shows on The Learning Channel, especially Million Dollar Listing, and start charging outrageous finders fees to philanthropies that want your expertise but don’t want to contribute to your fund. Community-led funds are worth a million!

Brightly, Regi

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