A Foundation That's Helping Domestic Violence Victims Find a Way Out

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and most of us can agree that more awareness is needed. Research from the CDC presents us with the disturbing fact that one in three American women experience some form of intimate partner violence during their lifetimes. Ten million people (including men) suffer from this violence every year. The unspoken corollary is that a significant fraction of the populace (especially men) is committing these acts on a regular basis.

With that in mind, we keep track of the funders dedicating resources to this underreported problem. Despite the scope and consequences, funders are still surprisingly scarce. The Mary Kay Foundation is one stalwart in this space, and we’ve reported on its annual Shelter Grants program before. This year, it’s keeping the money flowing to 150 domestic violence shelters across the country. Each organization got $20,000, bringing the total outlay to $3 million. Mary Kay’s total history of giving to shelters comes up to $38.6 million.

The Mary Kay Foundation got started in 1996 as a charitable arm of Mary Kay Ash’s cosmetics giant. Until 2000, its grants went to cancer research. The year before Ash’s death, the foundation added a second mission: addressing domestic abuse. Its grantmaking has retained a dual focus on those issues since then. Mary Kay Inc. is the foundation’s foremost fiscal sponsor, but it benefits from the partnership of several other major corporations. For its foundation’s grantmaking, Mary Kay Inc. raises money via lipstick sales through its “Beauty That Counts” initiative.


Mary Kay’s focus on shelters highlights the links between domestic violence, homelessness, and affordable housing. When you’re being attacked, the usual reaction is to get out of there, but many women can’t do that. Lacking shelters and adequate support services, some wind up homeless. Exorbitant housing costs in some cities only add to the problem.

That brings up a another challenge: some victims of domestic abuse don’t have the financial resources, access, or knowledge to escape their situation. In what is known as financial abuse, some abusers exert control by unlawfully withholding money from their partners. Recently, funders like the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the Allstate Foundation have been addressing this issue, funding financial literacy programs for women at risk.

Another beauty brand with its eyes on domestic violence is Avon, whose foundation has been an active giver to boost domestic abuse hotlines and curtail sexual assault on campus. (While the details can differ, most cases of both domestic and sexual violence qualify as violence from an intimate partner.) In 2013, Avon gave $38 million to U.S. organizations fighting domestic violence. Other beauty firms like Haughty Cosmetics have also funded the issue, prompting the thought that while it might seem “fitting” for makeup companies to fund a so-called “women’s issue,” they shouldn’t be the only ones doing so.

To be fair, there are some other philanthropic leaders in this space besides the cosmetics industry. We’ve mentioned SVCF and Allstate. In response to a stream of domestic abuse allegations against professional athletes, the NFL has been a tentative funder. The Blue Shield of California Foundation has emerged as a leading funder of domestic violence prevention, viewing the problem as a part of whole-person healthcare. Other recent funders include the Peabody Charitable Fund and Nestle Purina PetCare.