Isabel Allende. Credit: Pedro Cambra via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)Writer Isabel Allende's books have been translated into 35 languages, and sold close to 60 million copies around the world. Born to Chilean parents in Peru, Allende moved about the world as the daughter of a Chilean diplomat whose first cousin was Salvador Allende, president of Chile during the early 1970s. Isabel Allende eventually fled Chile for Venezuela and later the United States. She has been an outspoken humanitarian and feminist and recently won a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Allende lost her daughter Paula to a rare disease in the early 1990s and this tragic event served as Allende's inspiration to establish the Isabel Allende Foundation in 1996. The foundation supports nonprofits in California and Chile that provide vulnerable women and children with access to reproductive rights, healthcare, education and protection from violence. In a 2007 TED Talk, Allende notes that "the poorest and most backward societies are always those that put women down. Yet this obvious truth is ignored by governments and also by philanthropy. For every dollar given to a women's program, 20 dollars are given to men's programs. Women are 51 percent of humankind. Empowering them will change everything."
Here at Inside Philanthropy we've been writing about a growing number of funders digging into what has emerged as the top socioeconomic issue of our time— ensuring full equity for half of the world's population. I've written about one of those funders, Cheryl Saban, and her Cheryl Saban Self-Worth Foundation for Women & Girls established in 2009.
Allende, meanwhile, has been digging into this issue for some two decades. The Isabel Allende Foundation's website states that it is "guided by a vision of a world in which women have achieved social and economic justice." The foundation's grantmaking primarily involves outfits in the San Francisco Bay Area and Chile. The foundation has a website, and you can submit a grant application online.
The bulk of grants are between $5,000 and $10,000 with several grants going to organizations the foundation has worked with for years hovering around $30,000 depending on annual income. Additionally, grants between $60,000-$80,000 go out annually as Espiritu Awards to carefully selected topics chosen by Allende. This year it was refugees, last year it was human trafficking, and prior years have included reproductive rights and human rights.
Here's a snapshot of past grantmaking by the Isabel Allende Foundation:
In a recent fiscal year, Center for Reproductive Rights received a $60,000 grant. Support has also gone to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, a "grassroots organization of Latina immigrant women with a double mission of promoting personal transformation and building community power for social and economic justice," and Thistle Farms which "provides case management and advocacy to over 700 women yearly."
The foundation has also supported youth and education outfits. In a recent fiscal year, almost $30,000 went to 10,000 Degrees, whose mission is to "achieve educational equity, and support students with need to access and complete higher education to positively impact their communities and the world." Support has also gone to 826 Valencia, which helps youth with their writing, and Hannah Project, whose goal is to "boost the academic performance and college graduation rates of African American and other low-income of color in Marin County." Money has gone as well to La Cocina, an interesting Bay Area outfit which supports low-income food entrepreneurs. A common theme with a lot of this grantmaking is supporting marginalized communities.
The foundation also gives grants to healthcare outfits, philanthropy which is driven at least in part by the death of Allende's daughter from porphyria, a rare group of disorders resulting from buildup of certain chemicals related to red blood cell proteins. Unsurprisingly, sums have gone to the American Porphyria Foundation. Other support has gone to outfits such as Center for Early Intervention on Deafness, Project Open Hand, and Shanti Project, a "community of volunteers and staff which provides emotional and practical support to San Francisco's most vulnerable individuals living with life-threatening illness."
The Isabel Allende Foundation also gives grants to outfits that operate on a global level such as Nepal Youth Foundation, which received a $54,500 grant. Nepal Youth Foundation's mission is to "provide children in Nepal with education, housing, medical care, and support." Money has also gone to V-Day, Survivors International, and Soroptimist International of Marin County. Soroptimist is an international organization for business and professional women who work to improve the lives of women and girls, in local communities and throughout the world.
Allende has been a prominent advocate for women's rights, and money will likely continue streaming to her select interests areas in the coming years.
Related: IP's Profile of Isabel Allende