How One Funder Combines Crowdfunding and Competition to Fight Domestic Abuse

The roster of funders confronting domestic abuse isn't too extensive, but those who give in this field recognize that financial empowerment is a crucial way to help victims. Answers to the question “why don't you just leave?” are complex, but they often involve concerns around employment, housing and finances. Abusers can exert control by keeping victims from the resources they’d need to survive on their own.

Over the past three years, the Allstate Foundation has rewarded efforts to combat this “financial abuse” through its Purple Purse Challenge. Combining grantmaking, crowdfunding and individual fundraising, Purple Purse is an innovative way to raise money and enhance the issue’s profile in the funding community. 

How does it work? Over the course of October (recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month), up to 250 organizations will hold their own Purple Purse fundraisers. Those who raise the most money will receive the largest “purses” from the Allstate Foundation, with runners-up also receiving grants. The application deadline to enter the 2017 competition is August 1, and interested organizations can learn more here

In last year’s competition, the challenge raised $3.75 million to support financial literacy for domestic abuse victims, with over $1 million more in public donations than in 2015. See our coverage of the 2015 challenge here. To keep things fair, the contest takes place in two “divisions,” one for organizations with budgets over $2 million and another for those with less. Last year’s respective winners were YWCA Evanston/North Shore (YWCAs tend to do well across the board) and Safe Passage, Inc. in Batesville, Indiana. 

The Purple Purse Challenge uses the crowdfunding platform CrowdRise to host the campaigns. Co-founded by actor Edward Norton, CrowdRise is solely dedicated to nonprofit fundraising (as opposed to larger crowdfunding sites, which feature campaigns of all stripes). As a result, the service has struck partnerships with nonprofits and grantmakers, such as this rapid-response effort with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy

Fundraising events like the Purple Purse Challenge are particularly suited for crowdfunding. The challenge combines an awareness event and a competition with a recognizable symbol, creating a timely means for individual nonprofits to showcase their work under a collective media umbrella. 

This year’s challenge is offering $700,000 in awards, a sum that’s steadily increased since the challenge first began. Nevertheless, domestic abuse remains an under-resourced area with only a few major funders, Allstate among them, who’ve been concentrating on the problem for years. Other stalwarts include the Mary Kay Foundation, Blue Shield of California, and the Avon Foundation. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation has also made some moves in the area. 

In addition to backing financial empowerment and resources like the National Domestic Violence Hotline, some funders remain keen on confronting a more familiar corollary to financial abuse: housing dependence. The Mary Kay Foundation, for instance, helps fleeing victims find a place to stay through its yearly Shelter Grants program.

Allstate’s domestic violence funding also encompasses its Moving Ahead grants, directed to state-based anti-violence coalitions. Last year, Allstate awarded over $1 million in Moving Ahead grants, focusing on financial literacy, microloans and micro-enterprise, and job readiness. Moving Ahead awardees include the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.