“We Are Philanthropy,” a collection of short films that feature inspiring and diverse donors, will appear on the D5 blog over the next few months. Produced by D5 and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the films highlight how diverse philanthropists bring their life experiences to their philanthropy as they strive to achieve community impact.
This film features Wendy K. White Eagle, founder and CEO of a capital investment company that invests in and develops businesses with a primary interface in Native American communities. A member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, Wendy has life-long experience in philanthropy, although it was only recently that she began to describe herself as a “philanthropist.” She says, “It has always been a part of my life…knowing there’s an intersection, an interdependence between people and that we had a responsibility to take care of each other.” We spoke with Wendy about what influences her philanthropy and how she works to create impact.
D5: This month is National Native American Heritage Month. How do your cultural traditions and experiences shape your philanthropy?
Wendy: There remain two important aspects of my cultural history that impact my philanthropy today. The first is that I was raised with an awareness of responsibility for more than just myself. The messages I heard when I was young was that it was important to contribute, more than just money, and it was important to bring honor to our family name. That backdrop colors what I do today. I believe that I am on a good road and that my work, and journey, will never be complete. The way I think about all this today is that I am still “practicing” at expressing this humanness. That is the second aspect of my work today.
D5: How are you currently focusing your philanthropy? What challenges in society are you working, as a philanthropist, to address?
Wendy: Recently I became more aware of the connection between income potential and domestic abuse. I have always been an advocate of income equality for women and was aware of how the emotional health and well-being of a woman impacted growth and advancement in the work world. The revelation for me – connecting victims of domestic violence with the economics of professional readiness and advancement – hit home when I became aware of a close family member’s history. She shared with me how she felt throughout her life. I saw the impact of her sense of self-worth in her growth economically. I stand amazed at all she was able to accomplish with very limited means.
I now see how important this connection is and am working on developing goals in my philanthropic work to better align and support programs and services to help women work through issues when domestic violence is present in their respective histories. I see, as a result of this deep connection to my Mother’s history, how important it is to bring these stories to light and how important it is to support women on their journey of healing.
D5: Why is it important for foundations and other philanthropic institutions to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion in their policies and practices?
Wendy: The human experience is expanding today more than at any other time in history. The very human qualities of compassion, love, and understanding are more important in that expansion than ever before. By having greater diversity at the table we can all learn to dialogue about shared goals and differences. This conversation is very important as we all learn to live in our expanded reality.