4 Ways These Mother-Daughter Pairs Are Influencing Each Other’s Philanthropy

Did you know that WDN has nearly 10 mother-daughter duos in our network? Activism and philanthropy can be a lot more joyful when done with a community – but often, it goes further than that. When we spoke with some of our mother-daughter member pairs, they shared how they are making each other better philanthropists and activists.

She Shapes My Values

Zoe Mercer-Golden (Michelle Mercer’s daughter):

“My mom has always been an incredible teacher, mentor, and guide to me (and others!). She’s profoundly shaped my values, especially around reproductive freedom, the importance of equality and equity, and the need to take the long view in our ongoing struggle for justice. Mom has always modeled what it means to be a person of privilege who also lives into her beliefs, and who isn’t afraid to leverage her power for good. Getting to work with my mom on our family philanthropy, at WDN, and especially as C3 and C4 board members has been a real source of joy and fun for me – she’s a great collaborator and thought partner. I’m lucky every day to have her as my parent and partner-in-justice.”

Laura Merchant (Linda Mason’s daughter): 

“My mom has deeply impacted my approach to philanthropy. For years now, she has been stressing the importance of giving money without strings attached, the impact of multi-year grants, reducing reporting requirements for grant recipients, and of the value of giving in community through organizations like WDN. Having worked at a nonprofit, I have directly experienced the other side of this model of philanthropy. It makes advocates feel seen and supported and meaningfully frees up time to do the actual work of the organization.”

Our President & CEO Leena Barakat (Amani Barakat’s daughter):

“From a very young age, my mother pushed me to be a sharp critical thinker and to understand the importance of rooting myself in a set of values and principles rather than people and causes. People and causes are inherently imperfect and may disappoint, but staying true to an objective set of values and principles will never fail you. This lesson has served me well throughout my life, both as a critical thinker and a justice-seeker. It’s helped me discern the right people and causes to align myself with and has guided me through some of the most questionable situations that have strengthened my confidence and shaped my leadership. What a gift that was! Thank you so much, mom. Love you!”

One of the strengths of intergenerational community is that participants are exposed to a range of experiences, history, and thinking that can cause them to expand past how they’re used to doing things. Some of our mothers and daughters speak to that below.

She Pushes Me to Expand

Patricia Friel (Diane Halcoussis’s mother):

“My daughter, Diane, pushes me to expand my awareness, empathy, and impact. Her questions inspire me to learn more and to be accountable to my values – and she’s willing to call me out if they don’t align (respectfully, of course!) Diane educates me on the challenges and aspirations (and terminology) of her generation. Her presence reminds me to not only focus on current issues, but that systemic change that benefits future generations is my true North Star.”

Amani Barakat (Leena Barakat’s mother):

“Leena has inspired me to be more proactive in my funding and activism efforts by opening up my mind to the interconnectedness of social issues. Through her experiences and perspective, I have come to realize the importance of supporting other causes beyond my focus on advancing the Palestinian struggle. This intersectional approach has allowed me to see the ways in which various forms of oppression intersect and impact marginalized communities. It has also heightened my awareness of the importance of standing in solidarity with others and using my resources to support a more equitable and just society. Overall, my daughter’s influence has helped me grow as a donor-activist by encouraging me to broaden my scope and deepen my commitment to social justice.”

And other mothers and daughters talked about how inspirational it can be to fund, mobilize, connect, and grow with each other. 

She Inspires Me Daily

Diane Halcoussis (Patricia Friel’s daughter):

“It’s clear that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my mother and this is especially true regarding our shared passion for creating a better future. At a young age, my mom introduced me to Social Venture Partners for Kids where I learned about grant making and began developing an understanding of community organizations and the people they serve. She was instrumental in beginning my membership with Women Donors Network and continues to inspire me daily with her dedication and compassion.”

Michelle Mercer (Zoe Mercer-Golden’s mother):

“Zoe has inspired me as a funder to be bolder and to question traditional philanthropy models. Zoe co-founded WDN’s Abortion Bridge Collaborative Fund and our family had complete confidence in Zoe’s leadership and vision when we made our gift to the Fund. Zoe’s donor-activism reflects deep subject expertise as well as strong community-based relationships. I admire Zoe’s passion for learning and growing, as she navigates multiple donor networks, non-profit board work, and trainings.”

Linda Mason (Laura Merchant’s mother):

“Laura is incredibly smart, passionate, and talented. She has worked for organizations making social justice documentaries, used her technical and legal skills interning for Electronic Frontier Foundation, and her passion and talents to help women from the global south get political asylum. She is rooted in community and has introduced me to wonderful grassroots organizations focused on land rematriation and healing justice.”

One mother- and daughter-in-law also love that they could be thought partners in their philanthropy. 

A Most Trusted Thought Partner

Janet Levinger (Mary Lynne Poole’s daughter-in-law):

“Mary Lynne and I frequently discuss how to give back to the community including both time and treasure. Mary Lynne epitomizes the definition of an impactful volunteer. She gave her professional time and skills to a local nonprofit for well over a decade. She spent so much time with the organization, they gave her an office!”

Mary Lynne Poole (Janet Levinger’s mother-in-law):

“Fortunately, Janet and I agree on which of today’s issues need support and activism. We discuss nonprofits and politicians. My philanthropy usually follows her thoughtful lead. Each of us gives both money and time, but in different ways. Her leadership on nonprofit boards is extremely valuable.”

As multigenerational donor organizers working deeply and boldly for justice, our WDN mothers and daughters are the embodiment of our new strategic direction. These changemakers’ stories show us that when we work together with caring, trust, and an openness to growth, the journey towards transformative change is itself, priceless.

If you’re a WDN member and would like to hear more stories from our community or deepen your donor-activist learning and skills, join one of our upcoming events:

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