Women and Philanthropy | Women and Social Change

I began this article on the heels of a luncheon at The Argyle in San Antonio, Texas in 2012 hosted by U.S. Trust. This topic is vital to anyone with an interest in philanthropy.


Did you know:

“A growing body of research points to women’s influence and power in philanthropy. The more we understand about what motivates donors to give and how they give, and the more we understand the factors that influence and affect giving, the better able the nonprofit sector will be to engage donors.”

Lilly Family School of Philanthropy (2018)

Lita Asscher is an impressive female corporate leader. At lunch, I heard Lita discuss the fact that women are assuming increasingly influential roles in the workplace.  She is an inspiring example of that very fact.  Lita shared information about the Diamond Empowerment Fund, an “international organization with the mission to raise money to support education initiatives that develop and empower economically disadvantaged people in African nations where diamonds are a natural resource.” I admit, I have been curious about the diamond industry’s reputation. The formation of this far-sighted nonprofit organization eased my mind.

Women and philanthropy is a topic of crucial importance to the nonprofit sector, and increasingly so as time moves forward. What motivates women to give to charity, and how is it different from the way men approach philanthropy?

For women, “believing their gift will make a difference, giving to an organization that is efficient in its use of donations, and feeling financially secure” top the list. “One of the largest differences in motivations across gender is that men are statistically significantly more likely to support the same organizations/same causes annually than women. High net worth women also report that volunteering for an organization is a statistically significantly higher motivation for giving to charity than men” (Study of High Net Worth Women’s Philanthropy and The Impact of Women’s Giving Networks, 2011).

In fact, women give to charity more than men do, and “in some income groups, almost twice as much.” MarketWatch discusses this trend in, “Wealthy Women Are More Likely to Donate to Charity Than Wealthy Men” (November 2, 2018), an article by Leslie Albrecht. “Some 93% of high-net-worth women gave money to charity last year, compared to 87% of high-net-worth men, according to the 2018 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy. Women were also more likely to volunteer their time: 56% did so, compared to 41% of men.”

Women rock philanthropy!

“To tackle challenges large and small, our world needs more strategic philanthropy. Women can lead this charge, harnessing their growing wealth and influence to create a more just, equitable, and healthy society. To unlock the full potential of women’s philanthropy, we must understand how gender shapes giving behavior. To build a powerful and diverse force of female philanthropists, we need to understand more about what drives women to give.” – Women’s Philanthropy Institute, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

During the event, Ramsay H. Slugg, Managing Director and Wealth Strategies Advisor remarked that U.S. Trust was careful to note that while men and women think differently, this not a value judgment, it is simply a fact that nonprofits should consider when developing their fundraising and communications strategies.

I enjoyed this discussion with a representative of Duke University Women’s Impact Network as well, “New Era for Women as Donors,” telling. “Women are interested in giving that is ‘relational’ and ‘motivational,’ such as giving for financial aid, Booher said. While there are women and men who have all kinds of philanthropic approaches, she said that men typically are more likely to care about ‘high visibility, such as having their name on a building.” – Inside Higher Ed, May 11, 2018

  • Women & Girls Index 2021: Measuring giving to women’s and girls’ causes is produced by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.
  • Candid, “Women Give More Than Men on Online Platforms, Study Finds” (April 23, 2020). While women currently tend toward smaller gifts online, they also support smaller nonprofit organizations, which is so important today. In fact, the majority of nonprofit organizations are considered “small” nonprofits. “The study found that online giving platforms make it easier for women to give to causes aligned with their values and interests by curating and helping identify potential recipient organizations. At the same time, the report notes that in order to appeal to women donors, platforms and nonprofits need to focus on building trust and community with donors — both online and offline.”
  • A report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy outlines key traits of high- net-worth women donors. Follow this link to read more (2018).
  • Fidelity Charitable, “Millennial Woman’s Guide to Better Giving” (2021). Fidelity Charitable, “Women and Giving,” is a report you can download from the website. “Women today play a central role in philanthropy, leading charitable giving within their families, using their time and skills to advance causes within their communities, and embodying purpose and heart. Based on a survey of more than 3,200 people, our report highlights the different ways Millennial and Baby Boomer women give and how their philanthropic journeys are distinctive from men’s.”
  • Maha Attal for Forbes, “Does Empowering Women Improve the Economy?” (March 2012). Maha cites some impressive statistics.
  • Barron’s, “Financial Services Coming Up Short for Women” by Dane Deaner (December 6, 2018).
    • “Attention financial services firms: By not fostering relationships with women, you’re missing out big time—to the tune of an estimated $782 billion in investable assets.”
  • Barron’s, “Merrill’s Sieg on a Diverse Thundering Herd” (October 25, 2018).
    • “Sieg said women have $14 trillion in investable assets and that GDP represented by Latino, African-Americans and the LGBT community totals $1 trillion in the U.S. ‘This is a growing and central component of the U.S. economy,” Sieg was quoted saying. “Whenever I am talking about the topic of diversity, this is where I start because I think if we start with the commercial imperative and how intertwined growth and success in our business is with reaching out to the markets that we are talking about today, by doing that we unlock the entrepreneurial energy of our folks and get them moving in the right direction.'”
  • Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz, Sondra Shaw-Hardy and Martha Taylor have jointly authored, Women and Philanthropy: Boldly Shaping a Better World (Jossey-Bass, 2010), which received the 2011 John Grenzebach Award for Outstanding Research in Philanthropy from CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education).
  • Caroline Fairchild for Fortune, “For Women, Being Rich is Not a Priority” (November 13, 2014). “When women are asked to imagine success, becoming extremely wealthy is not the first thing that comes into their minds. Instead, across countries and continents, mothers, daughters and wives are more concerned about financial security for their families.”
  • An article by Kiersten Marek for Inside Philanthropy provides a variety of resources you might appreciate, “Empowered Women Are Changing Philanthropy” (January 2016), and you might enjoy her article, “Forget the Gala. Giving Circles Are Where It’s At for Women Raising Money” (November 2016).
  • Morgan Peck for Glamour, “Cryptocurrency is Not Just A Boy’s Club” (March 8, 2019).
  • Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors has published a guide, “Women and Giving” (n.d.). “The IRS reports that 43 percent of the nation’s top wealth holders are women. Top wealth holders are defined as individuals with assets of $1.5 million or more. These assets are valued in total at $4.6 trillion. As a whole, women control more than half of private wealth in the U.S.”
  • Measure of America of the Social Science Research Council, “Women’s Well Being: Ranking America’s Top 25 Metro Areas,” which was funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. “The study uses the American Human Development Index, a summary measure that combines official government data in three essential areas: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living.”
  • I enjoyed this article by Barbara Stanny in Forbes Woman, “Women, Wealth, and Power: The Emerging Paradigm” (March, 2012). “Generally speaking, men are driven largely by profit, perks, and status. Not women. Once a woman is financially secure, she’s rarely motivated by money. What drives her is an added spiritual component, a deep commitment to a higher purpose—how she can help others and improve the world.”
  • Marcia Stepanek for Stanford Social Innovation Review, “Feminism Meets Philanthrocapitalism” (September 26, 2014). The article came on the heels of the September 2014 meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).
  • The Telegraph, “The biggest feminist fund (that you’ve probably never heard of) raises $1 billion to boost health of women and children worldwide” (2018).

This article was one of the earliest published on Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog. Since then, there is much more information available online. Use Google Search to find more!

Images illustrating this article are courtesy of Adobe Creative Cloud.

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