Women and Philanthropy | Women and Social Change

I wrote this article on the heels of an excellent luncheon at San Antonio, Texas in February, 2012 hosted by U.S. Trust. This topic is vital to anyone with an interest in philanthropy!

“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 young female corporate leader. During an event held a few years ago in San Antonio, I had the good fortune to hear Lita discuss the fact that women are assuming increasingly influential roles in the workplace.  She is an inspiring example of that 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 wondered over the years about the diamond industry’s reputation; the formation of this far-sighted nonprofit organization changed my mind completely.

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.”

Bank of America sponsored the study referenced above, by the highly regarded Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University (now the Women’s Philanthropy Institute of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy). You will find updated information at the conclusion of this posting.

“Building more awareness about the power and influence of women in philanthropy is essential for understanding how men and women differ in their philanthropic behavior and motivations and to develop effective fundraising strategies …. Consciously or unconsciously, nonprofit fundraisers may rely on male giving patterns to reach all donors … what works for men may not always work for women. The research literature indicates that women are more altruistic, empathetic, and charitable than men …. Globally, in countries with higher female empowerment and greater female participation in public life, the nonprofit sector is stronger; women are an important influence on nonprofit sector development in solving societal problems around the world.”

During the event I mentioned at the start of this article, Ramsay H. Slugg, Managing Director and Wealth Strategies Advisor of U.S. Trust in Fort Worth noted that women are influential in 90% of charitable giving activities, either as primary or co-decision makers!

U.S. Trust is careful to note that while men and women think differently, this not a value judgment, it is simply a fact that nonprofits should consider carefully when developing their fundraising and communications strategies. But I did enjoy this discussion with a representative of Duke University Women’s Impact Network in, “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

Additional Links


With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a new 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).

Giving For Women 2018 Infographic

  • Maha Attal for Forbes, “Does Empowering Women Improve the Economy?” (March, 2012). Maha cites some impressive statistics.
  • 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).
  • Coming of Age has shared an insightful article, “Boomer Girls Still Just Want to Have Fun” (October 26, 2016). “What mainstream brands are missing is that women over fifty control a huge share of U.S. spending power – both in their own right and as co-decision makers and influencers.”
  • 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).
  • 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.”
  • Marianne Schnall for Forbes, “The Rising Activism in Women’s Philanthropy” (February 2, 2018). “Trump’s first year in office catapulted progressive women donors to new levels of activism to support and uplift communities most marginalized in this political moment. Women who once gave quietly are now coordinating weekly protests, writing opinion pieces, speaking publicly and looking for all sorts of ways to level up their work and organize for change. In 2018, this trend is expected to continue as more and more women develop a sense of agency and responsibility and take advantage of the support of donor networks and a growing community.”
  • 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).
  • Tom Watson for Forbes, “A Gender Lens for Giving: Women in Philanthropy Urged to Invest More in Women and Girls” (September 18, 2014). “All In For Her: A Call To Action puts a direct request before the women it says have the capacity to give $1 trillion a year globally: apply an explicit gender lens to charitable giving.”

More from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy:

  • Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Women’s and Girls’ Causes” (May 24, 2016). “Women are motivated to give based on personal experiences and the realization that giving to women is a powerful way to effect large-scale change in society.”
  • “Women Give” produced Indiana University is the signature research report of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. “The Women Give studies provide strong empirical evidence that gender matters in philanthropy. Deeper understanding of how gender influences philanthropy will help unlock a new era of philanthropy and ultimately drive more giving by all.” Follow the link for more.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.