Women and Philanthropy | Women and Social Change

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I wrote this article on the heels of a delightful luncheon at San Antonio, Texas in February, 2012 hosted by U.S. Trust at The Argyle. I have endeavored to update my links and to provide additional information, as this topic is vital to anyone with an interest in philanthropy. During the luncheon, guests were invited to meet and hear the dynamic young executive Lita Asscher of Royal Asscher of Amsterdam speak. The Asscher Family is considered one of the most influential international diamond dynasties.

Lita Asscher is an exciting young female corporate leader. During an event held back in 2012 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, in fact, one inspiring example of that fact.  Lita told us 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 a luncheon gathering in 2012 hosted by the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning San Antonio featuring Ramsay H. Slugg, Managing Director and Wealth Strategies Advisor of U.S. Trust in Fort Worth, I also learned 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. For more helpful links and discussion, see below.

Additional Links

  • New! “Women Give 2016” from the Lilly School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. Links to reports from prior years are also included.
  • 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.”
  • 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).
  • Anya Kamenetz wrote for Fast Company’s Co.Exist, “Will Women Billionaires Make Better Philanthropists?” (May 21, 2013). “The phenomenon of women being personally responsible for giving away billions is really new. Currently women hold … almost half of all CEO positions in the nonprofit sector. But they are much more underrepresented at the board and executive level at the really big large charities, the ones with more than $25 million in the bank.”
  • Measure of America of the Social Science Research Council has published, “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.”

“Studies reveal that a woman’s innate desire to help others significantly contributes to broader economic prosperity. Consider this: – While women earn 75% of men’s total income, their overall contribution to charity is 93% of men’s (University of Tennessee); – Fortune 500 companies with more female executives had a 35% higher return on equity and a 34% higher total return to shareholders (Catalyst).”

  • 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).

I was in a dialogue recently with the founder of Inspire Women of Houston. I was impressed with her work. Follow the link to learn more.

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