Gender Matters – How Women Are Changing Philanthropy
I’ve been in the philanthropic sector for 35 years as a female donor, fundraiser, and nonprofit leader. In that time, I’ve seen women’s power and earnings grow and the philanthropic sector repeatedly fail to take full advantage of this new reality.
The for-profit world has begun to adapt to the rise of women’s influence and economic clout – in their strategy, training, conversations and advertising. They know their bottom line depends on following the money and the decision-makers of today: women. In contrast, the clear majority of nonprofits and universities still use fundraising practices that either turn off women or gain minimal support from them. So much more is possible.
What does the for-profit world know that nonprofits don’t?
Women Are Driving Change in Business, the Workplace, and the Home
Women are driving an economic shift. They are the majority in undergraduate settings. With increased education comes increased earnings. They hold 51 percent of managerial and professional positions in the US workforce. They are making 83 percent of household consumer decisions for themselves and their families.
The two biggest indicators for philanthropic intent are education and earnings. Looking at the economic shift above, it stands to reason that women now have the potential for increased and influential roles in philanthropy.
The Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University has existed in various forms for more than 25 years. WPI provides in-depth research around the differing philanthropic motivations and giving patterns of men and women. WPI Studies have found that married and single women are more likely to give than men in similar situations. Older women are more likely to give to charity than men of the same age. Women’s patterns of giving are broader than men’s – they tend to spread out their giving. These and dozens of other findings are on WPI’s website.
The economic shifts, the greater influence of women, and the well-researched facts of how women give make it imperative to connect in meaningful ways with the women who are supporting our missions.
What is the Potential of Women Donors?
When we take action to show that gender matters and adapt our strategies and behaviors to more deeply resonate with half of our donor population, we’ll stop losing the significant funding, experience, leadership, innovation and connections that women bring. We must not ignore:
U.S. women own more than $14 trillion in assets. A 1% growth in women’s charitable contributions would increase annual giving in this country by 5%.
With this infusion, so much more is possible to address the social issues we face.
With more women leaders helping us innovate and make new connections, transformative shifts will occur for our missions and communities.
As women increasingly stand up, speak out, govern, lead and take action across the political spectrum, it is time for nonprofits to focus on women as donors. Our communities and missions will benefit.
To help accelerate women’s philanthropy, Kathleen has written Gender Matters: A Guide to Growing Women’s Philanthropy. This book translates research on how women give into practical action for fundraisers.