Women Philanthropists Rise

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women and philanthropy
by Cynthia Woolbright

The face of philanthropy is changing. Women give and give generously, but only to those organizations that earn their support.


The face of philanthropy is changing. At the Forbes Philanthropy Forum in May 2018, there was near parity between female and male participants, noted Forbes contributor Bonnie Chiu. With the rise of female philanthropists, there will be more philanthropic dollars to spend and according to Chiu there are three major trends that women make uniquely theirs in philanthropy:

  1. Philanthropy ought to move from an ego-system to an ecosystem. Women tend to be more engaged in organizations where they contribute their philanthropic support. For example, giving circles are a way of collaborative giving, and the first ones were created by women for women, which means co-creating solutions with the users and beneficiaries.
  2. Investing in women and girls yields one of the best social returns. The Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds that women are more likely than men to give to charity and support women’s and girls’ causes. The latest TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund was set up by female philanthropists to address sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace faced by women. Since launching in January 2018, it has raised close to $22 million online – a powerful example of women investing in women.
  3. Impact investing can enable philanthropists to amplify their impact. In a recent survey by Morgan Stanley, 84% of women said they were interested in “sustainable” investing (compared to 67% of men), defined as targeting not just financial returns but social or environmental goals.

How can you enhance your strategies to earn women’s philanthropic support?

  • Take a long and thoughtful look at your organization with an eye toward any institutional gender bias, then start a sustainable culture shift in your organization.
    • Ensure equitable gender representation on your board.
    • Ensure that your policies and processes include women as equal partners.
    • Provide training for staff to get everyone on the same page.
  • Create opportunities to help women connect with their networks to support your work; women readily engage their friends in their community work.
  • Connect with and engage women in meaningful ways. Invite them to serve in leadership roles. The deeper their engagement, the more they will give over time.
  • When women make gifts, share their stories and demonstrate the impact of their giving.
    Establish long-term gift planning strategies and be sure to include planned giving opportunities.

Between 2010 and 2015 private wealth held by women grew from $34 trillion to $51 trillion— a 50% increase in just five years.

Women give and give generously, but only to those organizations that earn their support. Will your organization be one of them?

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