What makes women’s philanthropy different from general philanthropy? This is something we often discuss here at The Women’s Foundation, informally, in giving circle meetings, at Philanthropy 101 sessions.
So what fun to see an article today really try to break it down. Michael A. MacDowell wrote a guest column yesterday for the Press & Sun Bulletin in New York called "Women to take on more responsibility through philanthropy."
In his column, MacDowell explains how it has come to be that philanthropy is largely, and increasingly, dominated by women. He writes, "Today, the odds are good that the majority of the people in the United States with altruistic intentions are women…Simply stated, there are 6 million more women than men in the country. Plus, more women hold an undergraduate degree or a higher diploma than their counterparts, and 57 percent of today’s enrollment in institutions of higher education are female…In 2005…46.3 percent of the nation’s wealthiest people were women…With combined assets of $6.3 trillion, their wealth has increased 50 percent in seven years."
Not to mention that over the next 50 years, women will control most of the $41 trillion expected to pass from generation to generation.
That sounds like some pretty serious money to me.
So that tells us where the influence of women in philanthropy is coming from. But do women really give differently? According to MacDowell, yes.
First of all, he says, women tend to listen to other women philanthropists more for advice about their giving. Whether on a large scale–i.e. being influenced by Oprah or Maya Angelou, or on a small scale, such as what we see here at The Women’s Foundation with women meeting, networking and talking about their giving through giving circles, Washington 100, the 1K Club, Philanthropy 101s or the other avenues that encourage women not only to give–but to give smart.
And, according to the Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University, women do think differently about their giving:
- Women tend to be more cautious in their contributions, researching organizations more carefully than do men;
- Women emphasize giving to individuals, rather than brick-and-mortar projects, as a result of a deeply held belief that individuals make a difference;
- Women’s political and economic views are as diverse as men’s, but they tend to make decisions based more on anecdotal information and intuitive knowledge; and,
- Women tend to be more "tactile" in their giving patterns. They like to see, and in some ways, participate, in the philanthropic activities which they support.
As with any generalizations made about any group of people, one could analyze, dissect and discuss whether these trends are an accurate reflection of the diversity of women’s giving.
But perhaps the more important question around women’s giving is whether women will not only continue to establish themselves as a philanthropic force, but whether they will focus their giving on investments in other women.
The success of the Women Moving Millions campaign, as well as of local women’s foundations and the organizations they support, will be very telling in this regard.
We can only hope that as women continue to carry an increasing portion of the burden in philanthropy on their shoulders that women and girls in local communities and around the world will find themselves being lifted up.