The “All In” Woman Philanthropist

In 2020, women in the U.S. controlled one-third of household financial assets–more than $10 trillion. Over the next decade, women are projected to inherit an even greater share of wealth–possibly a majority of the $30 trillion in financial assets Baby Boomers will transfer to younger generations. In addition, there is increased global awareness of women’s issues such as reproductive rights in the U.S., the #MeToo movement in Asia, reproductive rights activism in Honduras, and the ongoing fight for women’s equality in Iran. Women wield greater economic power than ever before and are harnessing their influence to lead change on these issues and beyond. What does this mean for grantmakers and philanthropy as a whole?

Exploring the Growing Power of Women in Philanthropy

The Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) aims to increase understanding of women’s philanthropy through rigorous research and education, interpreting and sharing our insights broadly to improve philanthropy. We explore the intersection of gender and philanthropy to uncover why women give, how they give, and what causes they support. We envision a world where women understand and use their growing power and influence to support causes they care about, where grantmakers and nonprofit leaders take women seriously, and where both women and men are giving, giving more, and giving intentionally.

Today’s philanthropic sector, like many other systems, doesn’t speak to women the way it does to men. As women’s wealth and influence climb, we have the opportunity to strengthen the momentum of women as grantmakers and redefine what it means to be a philanthropist. While women’s role in philanthropy has recently gained visibility due to high-profile philanthropists like Melinda French Gates and MacKenzie Scott, we must also recognize that women, particularly women of color, have a long history and diverse expressions of generosity. Grantmakers and nonprofit leaders should take this into consideration when engaging with their team and the communities they serve.

Understanding Why Women Give

To unlock the full potential of women’s philanthropy as grantmakers and as individual donors, we must understand what drives women to give. Here are a few research-informed insights into how women approach generosity and how philanthropy can better engage with them.

Women give broadly.

Women are drawn to an expanded definition of philanthropy, tapping into all their resources—not just money but also their time, expertise, advocacy, and networks—to support the causes they care about. Beyond financial donations, what type of engagement opportunities does your organization offer donors? 

Women give collectively.

Women like to talk about giving with one another and come together to create a collective impact. Giving circles are a prime example of this phenomenon. These are groups in which individuals pool their resources to support organizations or projects of mutual interest. Our research shows that 70% of giving circles have a majority-women membership. How can your organization connect with local women’s networks to reach more women and grow your donor base? How can your organization create opportunities for donors to connect and pool resources to do good?

Women give holistically.

Empathy motivates giving for many women. Women are “all in” givers—they give from their head, heart, and hands. They want to see, touch, feel, and understand their impact. Our research also shows that women are more likely to give to women’s and girls’ causes–and a key motivation for these donors is personal experience. How does your organization relate its mission to your donors lived experiences?

Going “All In” for Equitable Philanthropy

We know that women are “all in” givers, pulling from their diverse and expansive array of resources. What would our world look like if philanthropy went “all in” for women? We’ll explore this idea and more at All In, All Rise, WPI’s upcoming national symposium on gender, charitable giving and building an equitable philanthropic sector. The two-day event will examine how women’s involvement in philanthropy influences and strengthens communities, encourages greater strategic giving, and builds a more diverse community of engaged citizens.

All In, All Rise will convene a unique cross-section of attendees, including donors and funders, fundraising and nonprofit professionals, social entrepreneurs, business executives, government leaders, and other influential changemakers. Connecting the dots between research and practice, the symposium will facilitate reflective and thought-provoking conversations about big ideas like the intersections of gender, philanthropy, equity, and impact.

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