Giving in all ways is central to our identity as women. In this article we share insights about the ways women give and where giving is concentrated.
Giving and Gender
Women have always been involved in philanthropy. In previous generations it wasn’t unusual to see women volunteer their time and energy while men provided the monetary donations and board involvement. As women moved forward in their educations, careers, and incomes, that equation has and continues to change. Women now control more than a third of total household wealth in the United States (yes, we have a way to go!) and have a greater ability to provide more dollars than previous generations.
In a survey by Fidelity Charitable nearly 9 in 10 women want to do more to create positive social changes. That doesn’t mean men don’t want the world to be a better place; they do. The “how” and “where” they give is different from women. Not surprisingly, women are motivated by empathy. We “feel” for others while men give based on a specific interest and/or specific tax benefits.
Young women were particularly motivated to be charitable by the Covid pandemic. Half of Millennial women indicated that the pandemic made charitable giving more important compared to 31% of Gen X women and 25% of Baby Boomer women.
Front and center in the news are high-profile wealthy women noted for their philanthropy. Mackenzie Scott, Laurene Jobs, Sara Blakely and Melinda Gates have taken leadership roles in philanthropy and are role models for charitable giving.
Where Does the Money Go?
The largest charitable sectors are religious, education, human services, and health. This chart from the WGI (women and girls index) illustrates the giving levels in 2018. Single women are more likely to give to secular causes and give more to those causes, compared to single men and married couples. Wife-only decision-makers and households who decide separately are more likely to give to secular causes. Households where the husband solely decides about the family’s charitable giving are the most likely to give to religious causes.
According to a study by Indiana University, Lilly School of Philanthropy, an area of particular interest to women, is investing in the rights and well-being of women and girls both here and abroad. Yet, only 2% of philanthropic giving goes to the almost 50,000 nonprofits that support women and girls. In 2021 that meant that only $8.2B of $410B went to fund women and girls’ charities.
How do women give?
There are several ways to make gifts or donations to a non-profit. Most commonly, women give cash, appreciated assets like stocks or real estate, qualified charitable donations from an IRA, or bequests through their estate plans. For the ultra-high net worth crowd, estate-planning tools like charitable remainder trusts and/or family foundations are tools for giving.
Other vehicles for giving include crowdfunding platforms, non-profit websites, events, donor-advised funds, social media and, increasingly, giving-circles.
One of the interesting observations provided in the Lilly report says women often prefer to give in a collaborative way. It is no surprise then that giving-circles tripled from 2007 to 2015.
70% of giving circles are made up of mostly women, and 60% are formed around identity (i.e. female, male, LGBTQ, and religious). Giving circles:
As we approach the season for giving and gratitude, reflecting on our giving experiences is important to help us navigate the way forward. More of us are making giving decisions for our households, including how much and to whom.
Charitable giving by women is on the rise as well as the dollar amounts being donated. Last year women were responsible for 64.7% of the donation amounts on Giving Tuesday. This year Giving Tuesday is November 29. It could be a great time to plan with your family, neighborhood, colleagues and/or friends, where and how much you would like to give!