History of Women As Philanthropists
Women in America have always been agents of change even when they had few officially recognized rights. In Colonial times, women tackled a host of issues like moral reform, care of widows, children and the mentally ill, conditions for women prisoners, aid for soldiers, temperance, abolition of slavery, suffrage, libraries, the environment, culture, health issues, and more.
Women’s sense of their “place” changed dramatically in the 1800s. Women stretched to become skilled fundraisers, passionate advocates, powerful leaders, dedicated volunteers, irresistible forces for social change, and tireless workers. Women of every ethnicity joined voluntary associations to raise money and especially to care for women, widows, and girls.
Women Started Colleges and Charities
Women started Mount Holyoke Seminary, Smith College, Women’s Christian Temperance Union, American Red Cross, and YWCA to name a few. Women established three-quarters of the public libraries in the United States, many before Andrew Carnegie became involved and later to raise the 10 percent match he required. Women in the Rockefeller and Vanderbilt families started the Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of Art.
Despite a slump in women’s philanthropic activities from the 1920s to the 1960s, women took an active role in the Civil Rights effort, feminism, and infiltration of the workforce. The 1970s saw formation of the Ms. Foundation, the first women’s fund in the United States.
In 1980 Supreme Court Forces Men’s Clubs to Admit Women
The philanthropy arena expanded for women in the 1980s when the Supreme Court ruled groups like Jaycees, Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis could no longer exclude women. It wasn’t long before women were serving as the officers running these philanthropic clubs. More recently women have organized to support equal rights for women, drunk driving laws, breast cancer research, economic development and employment opportunities for women, and many more.
In 2007 Women Moving Millions collected million dollar gifts from individual women around the world. In two years, 174 women had each made a large gift.
What Is the Status of Women and Philanthropy Today?
Today more than 140 women’s funds around the globe belong to the Women’s Funding Network, representing a collective $465 million in working assets. All across the USA, 131 United Ways have developed women’s leadership councils. Every year, more than 56,000 women volunteers in women’s leadership councils raise more than $155 million just from other women.
The National Women’s Leadership Council of United Way Worldwide (NWLC) is the largest women’s philanthropic organization in the world. It raised $1 billion dollars from women during the last 10 years, half of it during the economic downturn 2007-2011. That’s power!
Women—and the men who support their efforts—are clearly a powerful force in leadership, philanthropy and advocacy. Because they live longer than men, the Women’s Philanthropy Institute predicts women will end up in charge of much of the $41 trillion expected pass from generation to generation over the next 50 years. Single women are more likely than single men to make a philanthropic gift and women’s inclination to give influences their husbands to be more generous as well.