Women philanthropists are driving the ever-growing number of advocacy and charitable organizations seeking to advance the well-being of women and girls. The Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) at Indiana University-Purdue University has found consistently that women and men give differently. In almost every income bracket, women give more than men: baby-boomer and older women gave 89% more to charity than men their age, and women in the top 25% of permanent income gave 156% more than men in that same category.
In trying to explain the gender giving differences, WIP has found that women tend to be more altruistic and empathetic than men, partly because of the way men and women are socialized regarding caring, self-sacrifice and the well-being of others. Men tend to give when an appeal frames the donation as being in the man’s self interest or as a way of maintaining the status quo, while women tend to give to promote social change or help those less fortunate, research suggests.
Women often focus on helping other women. For example, the Maverick Collective, founded by Kate Roberts and Melinda Gates, recruits high-net-worth female philanthropists to invest more than just their money to support women and girls around the globe. In addition to cash donations (starting at $1 million), the participating women also share their bright ideas and remain heavily involved as key leaders over time, even traveling to help evaluate the progress of a project.
Women Have a Long History of Helping
Women helping women and men is nothing new. In fact, women in America have always been agents of change – even when they had few officially recognized rights. In Colonial times, women tackled 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, and they started to transition to a group of 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 and girls.
Women have done amazing things in terms of giving, and started Mount Holyoke Seminary, Smith College, Women’s Christian Temperance Union, American Red Cross, and YWCA to name a few. Women also 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.
Supreme Court Helps Women’s Efforts Expand
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.
Help Where You Can
Today more than 100 women’s funds around the globe belong to the Women’s Funding Network (WFN), representing a collective $465 million in working assets and invest over $60 million per year. WFN is is the largest philanthropic network in the world devoted to improving the lives of women and girls. All across the US, 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.
Giving isn’t limited to wealthy women. Small donations can yield big results. Is there an organization in your community that resonates with you? A place where you can donate your time, treasure, or talent? You don’t have to donate a million dollars to make a difference. Instead, focus on what you can to do to improve the status of women and girls in today’s society.
Seeing women find a better way of living proves our efforts are all worthwhile. We are all sisters, and women need help all over the world. It’s our job to help them. When we do, we have an impact, not only on their lives, but on the lives of their children and future generations, entire countries, indeed the world.
I am so honored to be a part of the work done by the many organizations Women Connect4Good supports. I urge each of you to find a way to reach out and help a sister somewhere in the world today. When women help women, we all win.