The Changing Role of Women in Philanthropy
Women have long been involved in philanthropy, but their role has changed significantly over the years. As more women become educated, empowered, and financially independent, they are increasingly taking on leadership roles in philanthropy and making a greater impact.
A 2021 study conducted by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) found that 61.5% of U.S. households make charitable giving decisions jointly. However, when one partner makes decisions for the household, women are more likely to make these decisions than men. The same study found that in 2005 only 6.5% of women made the household decision about charitable giving, but this figure more than doubled to 15.3% in 2020.
Women increasingly have the opportunity to make their voices heard and contribute to important causes. This shift is changing the landscape of philanthropy as women become more involved in decision-making and fundraising activities.
As a result, we are seeing a rise in female-led initiatives that are making a real difference in our society. With their increased involvement comes greater visibility and recognition for the work they do—and a greater ability to create positive change through their actions.
Giving to make a Difference
Using survey data from 2003 and 2008, the WPI found that, “women spread their dollars more thinly across a larger number of organizations, whereas men tend to concentrate their giving to a smaller number of organizations. Female philanthropists have the intention of being able to donate and make a difference to as many causes as they can.
A Shift in Focus
With women becoming more prominent in philanthropic giving, we are seeing higher levels of donations to charities and causes that had previously been marginalized or underfunded, as noted by the Charity Aid Foundation. When women give, they have a heart-first approach; they create emotional connections with the organizations and like to be heavily involved with the causes they support.
Women tend to give to causes that affect them directly—such as breast cancer research, reproductive health, or domestic violence programs—and are particularly more likely to donate money for scholarships for women or young girls. There has also been an increase in funds being donated towards important impact investing, such as affordable housing, innovative agricultural methods, and international development projects.
In recent years, it’s become clear that giving by women is more complex than was once understood. Women tend to view philanthropy as an ongoing process rather than a one-time event or purchase, and they’re committed to seeing their donations through from start to finish. By contrast, men often prefer larger one-time donations to the causes they support.
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