Why Study Women's Philanthropy?

Despite its historic importance we considered omitting a special section on women's philanthropy. After all, in this day and age is the money women give any less green? Once we began our formal research and interviews, we discovered that women's philanthropy remains entirely relevant and that its study is a discrete part of the discipline. According to the evidence, American women do engage in philanthropy differently than men.

According to authors Sondra C. Shaw-Hardy and Martha A. Taylor, women's patterns of women's giving are significantly different from men's. In Reinventing Fundraising: Realizing The Potential of Women's Philanthropy, Shaw-Hardy and Taylor explain that women are more likely to invest in new initiatives and tend to give more generously tow towards social change. Women are more likely to give to new initiatives that aim to alter the status quo rather than maintain it. On the other hand, men historically gave out of a sense of loyalty, often supporting already thriving organizations such as cultural institutions and alma maters. According to Shaw-Hardy and Taylor, women often hope that their contributions will improve society and eliminate suffering in a specific arena. Their research also indicates that women want to be more involved in giving, hoping to build relationships in addition to providing funds.

An increasing number of fundraising professionals, foundation board members and significant donors are women. One consequence of women's philanthropic activity is the attention given to programs that specifically address women's issues. According to the research published by the Women's Funding Network

the trend of women funding initiatives that address issues pertinent to women and girls has grown substantially in recent years. They cite a significant transformation of the landscape of giving: in 1979, there were five women's funds; and in 2001, there were over 95 women's funds.

The increase in women's philanthropy thought to be connected to the increase of women's access to significant funds. Not only are women are increasingly earning more; their leadership in large industries is influencing patterns of corporate giving. Family philanthropy is effected too as more women are becoming involved in family foundations. Another factor in women's giving is that wives who survive their husbands more often have autonomy over the charitable giving in the estate.

While women have historically had a significant social impact through advocacy and impact through volunteer labor, women are now contributing significant quantities of wealth to impact the world. In analyzing of women's giving, Shaw and Taylor suggest that the potential financial force of women's giving cannot be anticipated. As women continue to take increasing control of their own resources, fundraisers who seek success need to become sensitive to the styles and patterns typical of female philanthropist.

One of the central institutions in the study of women and giving is the Women's Philanthropy Institute, part of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. The institute engages in both research and education addressing women's philanthropy. As part of the Institute's mission, they cite offering research-based educational services to inform donors, fundraisers, and institutions about women's philanthropy. The Institute's research is understood in the following way: women have the same core motivations for giving as men including altruism, gratitude, the desire to make a better world. However, women approach giving differently than men. The Institute offers seminars on the 'dynamics of women's giving' that train fundraisers on how to help women clarify their values and vision, how to run donor education programs geared to women and several other goals along these lines.