Women in Philanthropy: Small Donations Can Lead to Big Impact
I never thought of myself as a donor or a “woman in philanthropy,” as I gifted money to various nonprofits whose mission and values matched my own. My donations seemed small compared to those of donors that I read about in the news who were giving away thousands or millions of dollars to high-profile charity work. It turns out, however, that small donationscanadd up to make a big impact when enough people participate. I was surprised when a house party I hosted in rural Georgia raised $750 from small donations for a statewide equality organization. And more recently, I have seen organizations harness the power of working together to raise awareness and money on issues of affordable housing and homelessness. In October, a large crowd turned out to hear Womansong of Asheville sing a benefit concert for Homeward Bound. Half of ticket revenues went to helping women transition from homelessness to permanent housing. This is philanthropy in action—making change person by person, in small amounts that make a big difference.
Few realize that women give more money to charity than men, proportionate to income. There are still a lot of myths about women donors. Cultural stereotypes suggest that women do not understand or control money or do not want to discuss it. Myths that women will give only from their disposable income, and that women volunteer their time but not their money can deter women from philanthropy. In reality, many women take philanthropy seriously and personally. (Reinventing Fundraising, Shaw-Hardy and Taylor).
Despite stereotypes and myths, women are critical to philanthropy in the U.S.
Did you know that women:
Contribute to twice as many organizations as men do, but make smaller donations to each;
Tend not to base philanthropy on business connections or a desire for public recognition but a desire to make a difference;
Are more likely to be involved with organizations to which they contribute money, while men cherish recognition and status; and
Ask more questions than male donors.
(Reinventing Fundraising, Shaw-Hardy and Taylor).
Women’s approach to giving creates great philanthropic potential and promises a new, emerging donor landscape. If more women give to causes that reflect their beliefs and values, we will transform charitable giving. And if more women give to organizations benefiting women, some basic gender inequities can be addressed (The Giving Forum: Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. http://www.givingforum.org/ ).
So how can women donors transform philanthropy? Women can contribute to political organizations that influence policy and politics and we can contribute to nonprofit organizations with monthly or annual donations.
One way to make philanthropic giving more personal and to feel the collective impact of smaller donations is through a Giving Circle. “A giving circle is a group of individuals each or whom contributes to a pooled fund. Members decide together how to distribute these funds to nonprofit and charitable organizations. Giving circles increase impact and allow members to learn about philanthropy and causes in a collaborative and non-threatening way. Members often commit to participate for a specific timeframe at an established dollar level. The pooled funds may be held at a public foundation in the form of a donor-advised fund, at a local bank, or by some other nonprofit or commercial entity.” Or a giving circle can be more informal, with members gathering around a potluck dinner each month to discuss how they will make donations as a group for the year (The Giving Forum: Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. http://www.givingforum.org/).
Once you have raised funds, there are numerous organizations that can use them to improve the lives of women and girls in our community, nationally, and around the world. Below are just a few examples of political and nonprofit organizations that focus on women’s issues:
Giving Locally in North Carolina
The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina: http://www.cfwnc.org/
A charitable gift of any amount to the Women’s Fund helps meet the unmet needs of women and girls of the region. In addition, The Community Foundation’s Women for Women Giving Circle allows donors to commit $1,100 per year for three years with all proceeds going to improve the lives of women and girls in the region. Collectively this fund has distributed more than 2 million dollars to regional programs helping women and girls.
Hispanics in Philanthropy: www.hiponline.org
Working transnationally since 1983, HIP has a strong presence in North Carolina with a regional office based in Asheville. Program manager, Althea Gonzalez, focuses on increasing the capacity of Latina/o led nonprofits and strengthening the Latina/o leadership pipeline in the state.
Giving at the National and International Level
L-PAC is the lesbian political action committee, formed in 2012, and seeks “to positively influence the current political and social landscape” by improving policies that affect women.
Emily’s List:http://emilyslist.org/ Emily’s List helps to elect progressive female candidates to political office and is focused on building the female political leadership pipeline in the U.S.
Global Fund for Women: http://www.globalfundforwomen.org/
Women for Women International: http://www.womenforwomen.org/
Women’s Funding Network: http://womensfundingnetwork.org/about/partners
Sondra C. Shaw-Hardy and Martha A. Taylor, Reinventing Fundraising– Realizing the Potential of Women’s Philanthropy, 1995(Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1995).
The Giving Forum: Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. http://www.givingforum.org/