Is your non-profit tapping into the philanthropic power of women?

women in philanthropy1As many of you know, I subscribe to many different blogs and eNewsletters, and I do a lot of reading. A few weeks ago, I received an eNewsletter called theInsider in my email inbox. It is a connection back to my Boys & Girls Club family. I’ve always loved this publication because there has never been a time after reading it that I didn’t have something to mentally chew on. The July 29th edition planted the following one very powerful thought in my head:

Women are powerful!

I know that for some of you, this revelation falls flat because you probably already knew this. And I suppose that I did, too. However, the article in the eNewsletter that drove this point home shared a series of bullet points and startling facts, and each one was more powerful than the previous one. Here are just a few of those facts about women:

  • Women make 85% of the consumer decisions.
  • Women make 80% of healthcare decisions.
  • Women make 92% of vacation decisions.
  • 2 out of 5 business owners are women.

While these startling statistics are eye popping, it was the following philanthropy-related facts that got my attention:

  • Women are more generous than men.  A recent study by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University found for every $100 men gave, women in the same economic circumstance gave $258.
  • Women donate on average twice as much to charity as men and make three times as many contributions.
  • Women primarily support charities with a focus on children in need, education, health and other women-related causes.
  • Primary motivators for women are: change, create, commit, connect, collaborate and celebrate.

The author of this eNewsletter article started it with this simple and thought provoking question:

Do your fundraising strategies include women?

This question has haunted me for the last few weeks. In all of my years of working with non-profit organizations, I am hard pressed to think of more than a small handful of agencies who I’ve seen execute strategies focused exclusively on women.

women in philanthropy2This is the short list I’ve managed to come up with:

  • A fundraiser where women donors were invited to afternoon tea with the agency’s female members who put on a fashion show.
  • A fundraiser where women were honored for their community leadership.
  • A donor circle that consists exclusively of women.

I’m sure there are a few more, but I haven’t been able to think of them in the last few weeks.

I always start to giggle when I think about how many of us (and I’ve done these things, too) are making simple and easy to fix mistakes, such as:

  • Focusing 100% of stewardship activities on the male head of household when we know that he is likely to die first leaving everything to her including the planned giving decision-making.
  • Sending letters (e.g. solicitations, acknowledgement, etc) to him and not to him AND her.
  • Calling the household and asking for him and not her.
  • Looking for auction items that appeal to him
    (e.g. tickets to sporting events) and not necessarily her (of course, I have met more than my fair share of rabid female fans of the Chicago Cubs throughout the years).

Perhaps, the most important revelation we can and should take away from this discussion is that women are different than men in many respects when it comes to philanthropy, making decisions, and what they want to hear. The eNewsletter article acknowledged that women donors need to be stewarded differently than their male counterparts when they said:

“Women desire deeper communication, a greater efficiency and effect, they want to know the impact of the support, are more likely to stop giving if not properly stewarded and view volunteering as an important part of their involvement/investment.”

Still not convinced in the philanthropic power of women? Then please explain to me why Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy has an subdivision called the “Women’s Philanthropy Institute“?

What is your agency doing to cultivate, solicit and steward women? Are you making some of the same mistakes that I listed above? If so, what are you going to do about it? Does your organization have an event or fundraising strategy focused solely on women? Please scroll down and share a few of your thoughts and ideas in the comment box below because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


  1. Hi Erik,

    May I add one more simple and easy fix?

    Be aware who singed the check and ask how people like to be addressed before you write thank you letters. Some women do not like to be addressed as Mrs. regardless of their marital status. Some women do not like their first names eliminated and get enraged when their mail is sent to Mr. and Mrs John Smith, especially for a donation that they themselves made. Some women on they other hand are insulted when they are not address as Mrs.husbands full name.

    Its always better to ask.

    1. Dani … of course, you’re always welcome to add anything.

      I couldn’t agree more with you about the Ms. vs. Mrs. vs first name. I can’t tell you how many times I struggled with this question. Every time I wish I had been more proactive and done something to ask and then make the notation in the donor database.

      Great thought! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi Erik! Great summation of the importance of women donors. I’d like to suggest that you might want to use different images though. Purses are not a great symbol of women these days. A briefcase, running shoes, or a smartphone might be more appropriate. And I’m not sure what the muffins are for. Just a thought from a woman 🙂

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