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

Avoid 19th Century donor cultivation tactics

womens suffrageHere is a tip for all of you fundraising professionals and volunteers out there: ” Women are powerful donors in their own right, and we settled most Women’s suffrage issues almost a century ago.” Those of us who cannot understand this simple yet powerful idea are “cruisin’ for a bruisin’” as a friend of mine used to say.

You’re probably wondering where this is coming from . . . so let me provide a little context. In the last few weeks, I’ve heard people twice say something that made me wonder if we were living in 1913 or 2013. Here are the two examples:

  • Some very nice woman was receiving an award and there was a group discussion about whether or not to tell her or surprise her from the podium. The decision was to talk to her husband and ask him to make the decision.
  • One group wants to get closer to a donor because he is one of those “very influential philanthropists” in town. You know the type. So, the decision was to start cultivating his daughter’s husband.

The first example is innocent enough and didn’t raise any red flags, but when put together with the second example it just got me thinking about the concept of “Women in Philanthropy”.

Did you know that Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis’ Center on Philanthropy has an internal division named the “Women’s Philanthropy Institute“?  Here is a blurb from their website:

The Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) studies how and why gender matters in philanthropy. Men’s and women’s motivations for giving and patterns of giving differ.  What works for men in philanthropy may not work for women.  As women’s economic power and educational achievements continue to increase in the 21st century, women are leveraging that power to influence philanthropic decision-making and to transform the philanthropic landscape in many ways.”

When I read something like this, it makes me immediately think:

  1. Wow! Men and women make philanthropic decisions differently. I wonder how I should incorporate that from a strategic and tactical perspective into a written resource development plan? 
  2. If women are as influential as they appear to be in philanthropy, then why are we still doing these weird cultivation dances with their fathers and their husbands?

Am I off base? Maybe a little, but I know that I am close to hitting on something big.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a board volunteer who is a strong woman. She and I are working on a fundraising project together, and she talked about a conversation that she and her husband had about a particular charity. To make a long story short, here are the highlights:

  • She is concerned about the organization’s financial health.
  • He knows his wife too well and knows that she will give this organization more money to help them out.
  • He strongly stated his wishes not to let their philanthropy get out of hand because he wants to retire in a few years.

I look at this conversation and now see things very clearly. She is the person who makes charitable giving decisions in that family. He is pleading his case to “The Decider”. I wonder how many charities don’t see that and try to engage him first?

Still not convinced that your agency needs to do a better job planning for and engaging women in your resource development efforts? Then please consider what Betsy Brill wrote in Forbes magazine on August 18, 2009:

“Women now control more than half of the private wealth in the U.S. and make 80% of all purchases. According to Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, women will inherit 70% of the $41 trillion in intergenerational wealth transfer expected over the next 40 years. In addition to controlling wealth and consumer activity, women tend to donate more of their wealth than men do. A Barclay’s Wealth study titled Tomorrow’s Philanthropist, released in July 2009, showed that women in the U.S. give an average of 3.5% of their wealth to charity, while men give an average of 1.8%.”

What is your non-profit agency doing to make this adjustment? Will the next generation of philanthropists in America be dominated by women? Please use the comment box below to share what your agency is doing about this resource development trend?

Here’s to your health!

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