I had the pleasure of attending the 4th annual “Women & Philanthropy” forum in Washington D.C. earlier this month. Sponsored by George Washington University, the conference brought together a distinguished panel of women philanthropists, including keynote speaker Nancy Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the social and economic changes driven by women’s philanthropy, and how women’s growing wealth is changing the face of giving.
In her keynote address, Ambassador Brinker highlighted some of the amazing work Komen has done in cancer research, treatment and activism. Komen is the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world, having invested more than $1.9 billion since inception in 1982. One encouraging fact for all (like me) who have had loved ones and family members touched by breast cancer: the 5-year survival rate for all women diagnosed with breast cancer is now 90 percent, up significantly from 75% in 1975.
Other conference speakers included Nicky Goren, CEO of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, which focuses on helping economically vulnerable women and girls in the capital area, to Madeleine Jacobs, CEO of the American Chemical Society, which promotes science and technology careers to women and girls at all educational levels.
As I spoke to several of the women attending the forum, I was struck by how each is involved in supporting a cause she passionately believes in. Some give time to their causes, some give money, some give expertise and knowledge. But all are engaged in what they believe in. One of the inspirational messages of the conference is that you can change the world through philanthropy. And as we do that, philanthropy also changes us.
Women Are Changing the Face of Giving
Women are controlling more wealth in the United States and across the globe, and this is changing the nature of philanthropy.
In nearly 90 percent of high net worth households, women are either the sole decision maker or an equal partner in decisions about charitable giving, concludes the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2011 Study of High Net Worth Women’s Philanthropy.
Women give to different organizations and causes than their husbands and fathers before them. According to the New York Times, “[U]nlike the women who preceded them — old-school patrons who gave to the museum and the symphony and their dead husbands’ alma maters — these givers are more likely to use their wealth deliberately and systematically to aid women in need.”
According to Jessica Kelly, fellow of the American Association of University Women, “not only are women giving differently than men, they are also giving more. The Wall Street Journal reports, “recent research by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University shows a striking pattern: Female-headed households top male-headed households in philanthropic giving in almost every income group.”
How You Can Get Involved
Many of our women (and men!) clients are involved in supporting community, national and international charitable groups, and of course, their causes range from A to Z depending on their own interests and beliefs. If you would like to get more involved, there are plenty of resources available to help you do so, starting in your own community. Also take a look at websites like Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and GiveWell, all of which rate and evaluate larger charities and provide donor tips so you can make sure your gift goes a long way.