Give and Let Give: Women Leaders Changing The World Through Philanthropy

Women are key to charitable giving internationally as they focus giving to women's issues.

Women are key to charitable giving internationally as they focus giving to women's issues.

Give a little bit. Give a lot. Women are recently doing more of both. More women are giving away more money  in philanthropy than in years past.  Amen.

This is very good news for organizations, charities, startups and initiatives benefiting women and those centered on critical issues for all women. As we reach the end of the year, more women leaders are tying up the year with record giving to the causes we love.

And this is a particularly critical time for women engaging in philanthropy as a shift in the White House leadership brings into focus so many issues directly affecting women leaders and women in the workplace: paid family leave, wage parity, access to health care and gender equity in leadership. Women need to give to women’s causes, efforts, organizations and leadership efforts now more than ever.

Take The Lead is a leadership initiative benefiting from the philanthropy of women to help other women and this past week, Take The Lead reached its goal and exceeded it raising more than $312,000 from online donors.

“’By some estimates, women now make up nearly half of the country’s millionaires, and about 10 percent of its billionaire,’ says Debra Mesch, director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University.  But Mesch says it’s not just the uber-wealthy who are becoming more involved in philanthropy,” writes Abha Bhattarai writes in the Washington Post.

“We have this idea that philanthropy is old white men, but that is changing. Women are earning more money, they have more education. Their role in philanthropy has been growing exponentially,” Mesch told Bhattarai.

“There has been a groundswell of women of all income levels coming together to give what they can. They’re sitting at their dining room tables forming community-based networks with each other,” Mesch said.

Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in its recent report, Women Give 2016, show that over the past 40 years, both single and married women play more active and decisive roles in charitable decision making, according to  Nonprofit Quarterly.

Women Give 2016 reports that, “Women today are the primary breadwinners in four out of 10 households with children; in 1970 this was around 15 percent of such households. In the early 1970s, pre-Boomer single women were giving to charitable organizations an estimated $216 annually on average, in today’s terms. Today’s GenX/Millennial single women are giving $244 on average.”

The report continues, “Approximately 17 percent of GenX/Millennial young single women gave large charitable contributions, compared to 22 percent of their pre-Boomer counterparts.” And those percentages are larger than Millennial men. “For young single men, around 14 percent of GenXers/Millennials gave large charitable contributions, compared to 25 percent of pre-Boomers.”

The report shows that “women had some influence on giving decisions in an estimated 84 percent among GenX/Millennial young married couples in the 2000s. That is an increase from 73 percent of pre-Boomer young married couples in the 1970s.”

Women leaders and entrepreneurs are giving on their own, but many are forming official giving circles, partnering with other women to choose causes and organizations to support.

Women need to give to women’s causes, efforts, organizations & leadership efforts.

“Giving circles can be created at any price point, for any cause, and with any demographic as the membership,” said Jacqueline Caster, founder and president of the Everychild Foundation, Caster said. “You can do it with no paid staff and a tiny percentage of operational costs, compared to bigger foundations,” she told Kiersten Marek of Chronicle of Social Change.

Caster began her organization with 56 members in 2000, and “Everychild has now grown to its target of 225 members. It has made a $1 million grant each year since 2006,” according to Marek.

“Giving circles have been on the rise for several years now, and are branching out in new ways to serve local or sometimes global needs. The model capitalizes on the strengths of women as networkers and collaborators, and offers a way for smaller donors to be part of something larger, but not so large that they have no meaningful voice,” Marek writes.

A global example of a collaboration of more than 250 women from 14 countries is the brainchild of Jacki Zehner, CEO, of Women Moving Millions. It is a New York-based non-profit with the mission “to catalyze unprecedented resources for the advancement of women and girls. We support our members’ philanthropic leadership development and empower our partners to raise greater resources for their organizations.” Each member pledges $1 million.

According to the website, “Women Moving Millions is a global philanthropic community of people committed to large-scale investment in women and girls. We believe that if women step up and make big, bold investments, we can end gender inequality. We commit to cultivating philanthropic leaders because we know that fully activated leadership has the power to inspire change.”

For those women leaders with similar goals and smaller amounts of capital there are local initiatives requiring more manageable investments.

“Impact 100 is a women’s giving circle awarding high impact grants to nonprofits in our community,” said Beth Thomas, president. “The basic model is simple: Each woman, or a group of two to four women, contributes $1,000 for a membership each year. One hundred percent of membership donations are granted to nonprofits each year, with a $100,000 grant given for each 100 memberships. Most women are not in the position to make a large enough donation to truly make a difference to a nonprofit. But 100 women giving $1,000 into a $100,000 grant can make an impact on a local nonprofit, thus making an impact on our community,” according to Current Publishing.

If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.

In Palm Beach recently, Melanie Sabelhaus, former deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration, is a former vice chairwoman of the national board of the American Red Cross and co-founded the National Women’s Leadership Council. She told the Palm Beach Daily News, that philanthropic women have made enormous contributions to society throughout history. And more needs to be done.

“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough,” Sabelhaus said.

The timing is good to create the impetus for more women leaders giving, many believe.

“’A lot of very powerful women are investing in women’s causes and, quite honestly, there’s been a renewed push to invest after the election,’ said Melanie Ulle, a Denver-based philanthropic adviser and consultant to nonprofits,” according to Bhattarai. “Women feel that the patriarchy is alive and well — the outcome of the election confirmed that for many people — and they want to change that.”

About the Author

Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon