The Fidelity® Charitable Gift Fund announced yesterday the results of a new study of charitable givers in America showing that women are playing a prominent role in their households and communities when it comes to philanthropy. Almost half of women surveyed say they have the decision-making role in their households for both how much money to donate to charity and which charities to support. The study also classified four profiles of givers in America today that illustrate distinctly different approaches to philanthropy.

“Our research indicates that, in many ways, women are shaping the future of philanthropy,” said Sarah C. Libbey, president of the Fidelity® Charitable Gift Fund (“Gift Fund”). “Women have always had a hand in their household’s charitable outreach. But that role is evolving as women increasingly create their own wealth and become the beneficiaries of wealth transfers because they live longer. As a result, women are stepping up to take on more philanthropic leadership roles.

“Women are using a broad circle of influencers in their charitable giving and they are passionate about instilling the value of philanthropy in the next generation,” Libbey added. “We, and other nonprofit organizations, should pay attention to this very influential group of donors.”

Most Men Say Wives Are Primary Influence for Charitable Giving

The Gift Fund study found that men overwhelmingly (92 percent) name their spouses as their primary influencer in charitable giving, while women are more likely to name a range of influencers that include their spouse (84 percent), extended family (24 percent), friends (23 percent) and co-workers (17 percent). Likewise, most men say they defer to their spouses on which charities to support (81 percent) and how much money to donate (83 percent).

High-Income Women Innovative In Giving Approach

The study found that high-income women are more likely than others to use securities for donations (7 percent versus 4 percent of all donors). These women are also more likely to say they want guidance from a financial professional on charitable giving (12 percent versus 9 percent of all donors). In addition, they are more likely to use giving vehicles such as donor-advised funds, charitable-remainder trusts and private foundations (5 percent versus 2 percent of all donors). They are more likely than any other group to support health and science causes (15 percent versus 7 percent of all donors) and to give additional money during challenging economic times (35 percent versus 27 percent of all donors).

Creating Family Charitable Legacy Bigger Priority for Women

When asked about their family legacy of giving, both male and female charitable givers generally agree that giving has always been a tradition in their family, they learned to be charitable by observing their parents and they consider it critical that their children continue their giving tradition, the study found. Women, however, appear to be more passionate about instilling this tradition. Nearly half of female charitable givers (48 percent) said they strongly agree that this is critical versus 39 percent of men.

Most Male and Female Charitable Givers Research-Oriented, Cause-Driven and Local

Virtually all donors (89 percent of the males and females) surveyed agree that it’s necessary to research the organizations they give to in order to ensure credibility. Eight out of 10 charitable givers (79 percent) indicate that when selecting a charitable organization, they research how much money goes directly into funding programs rather than into overhead. Almost three out of four charitable givers (72 percent) said they would more likely support an organization that would benefit their own communities versus one that went beyond their community.

The study also found that the average charitable giver (male and female) surveyed donated 6 percent of gross household income in 2008 with a vast majority giving up to 10 percent; they consider charitable giving a part of their overall financial plan; and they define a philanthropist as someone who donates at least $100,000 a year or more.

You can read more results in the  Fidelity® Charitable Gift Fundy Study Finds Women Playing a Prominent Role in Shaping Future of Philanthropy.