New Research Shows Women’s Fund and Foundation Donors are Exceptionally Engaged Philanthropists

A new report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute explores the characteristics of women’s fund and foundation donors. Donors to women’s funds and foundations give more, engage more holistically, and see themselves as leaders in philanthropy – particularly in their giving to women’s and girls’ causes.

All In for Women & Girls, which is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, examines the unique role that high-net-worth donors to women’s funds and foundations play in catalyzing support for women’s and girls’ causes, uncovering important insights for donors, fundraisers and other leaders in this space. But the implications are even broader. Any organization, particularly identity-based philanthropy groups, can look to this report for insights on cultivating a community of engaged, generous and committed donors.

“As gender equity continues to grow as a social and philanthropic priority, donors to women’s funds and foundations stand out as leaders. Philanthropy is not a silo for these donors; it is a fully integrated aspect of their day-to-day lives, one that they embrace in a number of ways, from giving at capacity to serving on boards to talking with other donors about the impact of their gifts. This is the type of donor every organization should strive to cultivate,” said Debra J. Mesch, Ph.D., the Eileen Lamb O’Gara Chair in Women’s Philanthropy at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI.

Lead researcher Elizabeth Dale, Ph.D., assistant professor at Seattle University, said: “This is the first report to look at the intersection of high-net-worth donors, giving to women and girls, and women’s funds and foundations. It finds that women’s fund and foundation donors give significant, sustainable support for women’s and girls’ causes and bring a ‘gender lens’ to their philanthropy. We know that investing in women and girls leads to real and lasting change in communities – this research can help continue to drive funding for gender equity and provide a model for other identity-based causes.”

All In for Women & Girls was based on a new survey of high-net-worth donors, comparing women’s fund and foundation donors to a group of more “general” high-net-worth donors to a variety of causes. Compared to general donors, women’s fund and foundation donors:

  • … are more likely to be women and LGBTQ individuals, and less likely to be retired or religious.
  • … have given to women’s and girls’ causes for a longer period of time.
  • … are more likely to consider themselves philanthropic experts, philanthropic leaders, and activist donors.
  • … are more motivated to give by being on the board or volunteering for an organization, giving back to the community, and believing their gift can make a difference. They are less likely to be motivated by tax benefits.
  • … give higher amounts to charity, and to a larger number of charitable organizations; they also use different tools and strategies for giving, such as giving circles and a will with a charitable provision.
  • … are more satisfied with their giving to women and girls; evaluate their giving based on direct contact with organizations; and take key steps to give more effectively, such as serving on a nonprofit board, or talking with other donors.
  • … are more likely to be giving at their financial capacity to women and girls.

The full report and visual summary are available here.