Women Philanthropists Emerging as a Force

Although the field of philanthropy has long been dominated by white men, research published in the last twenty years suggests that women of all races are donating more to charity and are more involved in charitable work than their male counterparts, the New York Times reports.

According to research from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, women tend to be more generous, regardless of their age, race, or education, "because they are socialized to be that way." With a greater number of women earning more than they used to — albeit still just 80 percent of men's earnings — the sector has seen an increase in the number of active female philanthropists in a broad range of fields, especially social services — education, health care, workforce development — and causes focused on addressing the needs and challenges of women and girls.

Not surprisingly, a number of charities are taking measures to boost their engagement with women philanthropists. The United Way, for example, created networks of female donors, dubbed Women's Leadership Councils, to mobilize female donors. The effort has paid off, as, over the past twelve years, the councils have raised some $985 million in support of the organization's mission to help people worldwide achieve their potential.

But as more women get in the habit of making major gifts to nonprofits, experts predict that the differences between male and female philanthropists will narrow. One of the biggest differences between them at the moment, notes the Times, is that men tend to request public recognition for their gifts. Don't be surprised, the Times adds, if in a few years time there are many more buildings with women's names on them.

"Women have to [start giving] out loud," Melanie Sabelhaus, co-founder of the American Red Cross's Tiffany Circle, told the Times. "Because it inspires other women."

Fran Hawthorne. "In Pursuit of the Female Philanthropists." New York Times 11/08/2012.