An increase in charitable giving to progressive causes and nonprofits following the 2016 election was driven by female donors, a report from the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds.
Based on data from Charity Navigator, the report, Charitable Giving Around the 2016 Election: Does Gender Matter? (20 pages, PDF), found that although giving immediately following the election was lower than in other post-presidential election periods, giving in support of progressive organizations with "relevance" to key election issues rose — an increase driven primarily by women, while the drop in overall giving was concentrated among men.
The report defines "relevant" organizations as those having "a perceived liberal or progressive political leaning" that also had a direct connection to 2016 campaign issues — for example, Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The analysis also found that in the week before the election, women gave an average of $1,586 more than men to such organizations and stepped up their giving in the week after the election, with the difference in average gift size between women and men doubling to more than $3,905.
According to the report, possible explanations for the gender-driven gap include differences in women's and men's motivations for giving, with previous research suggesting that women tend to give to help others while men focus on the benefits they receive from giving. Another possible explanation involves the "social identification theory of care," which posits that people are motivated to give to those with whom they identify. As a number of progressive nonprofits in the data set advocate for women's reproductive rights, women may have increased their giving to such organizations more than men did because they identified more closely with those who benefit from the organizations' activities.
"These findings suggest that some Americans who were moved to action following the 2016 election expressed that desire to engage with issues they care about through their philanthropy," said Debra J. Mesch, the Eileen Lamb O'Gara Chair in Women's Philanthropy at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. "Women led this charge, embracing charitable giving as an extension of their political engagement and using their growing financial assets to advance causes, including minority rights, reproductive rights, and climate action. The report has significant implications regarding how donors engage with charities — and vice versa — in today's charged political climate."