14 June 2010

Who Gives? Women Do

Women and giving. Historically, the idea that the one might be reliably connected to the other has been fairly regularly dismissed. As in: women don't have the capacity to give at high levels. As in: women just don't donate as frequently as men do charitable causes.

Though we here at the Foundation have had excellent reason to reject those conceits for years (we're here, after all!), two recent articles are shedding extra light on just how significantly women are impacting philanthropy here and abroad, and highlighting the unique approaches many are taking to putting their money to work on behalf of women around the world.

In a piece that ran on The Huffington Post last week, Tabby Biddle looked closely at how the rising economic power of women is impacting philanthropy. She noted:
In the United States, the latest statistics show that there are more women controlling more wealth in the U.S. than ever before. (Of those in the wealthiest tier of the country -- defined by the I.R.S. as individuals with assets of at least $1.5 million -- 43 percent are women.) Furthermore, women are reported to control 83 percent of household spending and more than 50 percent of family wealth. The reality is that women, strengthened by increasing economic power and education, are the rising wave of philanthropists.
The point is not just that women have more money in their pockets, Biddle observes. It's also that they're directing more and more of it toward charitable giving, as compared to their male peers. According to a Barclay's Wealth study from 2009 that Biddle references, "women in the U.S. give to charity, on average, nearly twice as much as men." How's that for dispelling the myth that women just don't give?

Of course, what's particularly interesting to note is not just the rise in numbers of women of women giving, and the increasing amounts they are donating to charity, but also the unique methods they are employing to disburse their funds. In last Sunday's Boston Globe, Kathleen Burge penned an excellent article about the rise in popularity of "giving circles" among women -- a concept we at the Ms. Foundation are intimately acquainted with, having originated a version of this kind of collaborative funding model in the earliest days of our existence.

Rather than acting as individual donors, in these models donors pool their resources for greater impact and, in some cases, decide together where to direct their funds. In her article, Burge profiles a few, small groups of women who have banded together informally in this way; at the Ms. Foundation, groups like our Democracy Funding Circle use similar methods to deploy their funds, while also deepening their knowledge base on specific issues and engaging with like-minded individuals who are working toward progressive social change.

Take a little time to read these articles, and then think about how you might leverage the power in your pocket -- and the collective power in your community -- to bring about change that benefits women and families. As both of these pieces show, your investment today really could make all the difference in the world.

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