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Find Your People and Give Back at the Same Time

Find Your People and Give Back at the Same Time

At the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI), there’s one consistent theme across various research reports: Women are leading through philanthropy, harnessing their growing wealth and influence to create the change they want to see in the world. Women give more and give differently compared to their male counterparts, and WPI is on a mission to find out more about how gender affects the way we give.

WPI’s latest report, All In For Women & Girls, shows that women’s foundation and fund donors -- the vast majority of whom are women -- are exemplary in many ways. Compared to general donors, this group gives more, engages more holistically, and views themselves as leaders in philanthropy.

By taking a more modern and less siloed approach to philanthropy, these donors demonstrate what it means to fully integrate generosity into their day-to-day lives. In fact, a key finding from the report is that women’s foundation and fund donors are less likely to be retired -- in other words, philanthropy is something they incorporate into their lives more holistically and earlier on.

How are young professional women using their dollars for change? And how can you get involved?

[Related: Confessions of a Purpose-Driven Company: What I Learned When I Tried to Save the World]

First, what are women’s foundations and funds?

Supporting women’s and girls’ causes has grown as a priority among social issues, and women’s foundations and funds have been at the forefront of this movement. These organizations award millions of dollars in grants each year and contribute critical resources to raising awareness on the status of, and issues facing, women.

Women’s foundations and funds receive their funding from a variety of sources, including individuals, corporate sponsors, and other foundations. Around one in five of these organizations are member-based, meaning individuals donate to join as a member and have a voice in where funding is distributed.

The way that these organizations enact change can vary. While many women's funds and foundations are relatively young organizations and tend to be run by a lean staff, they excel at identifying the needs of diverse groups of women and girls. Based in specific communities, these funding organizations are skilled at bringing together local leaders to address topical issues through the lens of gender and social change.

[Related: It’s Time to Get Serious About Educating Women Around the World — The Economy Will Thank Us]

What does the research say about people who donate to women’s foundations and funds?

Giving by women for women is very much on the rise. As it might be expected, most donors to women’s foundations and funds are women themselves.

Compared to general donors, this group is more likely to see themselves as activist donors or philanthropic leaders. They frequently serve on boards, volunteer, and seek out ways to engage with other donors.

Rather than being motivated by tax benefits or religious beliefs, these donors are often driven by giving back to the community and the belief that their gift can make a difference.

Time and time again, we’ve heard from leaders that community and connection to others are major value-adds for donors to women’s foundations and funds. Felicia Davis, President and CEO of Chicago Foundation for Women, notes: “When these individuals come together in community, they share a level of engagement, deep commitment to justice, and a zeal for learning that is distinct from other donor communities.”

[Related: Three Ways to Use Philanthropy to Boost Your Career]

How can you get involved?

If gender equity emerges as one of your passions, nearly every state or major city has a local women’s foundation or fund that you can join. There are different ways to engage with these organizations, including volunteering, networking events, and joining a giving circle.

More broadly, whether your passion is giving to women and girls or fighting animal cruelty, one of the first steps toward engaging in philanthropy is establishing a plan for your own generosity. Think critically about how you might be able to offer your time, talent, expertise, dollars, or voice to advocate for causes and local organizations.

As women continue to lead within their own networks, philanthropy emerges as a source of connection, influence, and meaningful impact -- an opportunity that connects like-minded women and fosters leadership among rising professionals.

[Related: 6 Tips for Building A Strong Support Network From Unlikely Sources]


Andrea Pactor is the interim director of the Women's Philanthropy Institute.

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