Women’s voices ring clear in world of philanthropy

As women in the Baby Boomer generation begin to retire, women in the Gen X and millennial generations are assuming well-deserved and hard-earned leadership positions in the business, government and nonprofit sectors. This transition is impacting philanthropy in significant ways.

Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, and range in age from 71 to 53. Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1980, and range in age from 52 to 37. Millennials were born between 1981 and 1997, and range in age from 36 to 20.

Women control much of the nation’s wealth

  • Across the country, approximately 70 percent of high school valedictorians are women.
  • In college, women outnumber men by nearly 1.4 to 1.
  • Women currently earn almost 60 percent of undergraduate and master’s degrees and 52 percent of doctorates.
  • Women already own more than half of the investable assets in the United States. They control decision making for $11 trillion.
  • Women are expected to inherit 70 percent of the $41 trillion in intergenerational wealth transfer over the next 35 years.
  • Woman-headed households are more likely to give to charity than male-headed households.
  • At nearly every income level, women donate almost twice as much as men.
  • Baby-boomer and older women give 89 percent more to charity than men their age. Women in the top 25 percent of permanent income give 156 percent more than men in that same category.
  • Women are nearly twice as likely as men to say that giving to charity is “the most satisfying aspect of having wealth.”
  • When it comes to giving decisions, 64 percent of women claim to be motivated by their hearts as well as their heads, compared with 53 percent of men.

Giving differs by age and gender

A recent study compares giving between Baby Boomer and considerably younger millennial women, and between women and men. In “Women and Giving: The impact of generation and gender on philanthropy,” Fidelity Charitable surveyed 3200 donors. The key findings include:

  • Boomer women are more confident and strategic in their philanthropy. Seventy-two percent of Boomer women are satisfied with their philanthropy, compared with just over half of Millennial women.
  • Millennial women are more likely than Boomers to lead with their hearts and take a more social approach to giving. More frequently, they make philanthropy a key part of their relationships with others.
  • Millennials are more open to trying new forms of giving such as crowdfunding or giving circles. Boomers give in more traditional ways.
  • Compared with men, women have more questions around the finances of giving.
  • Across generations, women give differently than men. Women are more spontaneous, engaged and empathetic. Half of the women interviewed in this study say they give in the moment rather than as part of a formal giving strategy. Just 40 percent of men give in the moment.

What do these data mean?

The data reported by this study indicate significant changes and opportunities in philanthropy –now and in the long term. As women continue to acquire more education, career opportunities, leadership positions and wealth (both earned and inherited), their desire and capacity to play a meaningful role in philanthropy will grow proportionately.

This study highlights the expressed need for an increased financial, tax and legal understanding of all aspects of philanthropy, as well as an increased need for taking a strategic rather than haphazard approach to giving.

To better serve women assuming leadership roles in upcoming generations, financial, legal, tax and philanthropic advisers must adjust their services to reflect these needs. In addition, nonprofit fundraisers must take the time to study and understand these important generational and gender differences. Clearly, one size of fundraising no longer fits all donors.

Women of all ages and stages of life are more generous than their male counterparts. They are more focused on making a difference in their communities — and beyond. In the words of former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”