Women’s Giving Networks Gaining Prominence

December 12, 2011       Mark Hrywna      

When it comes to decisions about charitable giving, it’s less like “Father Knows Best” or “Leave It To Beaver” and more like “Friday Night Lights” or “The Cosby Show.” Women are at least equal partners — or the sole decision-makers — among high net-worth individuals, according to a study released today.

The 2011 Study of High Net Worth Women’s Philanthropy and The Impact of Women’s Giving Networks, by the Center on Philanthropy (CoP) at Indiana University details differences and similarities between men and women about their motivations and influences on charitable contributions.

What influences the giving decisions by high net-worth men and women is an area where donors sometimes part ways. Almost 82 percent of females cited a personal experience with an organization as an influence compared to only 73 percent of men. A wider gap was found with an organization’s communication of impact, where more than 46 percent of women said it was an influence but only 32 percent of men. Similar responses among the genders were an organization’s connection to them, their family or friends (about 73 percent) and their own or public knowledge of an organization (about 70 percent).

More than 14 percent of men and 10 percent of women said they make separate decisions about donations. Almost 39 percent of women said they alone decide, compared to 43 percent of men. Joint decisions were recorded among 48 percent of women and 41 percent of men, according to the study, sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Men and women differed significantly among half of the 14 factors — including five of the top six overall — that motivate high net-worth individuals to give.

The study compares the 2010 survey of men and women, and includes a new survey of the American Red Cross Tiffany Circle. The circle is an eight-chapter pilot launched in 2007 that includes women leaders and philanthropists who give $10,000 or more annually to their local Red Cross chapters. Last year, the study asked 800 respondents in the U.S. whose household income was greater than $200,000 and/or net worth was at least $1 million (excluding the value of their primary residence).

There’s a growing visibility of women’s giving networks, according to Una Osili, the CoP’s director of research. “Women involved in networks have the potential to increase their giving and engagement with nonprofits more broadly,” she said. There’s not as much evidence that men are responding to or are seeing the need for such networks, she said.

While men are more likely to support the same organizations or causes each year, women also are more strategic in their giving and more confident that nonprofits can solve the world’s problems. Personal experience with an organization influences their charitable decisions more then men as well.

Charities can use the survey’s findings to tailor their appeals or strategy to develop more meaningful relationships, among both men and women, Osili said.

“Some nonprofits may actually develop multiple engagement opportunities to take advantage of the differences and similarities in genders rather than one homogenous approach,” Osili said, as well as with appeals and donor recognition. Organizations also can learn how to engage both a husband and wife when considering engaging a couple, be it a volunteer opportunity, a donor visit, or in appeals, she said.

The biggest giving factor for both genders was being moved at how a gift can make a difference, but almost 82 percent of women cited that to 71 percent of men. Both genders also found it important giving to an organization that is efficient, but again females came in at almost 81 percent versus men at 69 percent. Giving back to the community was a factor for 78 percent of women but only 63 percent of men.

The only motivation in which men outpolled women was in supporting the same causes or organizations annually, where 68 percent of men said it was a motivation compared to 60 percent of women.

Among the least common motivations between both genders was to further the legacy of others, but it also appeared to be the widest gap between them. About a third of women said it was important but only 16 percent of men did.

Other factors that appeared to vary widely among genders was if they volunteer for an organization (66 percent of women versus 50 percent of men), and to set an example for young people (44 percent versus 25 percent).

Among women who identified themselves as being part of a giving network, the percentages cited for motivations were higher than females who didn’t self-identify. For instance, 87 percent of those in a network said giving back to a community is a motivation, compared to 71 percent of those not in a network.

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