Generational Change Seen in Philanthropic Women

While women have always been highly active and engaged in giving back, a new study about women and philanthropy by Fidelity Charitable depicts how the pandemic took many donors’ generosity to even higher levels. 

Before the pandemic, three-quarters of women said that charitable giving was an important part of their lives, compared to 69% of men. But the events of 2020 inspired a renewed sense of generosity, with the number of women who said giving is important rising nine points to 84%. However, the greater leap occurred among men, with 81% saying charitable giving was important to them in 2021 – a 12-point increase. In addition, 43% of men said they gave notably more to charity in 2020 than they had the previous year, compared to 34% of women.  

“Women will continue to lead charitable giving decisions in many households, but the innate desire to make a difference in the world is more apparent than ever in all donors,” said Pamela Norley, president of Fidelity Charitable. “Men and women still engage in giving very differently, and there are ways that women can do even more.”

Artemis Strategy Group, an independent research firm, conducted the research study on behalf of Fidelity Charitable. In March 2020, 3,055 adults in the U.S. who donated at least $1,000 to charity in 2019 were surveyed. A follow-up January 2021 survey among 830 philanthropic individuals in the U.S. who donated at least $1,000 to charity in 2020 detected shifts in donor thinking due to the events of that year.

Some 86% of women said they wish they could do more to create positive social change, and they participated in many giving activities at higher rates than men, including volunteerism. Two-thirds (67%) of women reported volunteering recently compared to 56% of men. More women made non-financial gifts, bought from socially-responsible businesses or donated through social media or online giving platforms. Women were also more likely than men to rank hunger (45% vs. 34%), access to basic health services (34% vs. 27%) and access to shelter or affordable housing (22% vs. 16%) as one of the top challenges facing the world.

Despite participating in many giving activities at higher rates, women were less likely than men to be aware of or engage in many financial strategies that could enable greater impact. For example, only 17% of women made an impact investment — the practice of making purposeful investments that generate financial returns, while also helping to achieve social or environmental benefits — compared to a quarter of men.

Similarly, among women who owned stocks or bonds, 35% were unaware that these assets can be donated to charity — a strategy that potentially minimizes the donor’s tax burden and enables them to make a larger donation.

This knowledge gap is a prime opportunity for financial advisors to engage with women clients on a topic that is important to them. However, only 14% of women have spoken with a financial advisor about charitable planning strategies, compared to 20% of men.

Generational change is quickly shifting the philanthropic landscape—but not necessarily closing the gender gap related to charitable planning strategies. Millennials of either gender were more likely than the average donor population to have engaged in newer forms of giving back, from supporting socially responsible businesses to donating through social media. 

However, Millennial women still lagged their male counterparts in adopting charitable investment strategies, like impact investing or microloans. And younger men were much more likely to have discussed philanthropic strategies with an expert. One-in-three Millennial men have had a charitable planning conversation with a financial advisor, compared to 19% of Millennial women.

To read the full report, visit Fidelity Charitable Women and Giving study.