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Child’s Gender, Family Configuration Impact Giving

Fundraisers have traditionally refrained from asking for a donor’s first-born child. The gender of the first-born child might be of some interest, however, as a new study shows that a child’s gender and family configuration impact parents’ charitable-giving tendencies.

Multi-children families whose first child is male are 1.9 percent more likely to give to charitable organizations than multi-children families whose first child is female. They also give 14.3 percent more, according to a report released today by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI), a part of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The school is headquartered at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).

Single-child families with daughters, however, are 2.6 percent more likely to give to charitable organizations than single-child families with sons and give 20.3 percent more.

Families with two or more children are 11.7 percent more likely to give to educational causes and 7.4 percent more likely to give to youth and family organizations when the first child is a boy than when the first child is a girl, the report states. Single-child families are 30 percent more likely to give to educational organizations and 31 percent more likely to give to basic-needs providers than similar families with male children.

Debra Mesch, director of WPI, attributed the “son effect” to the tendency of fathers to be more engaged in their families when the first child is a son. The “daughter effect” is largely driven by a subgroup referred to as “stand-out” families, Mesch said, which describes families with two parents who have stayed together with a daughter who is the only child and still lives at home.

“When you have a daughter living at home with two parents, there is this closeness and responsiveness between mother and daughter,” Mesch said. Stand-out families are 4.3 percent more likely to give to charitable organizations than families whose only child is a son and give 32 percent more, according to the report.

The report was based on Philanthropy Panel Study data collected from 2001 to 2011 that tracked more than 13,000 individuals across a 10-year span, Mesch said. WPI was interested in analyzing whether the gender of first-born children impacts giving as other studies have shown how children’s gender informs other parental behaviors such as political allegiances. Though there have been numerous studies on how parents impact their children’s giving, there had not been a report previously conducted to see if the opposite holds true, Mesch said.

The report’s findings could help inform organizations’ donor-cultivation efforts moving forward, according to Mesch. “I think nonprofits need to include women and their children and the families being involved in the nonprofit organization,” Mesch said. “It goes to donor cultivation. How can nonprofits think of ways in cultivation activities to include the whole family and not just the parents?”

To view the full report, visit

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