Will Women Drive a Change In Giving?

Julie Reilly, Australian Women Donors Network

September 2016



If I ask you to close your eyes and conjure an image of a philanthropist, the chances are you would picture a well dressed, well heeled, well spoken, well educated, well-respected person....well ..most likely that person is most likely a man... who has been well rewarded in business and is .... well.... let's say... mature. However, times have changed and contemporary philanthropy embraces many faces, ages, attitudes, approaches, professions and genders.

Like other sectors, the social investment space is experiencing disruption and our next generation donors have a very different style. They are more likely to give globally and more likely to want the way they make their money to do as much good (or at least do no harm) as the money they donate or invest in social causes.


Among the recent trends disrupting philanthropy are:

  • Digital Disruption: Technology is changing philanthropy on a number of levels. Firstly through the creation of a new class of mega wealthy resulting from tech innovation, and secondly through the innovations themselves. Facebook has made Mark Zuckerberg an extremely wealthy philanthropist, and his social media creation is enabling a whole new way of connecting causes to funders. So digital disruption is impacting both the who and the how of philanthropy. Technology has created new funders and at the same time is changing the way social entrepreneurs access funds, new networks, and engage with donors.



  • Impact Investing: The use of capital markets to drive social good has emerged as a key trend in the U.S. and is of increasing interest here in Australia. The challenge is establishing a shared understanding of impact investing and its potential and having the deal flow to meet the interest and demand of socially conscious investors.



  • Democratisation of Giving: Once the domain of the uber wealthy, philanthropy has evolved to become more broadly accessible to those of moderate wealth. Collective giving models including Giving Circles, crowdfunding both online and through initiatives like The Funding Network, allow groups of individuals to pool their funds and donate to create impact on a scale not possible on their own. This collective giving movement is gaining traction and has enormous power to engage middle-income earners in structured giving. It's a mode of giving particularly attractive to women because it supports engagement - both with other donors and with project



Perhaps the biggest disrupter in philanthropy will stem from the transfer of wealth to women that is predicted to occur over the next few decades. As our population ages, and women outlive men, an unprecedented philanthropic capacity will rest with women. By 2020, women in the U.S are expected to control $22 trillion as wealth continues to shift from men to women.



Research shows that women give in greater numbers, give a higher proportion of their wealth and give more frequently. Women also prefer to be engaged in the issues and organisations they support where men are more likely to 'write a cheque' metaphorically speaking and not necessarily engage personally with the project or the cause.

A report released by Koda Capital earlier this year showed that female donors gave 0.38 percent of their income, while males gave 0.34 per cent. At the same time, 36.5 percent of female taxpayers claimed deductible gifts, compared to 33.8 percent of males. Koda Capital partner and head of philanthropy and social capital, David Knowles, said charities should focus efforts on female donors, who were often overlooked in giving.



"Charities should focus more on women donors and cultivate support from women in general or they risk missing out on vital funding from the most generous 50 percent of Australia's population", Knowles said.

"We know from Koda's work with couples that women are very influential in making philanthropic decisions, yet women are often overlooked as donors in favour of their male spouses. "This makes no sense, when women are increasingly becoming asset owners, are earning higher incomes and are likely to outlive their male spouses."



As I commented at the time, whether as donors or recipients, the evidence is clear that women are key to achieving social change. Given women's growing economic capacity and their relative edge in generosity, it's vital that we encourage and support women in philanthropy.

Extra Resources

Disrupting Philanthropy - Will Women Drive The Change In Giving- .pdf

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