Pulse of Fundraising - March 2023

Four Landmark Studies that Development Professionals Should Cite for Women’s History Month
March marks Women’s History Month, a time for us to champion the diverse contributions that women have made to the charitable ecosystem and to the larger movement for equality, justice, and power. The following primary sources examine non-profit as a space increasingly belonging to women and offer several citable insights about the philanthropic sector.


Giving Circle Membership: How Collective Giving Impacts Donors

Giving circles (GC’s) emerged as an innovation in philanthropy tied to women’s groups in the 1990s, and from 2007-2017 the number of GC’s tripled in the U.S., marking a rapid increase in philanthropic communities focusing on women and girls of diverse identities. In 2018, the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy partnered with the Collective Giving Research Group (CGRG) to commission a study about the composition of GC donors and their networks compared to donors not in GC’s. 70% of GCs are majority-women and by measuring their social relationships, the study affirms previous, though less extensively backed, findings that GC members “give more, give more strategically, and give to a wider array and number of organizations,” particularly to civic and political causes; and are likelier to extend community cause-messaging to coworkers and family. 

How Women and Girls of Color Do More with Less

In 2020, Ms. Foundation for Women partnered with Strength in Numbers Consulting Group to publish the landmark, data-driven study measuring the funding landscape for gender and racial justice movements. The study made the now well-cited statistic that total philanthropic giving to women and girls of color is just $5.48 per year for each woman or girl of color in the U.S., accounting for just 0.5% of the total $66.9 billion given by foundations. The numbers documented not only inform us on where philanthropy reflects social inequity, but it can motivate us to hold the sector accountable by putting funding dollars in perspective.

Giving to Women and Girls: An Emerging Area of Philanthropy

In the April 2018 issue of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (NVSQ), philanthropy researchers from University of Indiana and Seattle University published the findings of a national survey and mixed method study that identifies who gives to women and girls, and what motivates these donors. Overall, the research aggregates an impressive data set of social identifiers and concludes that identifiers like gender, age, income, and religious affiliation were the strongest determinants of giving. Further, the Results section outlines three motivating factors in donors who give to women and girls: Either they identify first-hand with gendered oppression, believe in women’s equality and societal progress, or believe that women-led organizations are more efficacious.

Moving Money and Shifting Power for Social Justice: Voices of Wealthy Next-Gen Donors

Long-time researcher on gender and philanthropy Dr. Elizabeth Dale examines how and why a select group of givers are increasingly giving to support social justice causes. In 28 extensive interviews, Dale observes that the wealthiest 10% next-gen donors regularly enact six social justice practices in their giving, and that they were highly fluent in addressing the paradox of “wanting to improve society, which often involves addressing systemic inequities, while having achieved their privileged class positions through unjust economic systems.” This article is relevant in profiling the women, trans and non-binary donors funding identity-based philanthropy and the future of this funding as it overlaps with political and social campaigns.

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