Happy International Women’s Day!

Women’s roles in philanthropy have evolved over time from sisterhood groups of biblical times to Victorian England’s Benevolent Aid Societies, which were the first documented organized women’s groups focusing on volunteerism and charity.

These Benevolent Aid Societies were the first Giving Circles.  Giving Circles originally appeared in the 1960’s with women participating in Investor Circles taking their stock-market/and or bridge game winnings and donating them to charity. This resulted in a highly educated, financially independent and savvy population who was engaged with community organizations.  These giving circles have evolved over the years, but the emotional and intellectual drivers of those attracted to them have remained the same.

According to several sources including Investor Economics and the Visual Capitalist women will soon hold 70% of the entire estate wealth in North America.  In addition, we are the beginning stages of a multi-trillion dollar inter-generational wealth transfer.  By deciding how, when and on what to spend their resources, women will increasingly impact the way that society is structured, the way that wealth is invested and the way that consumerism will evolve.

Women’s approach to philanthropy differs from men. Women’s brain activity increase when they can see how their money will impact the world whereas men’s brain activity increases when they talk about the legacy they are leaving.

Based on “Women & Philanthropy” by author Sondra Shaw-Hardy, there are five common goals that women have set for their personal philanthropy:

  1. Parity – Having a voice at the decision making table for the organization
  2. Equality – Having her donation valued at the same level as men
  3. Leadership – Not ego driven but rather impact driven – women want to be engaged by the organizations they support.
  4. Diversify the conversation – Add new perspectives to the problem solving discussion
  5. Inclusivity – To pave the way for other groups to get engaged with the organization

Society would look different if all philanthropic activities followed women’s charitable investment approaches. At the end of the day, women’s philanthropy is about outwardly living their values.

Women’s role in philanthropy has evolved from a volunteer support network through various Aid societies to sophisticated giving circles and is now moving towards a technological revolution.

The push of social media and technology is shaping the next philanthropic wave for young women.  Communities are no longer being defined by square blocks, or school groups; they are defined by “fan and like” status, along with cause groups on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  Calls to action include flash mobs, GoFundMe campaigns, video challenges.  People are tweeting their volunteer activities and getting their “friends” involved in micro-philanthropy by $5 gifts through sites like Place2Give

There is a new sense to the phrase, “People Power.” What does the female voice look like in this landscape?  How does gender play out in the philanthropy space?  40% of all donations under $1,000 made in Canada were done online.  How will women’s philanthropy and community leadership styles morph into this new technological landscape? A friend of my mother’s once said to me, that “it isn’t about your mother’s pearls, but rather, it’s about her pearls of wisdom.”  For the first time in recorded financial history, North American women are the key decision makers around how we will be financing solutions in our society now and into the foreseeable future.