Liveblogging WPI Plugged In: Women, Giving, and Tech

This year’s signature series from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) focuses on a vast area of study — gender and technology. This subject is just beginning to get explored, and for good reason — it turns out there are significant differences in how women use technology to conduct their philanthropy. There are also key spaces online where women network and build on their work in philanthropy, and those spaces are influencing the direction of philanthropy writ large.

Today, WPI is launching its Plugged In Podcast series, which will explore different aspects of how gender and technology influence philanthropy. Speakers today include:

-Asha Curran, CEO, #GivingTuesday
-Elizabeth Gore, President, Alice
-Beth Kanter, Author and nonprofit innovator
-Walle Mafolasire, Founder, Givelify
-Teresa Younger, CEO and President, Ms. Foundation for Women

Andrea Pactor thanked the audience for joining and being here for the launch of Plugged In. “The irony of our theme today is not lost on us. Who knew that the world would be turned upside down…and we would all become Zoom experts,” said Pactor, referencing the timeliness of WPI’s topic, given the expanding use of technology due to COVID.

Pactor recounted the recent history of WPI’s Chicago conference being cancelled and the Institute’s decision to move the symposium online. While we are all finding ways to make the best in less than ideal circumstances, and are often using technology to do this, Pactor discussed WPI’s new work in this arena. “It’s fitting that now we are moving these conversations online through our digital hub launching today and the PluggedIn podcast series.”

The podcast series will explore timely questions.

Jeannie Sager, WPI’s new Executive Director, joined the webcast to greet and thank the audience and to call attention to the larger picture of WPI’s mission: “At WPI, we believe by understanding how and why women give, we can unlock more giving by all,” said Sager.

Sager talked about how it will now be more important than ever to understand how women engage in philanthropy online, because this giving can provide keys of understanding that will help address the COVID crisis. “Research alone cannot change behavior,” added Sager. “It takes all of us to change research into behavior.” Sager encouraged the over 500 attendees at the online conference to check out new digital hub, Philanthropy Plugged In.

Beth Kanter on the Importance of “Social Proofing”

Beth Kanter, nonprofit author and expert, spoke first, and went straight to discussing the value of sharing about philanthropy on social networks.

“Sharing on social networks is so easy,” said Kanter, and discussed a key concept called “Social Proofing” — which basically comes down to “make your generosity transparent.”

“By sharing what you are doing around COVID, whatever you do, it inspires others,” said Kanter, and gave an example of Jen Bokoff from Candid, who started thread on social media to allow nonprofits to sell their products, and asking others on the thread to support each other’s organizations by buying each other’s products.

For Kanter, their family decided to adopt a senior citizen dog from Muttville. She discusses how she shared with her followers about the virtual pet adoption experience, told about her giving to the shelter, and encouraged others to do the same. “Your generosity is contagious,” she said.

Kanter said one way that donors can engage with their communities in the time of COVID is by creating “kindness initiatives” which encourage people do an act of kindness. She said organizations can also do gratitude campaigns, thanking their donors, particularly at this critical time. Donor organizations can also use their media teams to highlighting stories of community resilience, said Kanter, and to offer free interactive experiences. She gave the example of zoos using Zoom to bring animals to meetings.

Feminist Philanthropy Pivoting Toward Virtual

Teresa Younger spoke next, calling in from Brooklyn. Younger responded to WPI’s new research by saying, “It doesn’t surprise me to learn about the multiple places women are giving.” Younger spoke about her experience as CEO of The Ms. Foundation for Women, and seeing women donors and activists as some of “the most creative folks to try and make the dollar go as far as it can go.”

“What we know also is that they are quick to go online and find information, and quick to share that information,” said Younger, describing another way that women give to the collective good by being communicators of helpful information. She sees how technology has enabled feminist communities to use technology to “make the introduction” with communities and then “directing people to go out and build that community both internet-wise and also as if they were our family and our community.”

Younger shared one way that the Ms. Foundation is using technology to enhance its movement building — a Virtual Feminist Block party on May 20 that will “bring folks together to hear from and learn about organizations across the country.”

“Moving to virtual events allows you to reach far more people,” said Younger.

“As the WPI report shows, people want to stay connected,” said Younger. “We know that women want to learn more about philanthropy so they can have the greatest impact. What’s most exciting is that we’re growing philanthropy to engage more family members in the process.”

#GivingTuesday and Recognizing the Full Spectrum of Donor Generosity

Asha Curran, CEO #GivingTuesday, spoke next, and talked about how their effort, coming up on May 5, will work to create “a broader definition of philanthropy.” She said WPI’s data aligned with their organization’s, particularly as it showed how women are seeking multiple ways to give, and how women are more active on social media.

Curran said that many in philanthropy are still “operating on outdated assumptions.” She gave a prime example of one of these outdated assumptions: the idea that giving in one way will reduce the giving in another way. “This is a myth,” said Curran. “People who are generous in one way are more likely to be generous in other way. She talked about GivingTuesday’s model as one that is focused on “engaging with givers by recognizing the full spectrum of their generosity.”

Andrea Pactor of WPI thanked Curran for her contribution and added that #GivingTuesday’s Global Day of Action on May 5 is a positive step to righting this upside-down world.”

The Blurring Line Between Social Enterprise and Philanthropy in COVID

Elizabeth Gore, a former WPI council member, and CEO of Alice, joined the panel next. She talked about how her team of 15 people have received over “90,000 small business owners contacting us looking for help.”

Gore said Alice is “a for-profit social enterprise, with a commitment of over 50% of our work for social good.” She sees the COVID crisis as a time where “women are coming out of the woodwork, wanting to help other women small business owners.”

“Women are disproportionately impacted by COVID,” said Gore, which is why her organization has built “the COVID 19 Business Center where any small business person can access federal funds, grant information, as well as mental health resources.”

Gore said Alice has developed two types of funds — one to serve to companies with less than 20 employees, and another that is putting funds into a 501c3 and making grants to for-profit companies. “We’re built on top of a machine learning platform,” said Gore. She said Alice is “vetting 30,000 to 60,000 applications every few days,” so technology is very important to their work. She said that we all need to ask ourselves questions about the way we give back to society. “The lines are getting more blurred between what’s a for-profit and what’s a nonprofit,” she said.

Gore called attention to the need to do more for women business owners with multiple vulnerabilities. She gave the example of the small coffee shop that’s been in your neighborhood for 10 years. “They may really need a charitable donation right now,” she said, and challenged everyone to think about what it means to have a charitable purpose.

Giving by Recognizing and Thanking Spiritual Leaders

Walle Mafolasire, Founder, Givelify was the final speaker. He talked about how women models in his early life made him aware of how to be a community member. “I was encouraged by mother to make sure I was not ignoring those in the community who need help.”

Mafolasire said that his platform is used by over 40,000 organizations, and has raised over one billion for charitable causes. “As the pandemic started, at a time when we thought generosity would go down, we see that some people are stepping up,” said Mafolasire.

“How do we help everyone see themselves as philanthropists?” asked Mafolasire, and discussed the fact that the bulk of giving is to faith-based organizations.

Mafolasire sees many faith-based organizations “stepping up to challenge the idea of community as we know it.” He knows of faith leaders who have been the “shoulder of comfort and beacon of hope” for people who are “getting the call about being furloughed.” He sees an important role in the giving of support from faith-based leaders as a form of philanthropy. His platform is doing work in “recognizing faith responders” and “Asking people to tell the stories of the faith leader or spiritual leader who was there for you through the COVID crisis.”

Andrea Pactor concluded the webinar by alerting the audience to an upcoming event on Friday, May 1, where they will have an opportunity to add their voices to the conversation on WPI’s new research.

Research Summary: In Online Giving, Women Give More, Give to Smaller Organizations, and Give Much More to Women and Girls

WPI’s research studied 3.7 million online gift transactions in four datasets. The Executive Summary reports these emergent themes:

1. Women give more gifts than men, and contribute a greater proportion of dollars than men. Across all four case studies, women give greater numbers of gifts than men (nearly two-thirds of gifts, across platforms). While average gift size is relatively equal, and in some cases men’s gifts are slightly larger, women’s greater number of donations means they are giving more dollars than men through each platform studied (53%-61% of dollars, depending on the case study).

2. Women give smaller gifts than men, and give to smaller charitable organizations than men. Across three of the four case studies, women give smaller gifts than men. Women’s gifts also tend to go to smaller charitable organizations compared to gifts from men, which are more likely to go to large organizations.

3. Women’s and girls’ organizations receive substantially more support from women donors than from men donors. Three of the four case studies allowed for analysis of funding for women’s and girls’ causes, with women giving between 60% and 70% of dollars to women’s and girls’ organizations, depending on the dataset.

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Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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