A new report out from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) helps to distill some key traits that progressive women donors share. The report, entitled “Giving By and For Women,” is a first-of-its-kind study involving in-depth interviews with women donors who are focused on giving to women and girls.
“Acquisition of wealth gives these donors hyperagency,” says the report’s conclusions, and this hyperagency is worth studying for the way it influences social change. The common traits that these donors exhibit are worth recognizing, since they form a particular pattern of life experiences and values that contribute to the focus of their giving. The report also importantly notes that “these interviews are not generalizable to a larger population of donors.”
So what do these gender equality-focused donors look like? A WPI infographic accompanying the report outlines seven key traits discovered:
She learns philanthropy young. Early values of “giving what they could” exhibited by parents of participants influenced their choice to get into philanthropy.
She believes there is added value and impact to investing in women and girls. Women donors interviewed saw funding women and girls as the best return-on-investment for their philanthropy dollars.
Empathy is at the heart of her philanthropy. Study participants cited their own experiences of gender discrimination and social inequality as motivating their decisions to fund women and girls.
She comes to philanthropy self-educated. Participants take education very seriously and do not avoid the data and research when developing funding strategies. Education comes in the form of conversations and networking for many of these women, as well as staying on top of the latest studies.
She’s a risk-taker. “Contrary to conventional wisdom, the women we spoke with expressed a willingness to take risks with their philanthropy, funding experimental initiatives rather than just known solutions,” says the study. Many study participants also had experienced risk-taking in starting their own businesses.
She believes the cost of financial privilege is social responsibility. High- net-worth women in the study expressed an awareness of the added load of responsibility that comes with their wealth.
She sees the deeper impact of systemic change. Progressive women donors have figured out that without partnering in the real world with government and business, there will be no real change for women. They work to get upstream at problems by changing the larger social systems creating inequality.
As a writer focused on progressive women donors and their allies, reading through this study was a validating experience. It confirmed many of my own my observations of the women donors I have known so far, and helped to frame their work in a larger context of shared values. As we learn more about donors focused on gender equality, we can better understand this dynamic and expanding field of philanthropy.
The full WPI research is available here.