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Women’s Voices Ring Clear in Philanthropic World

A new study reveals generational and gender differences in giving.

As women in the baby boomer generation begin to retire, women in the Gen X and millennial generations are assuming well-deserved and hard-earned leadership positions in the business, government and nonprofit sectors. This transition is impacting philanthropy in significant ways.

Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964 and range in age from 53 to 71. Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1980 and range in age from 37 to 52. Millennials were born between 1981 and 1997 and range in age from 20 to 36.

Women Control Much of the Nation’s Wealth

Giving Differs by Age and Gender

A recent study compares giving between baby boomer and considerably younger millennial women, and between women and men. In “Women and Giving: The impact of generation and gender on philanthropy,” Fidelity Charitable surveyed 3,200 donors. The key findings include:

  • Boomer women are more confident and strategic in their philanthropy. Seventy-two percent of boomer women are satisfied with their philanthropy, compared with just over half of millennial women.
  • Millennial women are more likely than boomers to lead with their hearts and take a more social approach to giving. More frequently, they make philanthropy a key part of their relationships with others.
  • Millennials are more open to trying new forms of giving, such as crowdfunding or giving circles. Boomers give in more traditional ways.
  • Compared with men, women have more questions around the finances of giving.
  • Across generations, women give differently from men. Women are more spontaneous, engaged and empathetic. Half of the women interviewed in this study say they give in the moment rather than as part of a formal giving strategy. Just 40 percent of men give in the moment. 

What Do These Data Mean?

The data reported by this study indicate significant changes and opportunities in philanthropy–now and in the long term. As women continue to acquire more education, career opportunities, leadership positions and wealth (both earned and inherited), their desire and capacity to play a meaningful role in philanthropy will grow proportionately.

This study highlights the expressed need for an increased financial, tax and legal understanding of all aspects of philanthropy, as well as an increased need for taking a strategic rather than haphazard approach to giving.

To better serve women assuming leadership roles in upcoming generations, financial, legal, tax and philanthropic advisors must adjust their services to reflect these needs. In addition, nonprofit fundraisers must take the time to study and understand these important generational and gender differences. Clearly, one size of fundraising no longer fits all donors.

Women of all ages and stages of life are more generous than their male counterparts. They’re more focused on making a difference in their communities—and beyond.

In the words of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”

Bruce DeBoskey, J.D., is a philanthropic strategist working across the U.S. with The DeBoskey Group to help families, businesses and foundations design and implement thoughtful philanthropic strategies and actionable plans.

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