MacKenzie Scott, Melinda Gates, Priscilla Chan: On Women Philanthropists

“The effort that goes into motivating volunteers and building community spirit can be dismissed as ‘merely’ sociable interchange, related to women’s gender roles and natural propensities, requiring no real skills,” wrote the study’s author, Arlene Kaplan Daniels.

“Women who engaged in philanthropy were the behind-the-scenes volunteers, the unrecognized work,” said Debra Mesch, a professor of philanthropy at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Women’s Philanthropy Institute. “The men were the faces.”

But in recent years, with the rise of women in the workplace and the growth of movements centering their experience, women’s giving has become a subject of study by professionals in the nonprofit world and by academics. Women have more money than ever before and they’re continuing to accumulate it, and quickly. By 2023, women’s global wealth will rise to at least $81 trillion, according to a Boston Consulting Group analysis. In 2010, that number was $34 trillion.

“Women are more visible in philanthropy today because of the women who have been fighting for a seat at every table, across every industry, for decades,” Dr. Priscilla Chan, the co-founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative with her husband, Mark Zuckerberg, wrote in an email. “We stand on their shoulders and keep doing the work.”

“I have been convening women philanthropy leaders who are intentional about better fund-raising practices with women since 2015. I used to be able to count them on my hands,” said Kathleen Loehr, the principal at Kathleen Loehr and Associates, who consults organizations on how to adapt their fund-raising practices to women’s preferences. “Now we have 63 members.”

“Gender matters in philanthropy,” Dr. Mesch said. “Men and women engage in philanthropy differently. One is not better than the other. They’re just different.” For example, research has shown that single women give more than single men (a Barclay’s report said that among high-net-worth individuals in America, women give nearly twice as much as men do); that in marriage, women socialize their husbands into giving; and that women are more likely than men to engage in group giving.

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