Empowering Philanthropic Women: Survey Said


Renewed by some conference learning courtesy of CPRA, Apra’s Colorado chapter, I’m writing from Fort Collins, Colorado, where I had the joy and pleasure of presenting “A Woman’s Place is in Your Prospect Portfolio.” Here, I outlined a business case and moral imperative for identifying, researching, engaging and stewarding women donors. Specifically, I offered suggestions for fund development organizations to start – or carry on confidently – on the wonderful journey of advancing female philanthropy with practical data techniques and engagement strategies.

In the presentation, I drew from some survey data that was informally and unscientifically collected, collated and analyzed by yours truly. Here are some highlights about what you shared with me.

Missing Women’s Report 

For prospect development and fundraising professionals, prioritizing or at least including her in prospect research profiles and prospect portfolios formed a prominent theme:

“Put her information first in a profile, and his in the spouse section.”

“Get over the discomfort of estimating non-visible wealth! Present the household wealth and philanthropic picture, not the single biggest gift.”

“Provide balanced information on a couple. Ensure that women (mothers, daughters, and granddaughters) are included in research. Also, provide some insight into maternal lineage.”

“Strategy should include HER interests and passions. Do not make assumptions on how previous donations were decided.”

Reach Out to Her

I also asked how female fundraisers in particular, can better engage women donors in our respective missions and causes. You shared some practical approaches like:

“It may be beneficial to have two fundraisers at a meeting so a quieter spouse can be drawn out in conversation.”

“Engage women on a one-to-one basis, focus on *her* unique reason for giving; empower her vision for a better world, and honour her decisions.”

“Treat them like individuals, not stereotypical “pink” females; create more social opportunities; advocate for volunteer leadership opportunities.”

Where We Women At?

The notion or concept of invisibility permeated through cautionary (and blunt) statements about marketing / communication and stewardship of women donors:

“Think very carefully before giving an honourary degree to half of a power couple. This could be very insulting to a woman if she doesn’t receive the same recognition.”

“I am very sensitive to the images that we use in fundraising materials; recognize that we use a lot of unbearably paternalistic poses of masculine elder and eager student.”

“Seriously stop it with the old white dudes holding giant cheques.”

Broader Problems

Many survey respondents are not optimistic that the fundraising and philanthropic communities will make steady strides soon, pointing to systemic issues in gender parity:

“It looks like a few women are going to have to set big examples to get noticed. Right now major gifts are usually credited to a couple or a family even if a woman prompted it.”

“Unfortunately, much needs to be done to educate fundraisers that they need to do a better job of reaching out to all prospective donors, regardless of gender. I’m not optimistic that there will be major advances in women’s philanthropy anytime soon.”

“Advancing women’s philanthropy” is closely tied to “advancing women” — this issue is part of a much bigger problem of how we view and treat women, and women of different backgrounds, races, gender identities, etc.”

Your care and commitment to this topic shone through, dear survey respondents, so thank you so much for participating!


I’m heartened by the thoughtful questions and comments CPRA attendees shared with me about women’s philanthropy at last week’s conference. It’s clear many are already thinking about how to unravel conventional data practices that have literally hidden women’s contributions to their respective organizations. I suggested a full and thorough data audit using a gender lens, covering wide aspects of fund development operations – donations processing, donor communication rules, formal research, prospect portfolios, and stewardship practices. It takes more work, but it’s clearly worth understanding women’s contributions to your organization; a critical piece in better understanding our donor bases of strong support. 

As always, would you please care to comment on this post? Our community is stronger with information exchange and dialogue. THANK YOU!

5 thoughts on “Empowering Philanthropic Women: Survey Said

  1. Martha A. Taylor October 24, 2017 at 6:53 am Reply

    Brava! Your remarks were spot on and what Sondra Shaw-Hardy and I have been teaching since 1991 when we established what has become the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lily School of Philanthropy, Indiana University. Your observations and quotes HAVE been researched — and they are correct. Please see the WPI WomenGive research. All your remarks were address in our books on women’s philanthropy. The latest one is Women and Philanthropy: Creating a Better World. Development management is the problem in most cases. Old problems have come back.

    Progress had been made — BUT THEN SETBACKS RECENTLY. What you so accurately point out about the crediting issue is because of the new data systems. A group of development leaders worked diligently over many years to spread the word and the then data systems were improved. THEN, the new CRM systems came online — and some back office programmers decided to create this hard and soft credit procedure. Women are second class citizens on data bases. I am aghast and reluctant to tell the women philanthropists I work with about the terrible discrimination in the record keeping. Yet, we all must tell them and they will leverage change.

    FURTHER PROBLEMS HAVE RISEN: the original group of those in the WPI speakers bureau need to be replaced — we have mostly retired — to speak at all the development conferences in the US. Our speakers bureau members covered the primary conferences for twenty years — but the last decade hasn’t seen a sufficient number of speakers — LIKE YOU — speaking about this subject.

    WOMEN PHILANTHROPISTS themselves must be empowered to speak and spread the word — and explain how they want to be engaged.

    WOMEN HAVE GRAVITATED TO PHILANTHROPY OUTSIDE DEVELOPMENT AND INSTITUTIIONS — in great part because development operations have’t treated them in ways that are comfortable to them. Thousands of WOMEN HAVE CREATED GIVING CIRCLES and groups like WOMEN MOVIING MILLIONS and womens DONOR NETWORKS.

    My next study and advocacy work will be focusing on the intersection of higher education, women’s major and lead giving groups and advancing the quality of life for women domestically internationally ranging from leadership to basic needs. For my whole career I’ve emphasized women giving to all causes but this latest effort is focusing on how women of means can use philanthropy to higher education for social change around women’s quality of life.

    We need YOU and all your READERS to step up and speak about these women’s philanthropy issues to a NEW GROUP of development officers. Form a speakers bueau. Volunteer to be on programs at development conferences. It’s amazing that we still need remedial women’s philanthropy education STILL — but, as one of the women in your quotes pointed out — women’s philanthropy reflects the set back experienced by women in society.

    Not only do organizations need to do an assessment of data with a gender lens — as you point out — but every step of the development cycle and operation must be assessed. Outright bias exists. And sometimes women in development and management have the most unconscious biases. People in planned giving have the potential to be the most understanding of women’s philanthropy approaches.

    Good luck in spreading the word to empower development officers to change their everyday procedures in every way to inspire women to reach their potential as philanthropists. I am cheering you on and glad to serve as a resource. Thank you for your good work and advocacy.

    Martha A. Taylor
    Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association and
    4W — Women Well-being Wisconsin and World
    University of Wisconsin-Madison


    • | Preeti | October 24, 2017 at 8:19 am Reply

      Dear Martha, Thank you so much for taking the time to respond so eloquently. I heed your call for further awareness and action around the gender data gap in non-profits and advancement shops across the world; and hope readers do as well. I’m worried there are wealth screens and data analysis exercises going on at large institutions in particular that incorporate primarily men’s donor data. As a thought leader, you and other WPI members blazed quite a trail for the next generation of prospect development pros, female fundraisers and women donors … Thank you, again! PG


  2. […] men are the ones with the money. What’s equitable about that assumption given the above fact? Preeti’s suggestion is doing a full data audit using a gender lens, which you can read more ab… I’m also interested in thinking about data audits using other types of lenses such as a race […]

    Liked by 1 person

    • | Preeti | November 8, 2017 at 10:51 am Reply

      I hope you read Vanessa’s full post at her site!


  3. […] of Diversity Driven Data blog and other prospect research professionals have recommended putting women first in profiles to try to highlight their work and interest. While this is just a single example, researchers can […]


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