Philanthropy With A Woman's Touch

After years of doing volunteer work, Eastman Kodak executive Cecelia Miller Horwitz decided she wanted to contribute something that would keep on giving, whether or not she could contribute her time. So she joined Rainmakers, a group of professional women that came together to raise money for and give guidance to the Women's Foundation of Genesse Valley, N.Y. The entry fee was $25,000, but Miller didn't hesitate to ante up. The foundation backs programs that assist women in developing job skills and help victims of domestic violence become economically self-sufficient, among other things. "When I reflect on how I've spent my money, few things have given me as much satisfaction as Rainmakers," says Horwitz.

While women have long been involved in charity work through volunteering their time, they're now increasingly able to give money as well. Indeed, women are donating as much of their annual income as men--about 2.1%, according to a 1999 study by the Independent Sector, a Washington (D.C.) research forum. That's true, in part, because more women are becoming financially independent as they climb the corporate ladder or succeed as entrepreneurs. About 41% of the 3.3 million Americans reporting incomes of $500,000 are women, according to the Internal Revenue Service. "There is more of a sense that this money is mine, I earned it, and I control it," says Kathleen McCarthy, director of the Center for the Study of Philanthropy at City University of New York. And with this earned wealth has come a budding awareness that women can shape society. There are now more than 90 women's foundations like Genesse Valley's, up from 5 about 20 years ago, according to the Women's Funding Network, the umbrella organization for these funds.

Along with this new generation of high-net-worth women are those who are set to inherit substantial fortunes over the next few decades. At least $41 trillion will be passing from one generation to the next by 2044, says a 1999 study by Boston College's Social Welfare Research Institute. And much of that wealth will fall into the hands of women, who outlive men by an average of seven years and usually end up in charge of the family financial affairs. "Women donors are seen as the new frontier, the new possibility," says Christine Grumm, executive director of the Women's Funding Network.

To tap the new fount of women donors, fundraisers have discovered that there are gender differences in the way women and men give (table). Consequently, "women should be approached differently and be given opportunities" to donate to causes in ways that make them most comfortable, says Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the Women's Philanthropy Institute. For example, women are more likely to donate if they can create a new program rather than contribute to an existing project. They also seek a close personal connection to the cause. Women donors do that by demanding continual updates on how their money is being spent and how it's helping people. Volunteering helps women feel connected--47% of women donors gave their time in 1996, vs. 39% of men. Men often contribute only with a check and are much more comfortable with multiyear pledges.

Coeducational institutions have begun to wake up to the gender differences between donors, too, and dozens of them, including Harvard University, have launched fund-raising campaigns aimed at alumnae. "They recognize that there's an untapped philanthropic resource that has been ignored," says Trish Jackson, vice-president at the Council for Advancement & Support of Education.

Career women have reshaped business and family life, and soon, they will make their mark on philanthropy, too.

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