Study Finds Women Play A Prominent Role In Philanthropy

Boston, MA (May 19, 2009)- The Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund announced the results of a new study of charitable givers in America showing that women are playing a prominent role in their households and communities when it comes to philanthropy. Almost half of women surveyed say they have the decision-making role in their households for both how much money to donate to charity and which charities to support. The study also classified four profiles of givers in America today that illustrate distinctly different approaches to philanthropy. High-income women emerged as most sophisticated of all givers.


The study which looked at the giving behaviors and attitudes of more than 1,000 adults who donated at least $1,000 in 2007 and a subset that gave over $5,000 that year reveals key insights about high-income women and their giving tendencies. As a group, high-income women (those with annual household incomes of at least $150,000) are more likely than other donors to give publicly, rather than anonymously, the study found. They are more likely to use giving vehicles such as donor-advised funds, charitable-remainder trusts, and private foundations; they are most likely to use securities for donations; and they also are most likely to want guidance from a financial advisor regarding charitable giving, the study found.
“Our research indicates that, in many ways, women are shaping the future of philanthropy,” said Sarah C. Libbey, president of the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund (“Gift Fund”). “Women have always had a hand in their household’s charitable outreach. But that role is evolving as women increasingly create their own wealth and become the beneficiaries of wealth transfers because they live longer. As a result, women are stepping up to take on more philanthropic leadership roles.
“Women are using a broad circle of influencers in their charitable giving and they are passionate about instilling the value of philanthropy in the next generation,” Libbey added. “We, and other nonprofit organizations, should pay attention to this very influential group of donors.”
Most Men Say Wives Are Primary Influence for Charitable Giving
The Gift Fund study found that men overwhelmingly (92 percent) name their spouses as their primary influencer in charitable giving, while women are more likely to name a range of influencers that include their spouse (84 percent), extended family (24 percent), friends (23 percent) and co-workers (17 percent). Likewise, most men say they defer to their spouses on which charities to support (81 percent) and how much money to donate (83 percent).
High-Income Women Innovative In Giving Approach
The study found that high-income women are more likely than others to use securities for donations (7 percent versus 4 percent of all donors). These women are also more likely to say they want guidance from a financial professional on charitable giving (12 percent versus 9 percent of all donors). In addition, they are more likely to use giving vehicles such as donor-advised funds, charitable-remainder trusts and private foundations (5 percent versus 2 percent of all donors). They are more likely than any other group to support health and science causes (15 percent versus 7 percent of all donors) and to give additional money during challenging economic times (35 percent versus 27 percent of all donors).
Creating Family Charitable Legacy Bigger Priority for Women
When asked about their family legacy of giving, both male and female charitable givers generally agree that giving has always been a tradition in their family, they learned to be charitable by observing their parents and they consider it critical that their children continue their giving tradition, the study found. Women, however, appear to be more passionate about instilling this tradition. Nearly half of female charitable givers (48 percent) said they strongly agree that this is critical versus 39 percent of men.
Most Male and Female Charitable Givers Research-Oriented, Cause-Driven and Local
Virtually all donors (89 percent of the males and females) surveyed agree that it’s necessary to research the organizations they give to in order to ensure credibility. Eight out of 10 charitable givers (79 percent) indicate that when selecting a charitable organization, they research how much money goes directly into funding programs rather than into overhead. Almost three out of four charitable givers (72 percent) said they would more likely support an organization that would benefit their own communities versus one that went beyond their community.
The study also found that the average charitable giver (male and female) surveyed donated 6 percent of gross household income in 2008 with a vast majority giving up to 10 percent; they consider charitable giving a part of their overall financial plan; and they define a philanthropist as someone who donates at least $100,000 a year or more.
Male and Female Charitable Givers Divided Into Four Categories
To better understand the behavior and motivations of today’s charitable givers (male and female), the Gift Fund divided its survey participants into four main categories based on their responses: mainstream contributors, empathetic givers, reactive contributors, and pioneering givers.
Mainstream Contributors
The majority of those surveyed (52 percent) fell into the “mainstream contributor” category. This group is the least likely to give more in challenging economic times because of greater need. When decreasing giving year over year, they are the most likely to keep the same number of charities and just decrease the amount they give. They are the most likely to know in advance which charities to give to. Their average total donations in 2008 were $6,842.
Empathetic Givers
One third (29 percent) of the survey participants fell into the “empathetic giver” group. These people give the most in challenging economic times because of need. They are the most interested in creating a family tradition of charitable giving by engaging their children and spouse. They are the most likely to respond to a cause when personally touched by a disease, illness, or tragedy. Their total donations in 2008 averaged $7,287.
Reactive Contributors
Just 15 percent of survey participants are “reactive contributors.” This group gives the smallest donations as a percentage of income. They are the most likely to cut back on charitable giving in challenging economic times. They are the least likely to think of charitable giving as part of their overall financial plan. Their total donations in 2008 averaged $3,687.
Pioneering Givers
The Gift Fund found that only 4 percent of its survey participants are “pioneering givers.” They are the most likely to contribute to organizations that are lesser known or to support new causes. They give away the most money as a percentage of their income. They use credit cards and securities for donations more than any other group. They are more likely to be influenced by a philanthropist in the news and the most likely to want guidance from a financial advisor regarding charitable giving. Their total donations in 2008 averaged $7,347.
The Methodology
Data for the Gift Fund’s survey was collected online January 28 to February 4, 2009 by the independent market research firms Chrysalis Research of Kirkland, Wash., and Research Data Technology of Woburn, Mass. The results are based on responses from a national sample of 1,003 adults at least 25 years old. The respondents were evenly divided among men and women. Half donated at least $1,000 or more in 2007, the other half donated $5,000 or more the same year.
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Study Finds Women Play A Prominent Role In Philanthropy