Women Are At The Forefront Of American Philanthrophy

Illustration for article titled Women Are At The Forefront Of American Philanthrophy

Not only are women donating to political campaigns in record numbers, it seems that, for the first time in recorded history, women are giving more than men to charity: In 2005, female donors gave $21.7 billion to men's $16.8 billion, and JPMorgan reports that two thirds of its philanthropic services clients are now women. Oh, and we're also more community-oriented and less interested in personal gain, like tax deductions, all of which is changing the face of philanthropy.The shift, explains US News & World Report, is due to women's "growing earning power, wealth, and financial control," but then the magazine goes on to take it in kind of a weird direction. Says Pamela Fiori, editor-in-chief of Town & Country magazine,"As women become more sophisticated and get involved in the workplace and world, we start to realize, there's a lot more [out there] than baking cookies and making pies—all of which is well and good, but there's also a world out there that we can serve and make changes to." This may come as a revelation to Fiori's well-heeled readers, but the thing is, most of us aren't not doing charity work because we're just sitting around baking. If charity's just an alternative pastime for non-working people, it doesn't really explain why the numbers are up so much. After all, haven't rich women always seen charity work as an essential part of their lives? As Fiori goes on to say, women "feel it's their obligation and responsibility" to give to charity, expressing a sense of "noblesse oblige" that sounds anything but new. She even goes on to liken women's interest in direct, collaborative giving to that of Eleanor Roosevelt and Brooke Astor. While I'm sure it's true that more high-earning women are giving generously and unselfishly — the article then gives a list of suggested guidelines for women wishing to make the leap into philanthropy — the piece doesn't go on to address whether some of the increase in numbers comes at the expense of hands-on volunteer work. Especially given the cookie-bakers Fiori discusses; are these dames just giving away the big bucks instead of putting in time at the local soup kitchen? Cause if so, that's not an unmixed blessing. Certainly plenty of us volunteer in part because it's all we can afford; I'm sure plenty of the newly high-earning women donating so much have no time for volunteering; but what about this leisured demographic? Granted, this is purely speculative, but it does seem like an increase in giving could certainly precipitate a move away from actual engagement with people, animals or the environment, which would be a shame. The guidelines for giving include "Seek Inspiration" - i.e., give to something that has a connection to your life; "Recognize the nonmonetary possibilities" — volunteering — "Do your research" so scams don't take advantage of you, and "Get Help" from groups in your community and tax advisers who can help you maximize your deductions. Altogether, this list feels like it could have been written sixty years ago; ironically, it seems like the paradigm shift is encouraging a distanced approach to "philanthropy" — itself a far loftier and more weighted term than the humble "charity" — and away from volunteering. None of this is to diminish the gains of the powerful women who are giving generously, but only to examine these findings critically. Cause money's great, but it's always just a beginning. Women and Philanthropy: 4 Ways to Get Started [US News] Related: Women Making A Difference [Today] Earlier: Putting Our Money Where Our Mouths Are


Share This Story

Get our newsletter


Erin Gloria Ryan

I stopped after the part about the pie baking and the cookie making. There's much more to life, as a woman, than pie baking and cookie making. Like:

rolling pins

ironing boards

washing and drying clothes



sexually pleasing one's husband

scrubbing of various houshold surfaces

gently scolding children

cooking dinner

wearing dresses

I defy anyone to dare suggest that a woman could possibly HOPE for more than that.