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First-of-its-kind research from Women’s Philanthropy Institute reveals what motivates donors to give to women’s and girls’ causes

June 8, 2016

New research released from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute shows for the first time that women are motivated to give to women’s and girls’ causes based on personal experiences, whether positive experiences such as the birth of a child or participation in a job training program for women, or negative, such as discrimination, as well as the belief that giving to women is a powerful way to effect large-scale societal change.

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The report, "Giving to Women and Girls: Who gives, and why," sheds light on the growing visibility of women’s and girls’ causes and is the first to explore the methods and motivations of donors to women’s and girls’ issues, including important findings for funders, advocates, fundraisers and wealth managers.

“As more and more people make the connection between giving to women and societal change, we can see that giving to women and girls is not just a temporary trend but is here to stay,” said Debra Mesch, Ph.D., director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute and the Eileen Lamb O’Gara Chair in Women’s Philanthropy at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “Understanding the demographics and motivations of those who are giving to women’s and girls’ causes is increasingly important if we are to improve the lives of women and girls, and their families and communities.”

In order to understand who gives to women’s and girls’ causes and what motivates them to give, the institute conducted a groundbreaking study that specifically focused on giving to women and girls in the United States using surveys of a nationally representative sample and focus groups. The report found common threads linking the motivations of donors in the women’s and girls’ space -- as well as a set of factors that would prompt people who don’t currently give to women’s and girls’ causes to support them.   

Some key findings from the report include:   

  • Many donors to women’s funds and causes reported supporting these causes based on their personal experiences. Donors identified experiences of discrimination, the birth or raising of a child, or a family member or the donor herself experiencing a health issue as examples of experiences motivating them to give.
  • Both men and women give to women’s and girls’ causes. Of the survey respondents who donate to charity, 50 percent of women and 40 percent of men said they give to women’s and girls’ causes.
  • Many women donors are motivated to give to women’s and girls’ causes based on their desire for gender equality in society.
  • Women are changing philanthropy. Through the increase in their wealth and their rise into leadership roles, we see that women are influencing the direction that money is moving and even the platforms by which people give.

WPI’s research has consistently shown that women are more likely to donate to charity in general than men and that when they give, they give more of their income, all things being equal. Yet there is limited academic research into the motivations and trends for giving to women’s and girls’ causes specifically, despite the momentum in giving to these causes,” said Amir Pasic, the Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the school.

The WPI's study aligns with the university's Bicentennial Strategic Plan, including catalyzing research.

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