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Are We Really Out of the Loop?

Women: Making a power play

By Amanda Ponzar

Two interesting reports came out recently about the power of women.

1005_women-top-gaga-clinton-obama-nooyi-oprah_270x190 1.) Check out Forbes’ “The World’s 100 most powerful womenarticle or photo gallery. A few times I found myself saying, WHAT?! But it’s based on influence, so if Lady Gaga has a huge social media following, she’s powerful like a CEO, Supreme Court Justice or Secretary of State.

2.) And then there’s new research, “Women Give 2010” from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, that found “women at virtually every income level are more likely to give to charity and to give more money on average than their male counterparts.” In many cases, women give twice as much as men. The study discusses the incredible giving power women have –- the power to make a difference.

What the study didn’t talk about was WHY.

Why do women give more? It's not because they have more money. Are women just more generous? Caring? Emotionally susceptible to charitable pleas? Easy targets? (Wall Street Journal titled their blog post “why women are more charitable than men” but never answered the question.)

When I thought about major philanthropists, the only names that came to mind were men: Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rockefellers. Where are the women? I started asking around and got a few nominations:

  • Oprah
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Teresa Heinz (ketchup)
  • Doris Buffett (sister of Warren) of the Sunshine Lady Foundation
  • Leona Helmsley (left $12 million to her dog)
  • Joan Kroc of McDonald fortune
  • Melinda Gates
  • Hunt sisters with Women Moving Millions  

A simple search found HUNDREDS of women philanthropists (so they DO exist) -- but I hadn’t heard of most of them.

One possible reason. A very smart colleague who manages Women’s Leadership Councils –- 40,000 women who raised $120 million in 2009 in addition to advocating and volunteering –- said women donors “do not like recognition” and many give anonymously. Maybe it's time women come out of the closet  about giving so everyone better understands the power and influence women have.

We’ve come a long way, baby, but we’ve got a ways to go.


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Mary Schmidt

In working with nonprofits (and volunteering...and donating) I've found that the less people have, the more they tend to give. While the big donors get the big press and big effort - it's the "little people" and the small biz owners who give and give and give - both time and money.

There's also a big difference in major PR blitz giving and simply allowing your name to be listed in annual reports, on event signage and being recognized from the podium.

Amanda Ponzar

Rick, I agree with you that anonymous giving is the higher road as we should give not to get recogition but because it's the right thing to do. However, based on the post above, what is your recommendation on how women can be taken seriously as philanthropists and power players in a world where women still make less than men (now 80 cents on the dollar) and still aren't represented proportionally in congress or as CEOs of business? There's something to be said for promoting your accomplishments and receiving visibility. And it is visible women leaders like Supreme Court Justices who give little girls the vision to dream big as well and think, "I could do that too".

Rick Henkin

I understand what you're saying about it being known that women give as well as men, but I do admire those that do it anonymously. Somehow, their gifts seem slightly more of the heart.

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