With the election drawn to a close, it is undeniable that women were pivotal in this critical moment in our democracy. We now have the first woman, and a woman of color, for the second highest position in our country. The Ms. Foundation put together a list of historic victories for women on the local, state and national level. And women have contributed $2 billion to federal candidates in this cycle, surpassing the $1.3 billion they donated in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. So far, 44% of political donors in the 2020 cycle are women — the highest share on record.
This political shift is no surprise. Women are now the majority on college campuses, are earning more, and are influencers or deciders in their households’ consumer decisions. With increased education and earnings come increased philanthropy to achieve the change we want to see in this world.
Are women among your top priorities as you set your 2021 fundraising goals?
Many of you reading this will say No, or Not Yet. Fewer than 15% of universities and colleges are intentionally connecting to women who care about their mission. The percentage is far lower among non-profits.
You know in your hearts that you should grow more support from all who identify as women. The research is clear that gender matters in philanthropy. This fact holds true in additional research exploring the link between diversity, gender and philanthropy. You know demographics are changing. You regularly read about or hear your colleagues share the numerous success stories coming from campaigns, nonprofits and higher education when there is an intentional focus on women.
You’ve tried to meet this change by seeking visits with women, or with couples that include a woman, but have not had success. You’ve discussed that you need more women on your leadership councils, but you don’t get new names. You’ve tried to find women giving at certain levels, and your research can’t seem to find them. You are not getting the results you desire, and that others are achieving.
Some reasons your efforts may not have worked are that while women lead and give more, the inquiry process for many women is different. Their process of how they organize themselves to make change – often collectively – is different. Their definition of philanthropy is far broader than just “treasure”. And their desire to leverage their impact also is often different.
There is a myth that it is harder to get gifts from women, or that they take longer to engage. That old myth is really about how our historical fundraising practices fail to resonate with women. Many still continue to engage women based on the organization’s terms, not the women’s terms. If you are having the wrong conversation it will take longer or perhaps not work at all.
I want to assure you that you can grow your pipeline, your dollars and loyal partnerships with your women donors without it taking more time or effort. And the women supporters you gain will be more generous with their time, talent, treasure, ties and testimony than you are used to.
There are key principles to learn. There are important first steps with which to start. But it is not hard fundraising – just different. We all have adapted to so much this year. We can also adapt to how women prefer to give, and not only grow new support but be inspired by the passion and brain trust women will bring to our missions. If you don’t start now, you are missing current significant support plus you will not have the pipeline for sustainable future fundraising since women will soon be the majority of our alumni and stakeholders. Women are clearly leading and giving across this country now – they just might not be yet for you if you don’t meet them as they prefer.
As you face into 2021, consider adding intentional focus on women as one of your top fundraising priorities. Not paying attention to over half of our population and learning how we approach philanthropy is no longer an option. Not paying attention means you will be left behind as women’s leadership and giving surges ahead of you.