Women’s vital role in communities of donors

By: Sarah Ramantanis   |   Marketing Officer, Philanthropy Australia   |   https://www.philanthropy.org.au/about-us/staff/27-sarah-ramantanis/

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreaktheBias. It encourages women to be at the forefront of social change, to break down gender bias and stereotypes of women. One of the critical components of this approach is coming to a deeper appreciation of women’s giving and their role in guiding their families along their philanthropic journey.

Thanks to philanthropy and fundraising strategist Kimberley Downes, we now know just how integral women are to their families giving: her research showed 77 per cent of women indicated they model or guide their families on philanthropic giving. At the core of this giving was women’s desire to teach their families social responsibility and compassion.

But how do you do that? These are admirable goals but navigating a way through this is not easy. That’s where Seedling comes in. Seedling aims to build a service that fosters and builds a community of like-minded female donors.

Seedling Co-founders Jess Bowman and Kylie Wallace said, “We know that Australian women want to give but with over 57,000 charities to choose from they simply don’t know who to trust, what their impact really is and sometimes even how much to donate.”

Seedling provides a free charity-matching service that helps identify a potential donor’s values, passions, life experiences and to tailor a charitable giving opportunity specific to each woman. “We do all the due diligence so you can trust it's a high performing charity,” Jess and Kylie explained. Seedling is a bootstrapped social enterprise start up that has received generous support from partners including Law Squared, Tofu Agency and Settler Hives.

Before working on Seedling, Jess founded The Good Cause Co. which provided donor services and advice for more than $15 million dollars of philanthropic funding. The Good Cause Co. worked to drive greater engagement from women as donors by providing comprehensive reports that clearly demonstrated how money was making a difference and any risks to the donation. “Seedling has grown from The Good Cause Co. and we are utilising the last six years of learnings, insights and data to expedite Seedling’s success,” Jess said.

Current female donors and aspiring philanthropists understandably feel pulled in many directions about which charity to support. Every few months there is a new cause: Ukraine one day, Queensland and NSW floods the next.

Many women feel compelled to give to these causes but often before they have the chance to follow up, a new cause is on their doorstep. This reactive cycle of giving can leave donors feeling unsatisfied and uncertain.

“We help donors to be proactive in their giving,’’ Jess explained. “We provide them the opportunity to sit down and think clearly about what is important to them outside the news cycle. This allows us to find them charities that they can align with and be passionate about for the long-term.”

Research points to the big differences in giving depending on the woman’s stage of life. Younger women don’t usually have the financial freedom to give much but may be time-rich. That changes later in life when time becomes more precious.

Speaking from personal experience, it is often easier for me to find the time to commit to organisations I support, through joining boards and volunteer work. But all my duties reflect a desire to help community and make a difference.

For the next generation there is an emerging spirit of giving, to start contributing from a much younger age, often when we start working and earning an income.

“We see many women start to gain awareness of social issues and start to question the system, inspired by the power of advocacy. Once people reach middle-age, are professionally established, and have a family of their own, they have a different perspective,’’ Jess said.

“During this phase of life, the motivation for giving is from an angle of responsibility. They are clearer of their own values and what issues are important to them. However, they are time-poor so they are unable to get involved in a charity as they would otherwise like.”

The pattern of women’s giving in Australia is notable - in every income bracket a higher percentage of women give to charity (Women Who Give). It might be less in total value, but that’s most likely explained by the gender pay gap (Giving Australia Report).

But the other consideration is how larger funders apply a gender lens to their giving. There is emerging evidence of a range of funders showing they are doing just that. This IWD, Equity Trustees explained how it granted around $1.5 million to programs targeting the needs of women and girls in the past financial year. Central to this approach is the gender framework recommended by Australians Investing in Women, which states: “Whatever the initiative, that impact will be enhanced if funders apply a gender lens and ask the question: How will this investment impact women and girls?”

This question must now be a fundamental consideration for many funders, large, small and private. And engaging more women donors, finding the best ways to maximise their contribution, and targeting their resources to best effect – especially for women and girls – is a vital part of the nation’s philanthropic landscape and a key step in breaking the bias.

Mar. 08, 2022

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