I'm a donor, hear me roar

It has been an interestingly themed day for me. I went to the Baton Rouge Business Report Influential Women’s luncheon to support the honorees, but in particular a friend and executive director on whose board I serve. I went to a Junior League training on diversity and inclusion and received my latest issue of Chronicle of Philanthropy. The cover story is “Primed to Give Big” by Megan O’Neil. If you haven’t read the article yet, it’s definitely a must-read, especially if you’re in the nonprofit sector.

The article focuses on the increase in donations from women and women’s affinity groups but how nonprofits are slow to change in how they fundraise. Biases, outdated fundraising tactics and male-dominated board leadership to blame and not engaging women could mean that nonprofits leave millions in donations on the table. Essentially, the organizations that learn how to engage women the best will come out ahead.

Economic and philanthropic research has shown that 1) women are making gains and in some cases outpacing men in education, the workplace and finances, 2) women are more generous donors than men, and 3) women seek a higher level of involvement in the organization than men. Most development professionals know that a higher level of engagement will translate to more dollars given.

Some more statistics from the article to consider:

  • In the next two generations, 70% of inherited wealth will go to women

  • 24% of married women earn more than their husbands

  • 40% of households with children where women are the primary breadwinner.

Fundraising software that defaults to the male-head of household or writing thank-you letters addressed to the husband first when the wife wrote the check do not help organizations in developing relationships with women. A quote from a donor, Debra Mesch, featured in the article, "Insult women and it's game over. 'Why in the world would they want to contribute to you?'"

Organizations that focus on homelessness, education and economic development should pay special attention as these tend to be issues women place more attention on.

The for-profit sector has already recognized the immense spending power of women. In a 2010 Time magazine article: "Woman Power: The Rise of the Sheconomy", showed that women make 70-80% of the consumer spending decisions in households. Even in households where the husband is the primary or sole breadwinner, he still only makes 50% of the spending decisions. Companies had to learn how to market to women from customer service training to store and product design. As Johnson & Johnson had to learn the hard way, when women don’t like how you advertise to them- they will let you know.

Just as businesses had to learn of the power of the female consumer, nonprofits need learn how to engage female donors as well. The nonprofit sector is huge. There are lots of choices to give, engage and make an impact, and in these uncertain times, is it wise to leave 51% of the population behind?

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