Originally published October 22, 2015

Young, non-religious women are often an overlooked group in the world of philanthropy, and according to Women Give 2014, they shouldn’t be.

Women Give is an annual report on gender differences in philanthropic giving produced by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Indiana University. The 2014 report studied the intersection of religiosity, gender, and age with charitable giving. This year’s report is notable because, for the first time, it identified a significant change in giving patterns for women.

The Women’s Philanthropy Institute looked at a sample group of 762 individuals, divided into two categories by age—people 44 and younger and people 45 and older. Religiosity was looked at in three groups—those who are affiliated with a religious tradition and attend services, those who are affiliated with a religious tradition who infrequently attend religious services, and those who are not affiliated with a religious tradition. In order to understand giving levels for these demographics, the study analyzed data describing the giving behaviors of single Americans and measured gifts of money, assets, and property/goods. The report does not include giving to religious congregations, but does include giving to religiously affiliated organizations.

Some of the key findings of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute 2014 report include:

  • Religion. Among younger females, non-religious women give roughly twice as much to charitable organizations as women who are affiliated with a religious tradition but infrequently attend religious services. This new discovery suggests that while religious affiliation is in decline, it does not necessarily mean that philanthropy will decline as a result.
  • Gender. Younger non-religious women give approximately two times more to charitable organizations than younger men. The report does not find non-religious younger men giving at significantly higher rates than younger men who are affiliated with religious traditions.
  • Age. When evaluating giving to all charitable organizations, non-religious younger women give more than two-and-a half times more than non-religious middle-age and older women.

What Do These Changing Patterns Mean for Your Organization?
Over the years, it has become clear that women have a special role in the world of philanthropy: they live longer than men, have significant input in where gifts are directed in their households, are attending 4-year institutions at a higher rate than men, and tend to give more to social service-related philanthropies.

While your organization may not keep data on religious affiliation, here are a few things you can do to maximize your effectiveness in engaging this cohort of non-religious younger women donors.

Communication. Single non-religious young women are the sole decision makers for their finances and are donating generously. With this cohort of donors tending to give to charities that address large social issues (including international and community organizations according to Women Give 2010), organizations must clearly communicate how they are approaching the “big” problems of our society. Adapting your organization’s cultivation process to fit this group’s interests is critical.

Cultivation and Engagement. In order to maximize your organizations’ relationship with these young female donors, evaluate how you are cultivating and engaging them. Is this demographic well-represented on your board or volunteer committees? Paying attention to this will impact current and future giving. By getting these younger donors engaged early in their philanthropic life-cycle, you set your organization up for long-term philanthropic leadership.

Stewardship. Younger donors are less trusting than older ones about how organizations use their charitable gifts. Not only do they frequently want to be actively involved in projects funded by their gifts, they also are keenly interested in how organizations use their dollars and the impacts they have. Frequent communication—preferably electronic—with younger donors positions organizations for larger gifts from them as their incomes grow.

Bentz Whaley Flessner can help your organization get this rising philanthropic demographic into your donor pipeline. Contact us today at (952) 921-0111 or visit www.bwf.com to learn more. Together we transform philanthropy.

Copyright © 2015 Bentz Whaley Flessner & Associates, Inc.

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