Top Ten Trends in Philanthropy #3: Women Donors (non profit fundraising ideas)

As a veteran fundraiser (I’ve been doing this since 1990), I find it hard to believe that the topic of women donors would appear on a top ten list of non profit fundraising ideas. Jeez, haven’t we figured that out yet?

Apparently not.

Let’s start with some interesting facts.

  • Women will have $22 trillion in personal wealth by 2020.
  • Women control 51% of personal wealth right now.
  • Women hold 52% of professional and management jobs.
  • In 40% of households with kids, women are the breadwinners.
  • Twenty-four percent of married women earn more than their husbands.

Yet, so many nonprofits make so many mistakes when it comes to dealing with women or straight married couples.

Here are some simple things you can do to change that.

Non profit fundraising ideas

  • Make your database women-friendly. In database salutation fields, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” is the default. Why?

I would abandon that immediately. Some women don’t hate the prefix “Mrs.” My friend Susan, who has been married to her husband for decades, insists on Ms.

Go even farther. In your saluations on letters, abandon the formality of “Mr. and Mrs.” altogether. I advocate for “Sally and Bob Smith.”

  • Balance your leadership groups. Its 2017 folks. If your boards, committees, advisory groups – any leadership structure – aren’t gender balanced, you’re doing something wrong. The statistics about women donors are pretty compelling. Why haven’t you fixed this problem yet?


  • Get to know the wives. When you’re dealing with board members or donors who are male, make a point to get to know their wives. Many couples give as couples.

Here’s a little anecdote. Years ago I recruited a new chair of the alumni board at a dental school where I was development director. met his wife during an event early on and immediately found her to be a powerhouse, and completely interesting in her own right. So I made a point to get to know her. I soon learned that she hated dental school events, and told her husband she would only attend two outings a year. Of course I needed him more than that.

We eventually became friends, and I knew what approach I needed to take to cajole her into coming to an event. And like I said, we became friends – which was the greatest personal benefit of all.

  • Engage women in the conversation. If you are connected to the man in the household, make sure not to ignore his wife. Like I said before, many couples make their philanthropic decisions together. Yet some do not. Err on the side of caution and include both husband in wife in all conversations having to deal with giving, unless you’re told otherwise.


  • Offer ways for women to connect with your organization. Research into women donors informs us that they give to organizations with which they feel an affinity. Give them every opportunity to participate in events or on committees, or to advocate on your behalf.


  • Pay attention to the young and secular. Here come the Millennials again. A 2014 study by ____ Mesch reveals that Millennial and Gen X women who are single and unaffiliated with a religion give two-and-a-half times more money to charity than their older counterparts. The study also found that these donors give twice as much as their peers who have a loose religious affiliation.


  • Share success stories. Like Millennial donors, women want to know what impact their philanthropy as on your organization. Convey that information not with facts and figures, but with compelling stories about the people you serve.


  • Start women’s leadership councils. Organizations like the United Way have had tremendous success with women’s leadership councils. I’ve witnessed this first hand here in Miami where I am based.

Some years ago, some women arts patrons got together and formed “Fifty Over Fifty.” Membership required an annual gift of $1,000. The gifts were pooled and then distributed to local arts organizations, with funding decisions made by the membership.

Within a short time, they blew past the goal of 50 women participants, so today the group is known as the Funding Arts Network. Since 1996, they have distributed $3.9 million in grants. That’s what I call a success.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy published a great piece in its June 2016 article. I encourage you to check it out.

Glenn is a fundraising strategist who loves working with small- to mid-size organizations that want to innovate and grow with new non profit fundraising ideas.

Check out his website, and to find out how he can help you, email him.

You can also follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

Image: iStock by Getty Images

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