Current research is showing that, in spite of the persistently distressing statistics regarding the earning power of women, (estimated to be about 80% of the salaries of male colleagues for white women and even lower for women of color) slowly but surely women are ascending to the elite corporate leadership roles that result in higher salaries.

This trend is substantiated by reports from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute’s (WPI) director, Debra Mesch, who states that there are more women of wealth than ever before. In fact, 45% of American millionaires are women and 48% of estates worth more than $5 million are controlled by women. And even more exciting, in 2013, an estimated 60% of high net worth women made their own fortunes. Some of the more aggressive predictions indicate that two-thirds of all wealth in the United States will be controlled by women by the year 2030.

While the shift in wealth points to a changing economic landscape, there is also the news that women are finally and significantly breaking through the famous glass ceiling to take hold of leadership roles in the corporate and nonprofit worlds.

The intersection of these two trends has served to strengthen the impact that powerful, and wealthy, women are having on charitable giving.

The important lesson for nonprofits is to figure out how to leverage the enthusiasm and capacity of women as philanthropists, recognizing that gender has a significant influence on the approach to giving.

Women donors use their power and influence in a very different way than their male counterparts.

The WPI has, for the most part, been able to paint an accurate picture of four unique giving differences.

First of all there is the forming of giving circles, a growing trend that brings women together to effect societal change. Although not a new concept, giving circles are increasing in popularity amongst women specifically because they encourage and support “participatory philanthropy where groups of individuals donate their own money or time to a pooled fund, decide together where to give these away to charity or community projects and, in doing so, seek to increase their awareness of and engagement in the issues covered by the charity or community project. Many circles, in addition to donating their money, also contribute their time and skills to support local causes.” (Wikipedia)

Secondly, there is the expanding presence of women’s funds and foundations that are collectively focusing on funding for women and girls of color, such as the Prosperity Together Initiative. The goal for these types of foundations is to close the gap and address the persistent inequality that women and girls face in the community.

Thirdly, on average, women seem to be more passionate about the idea of leaving a legacy for the next generation than men.

The fourth main difference is that women are more interested in supporting a variety of causes than men, who are mostly satisfied to make a major contributribution to one organization.

These major differences in giving styles also carries over to the difference in attitude toward the nonprofit community in general.  Research has confirmed that women, more than men, tend to become personally involved with an organization they support, sitting on boards, championing the mission, and engaging in the community in a way as to help achieve the mission.

All these factors need to be considered as nonprofits work to connect with the growing number of women donors who are reshaping the traditional patterns of giving.

The numbers tell the story  

But WPI has found that in almost every income bracket, women give more than men. In their 2010 ‘Women Give’ study, they demonstrate that American households headed by single females give 57% more than those headed by single males.

 “Women are very involved in charitable giving,” explained Nancy Heiser, Vice President of wealth management at UBS. “The reasons are simple: Women are living longer, making more money, and may be inheriting twice—once from their parents and again if they outlive their spouses.”