Advice for Women Philanthropists

All of the following is cribbed from Barbara Rose, the wise and witty fundraising chair of the Chicago Foundation for Women, who spoke briefly at the Foundation’s annual luncheon yesterday and caused money to levitate from many wallets simultaneously.

She began with a central truth.  "Women would rather talk about orgasms or hot flashes than talk about money.  Money is the real intimate issue.  But we’re going to talk about money now."

She then proposed answers to the most common reasons women give for not giving:

  • It’s mine, I need it.–If your family’s annual income is $43,000, you’re right at the median.  That means half the people in the country have less than you do, and many of those are mothers with children; so recognize what "need" really means. 
  • I have to ask my husband.–Though many married women budget jointly with their husbands, most of them also have a fair amount of leeway.  If you were going out to buy a new wardrobe or a new set of golf clubs, how much could you spend without asking permission?
  • I already gave.–Yes, but the need remains.  Did you really give all you could?
  • I always give at the end of the year.–The tax deduction is the same whether you give now or later, and giving now means you can make a difference now.

She then observed that a charitable portfolio, like a financial portfolio, should be balanced among different kinds of investments.  Most charity is directed toward safe investments that preserve the status quo, so we need some risky investments–in advocacy, in untried social programs, in grassroots-based change–to balance that out.

"If someone found your checkbook," she asked, "would they be able to tell from your spending patterns what you really value?"  If not, that tells you how much you should give: the amount you spend on things you don’t really care about, plus.

My thanks to Ms. Rose for stating so well the case for women’s generosity to women’s causes.

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2 Responses to “Advice for Women Philanthropists”

  1. Anita Bernstein Says:

    Brilliant summary! Just to give credit where it’s due, the philanthropy-record-as-epitaph image came from Letty Cottin Pogrebin: “If you were run over by a truck today, what would we learn about you from your checkbook?”

  2. Nonprofiteer Says:

    Thanks for giving credit where it’s due.

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