Elevating Fundraising to Philanthropy to Lift Up All Women

Elevating Fundraising to Philanthropy to Lift Up All Women

Chapter Leadership Brief 03.24.2023

By M. Angel Flores, AFP-NYC Secretary
Senior Vice President, CCS Fundraising

How is your relationship with money? That’s quite the personal question, isn’t it?! As fundraisers, we are constantly working in this intimate space with our donors. Yet, how many of us are comfortable with our own relationship to money?

My relationship to money is a work in progress. I recently joined a financial literacy and planning program specifically for women. As we near the end of Women’s History Month, I want to boldly elevate our collective fundraising efforts to fully embody the true meaning of philanthropy – love of humanity – for the expressed purpose of lifting up women by helping to build and increase their wealth. A woman’s wealth offers a view of her and her family’s overall financial health and how easily she can invest in her future, handle a financial emergency, and more. Sounds easy enough but first, let’s review the stats.

The Gender Pay Gap continues to be a problem despite the many studies and reports that exist on the topic. A woman earns, on average, $.82 per every $1 a man earns. Less talked about but much more damaging is the Gender Wealth Gap, where we define wealth as the value of assets minus debts, or how much women own, how much money they keep, etc. White women own $.32 for every $1 a white man owns. For women of color, it’s much worse: we own less than $.01 for every $1 of white male wealth.

Next, consider the Motherhood Wealth Tax. Two-thirds of moms are the sole or primary breadwinners, or co-breadwinners earning 25-50% as much as their partners, yet own only 20% of wealth compared to fathers. The problem starts with the leave time required to recover from childbirth and to enjoy those first few exhausting and exhilarating newborn months. We still do not mandate paid parental leave, so moms often see lower pay increases, slower (if not stalled) advancement, and other hits to their wealth because of motherhood. It continues as children grow and moms (still!) take on a disproportionate share of domestic responsibilities, including time off when the kids get sick.

Moms of color face a triple wealth gap – gender, racial, and motherhood. Single moms would have to work until they are 93 to have enough wealth to retire. If you’re single mom of color, well, I’m sure you can imagine what that means.

Lastly, let’s not forget the Pink Tax – the artificially marked-up cost of items specifically because they are marketed for women.

Shockingly, the Gender Wealth Gap worsens with more education. Women are more likely to go to college and families are more likely to rely on her earnings than ever before. Yet, women are more likely to graduate with loans and earn less – there’s that pesky Gender Pay Gap again! To put a finer point on it, men with high school diplomas have, on average, $2,000 more wealth than women with the same degrees. At the graduate level, men have $51,000 more wealth than women.

If you’re feeling the situation is grim, you’re right. Because of these injustices, women are:

  • Leaving school with more debt than men
  • Taking jobs that pay them less than men
  • Starting with a higher debt to income ratio than men
  • Saving less than men
  • Investing later and less often than men
  • Therefore, twice as likely as men to retire in poverty.

The solution is for women to take it upon ourselves to build wealth despite this broken system. That is easier said than done.

You may be wondering where fundraising plays into all of this considering we ask for money.

We know that over 40% of donors first heard about how making a planned gift can benefit the donor – either by providing income for life, reducing taxes, or both. We also know that donors cannot make most planned gifts until they create an estate plan and will. And we know that most people would benefit from increased financial education.

Enter you and your nonprofit!

Here’s how you can help women build their wealth as part of a robust, holistic, compassionate fundraising program:

  1. Offer Free Financial Literacy Workshops. Invite all donors and your entire community, especially if your organization has a direct service program component. Connect with local professional advisors – financial planners, tax advisors, estate planning attorneys – explain what you are doing, and invite them to participate.
  2. Encourage Personal Finance Support. Create a list of the local professional advisors you connect with to share with women when they ask for guidance, and even if they don’t. Donor-centric fundraising means centering the donor’s needs as much as our organizations’.
  3. Encourage Giving Circles. Often driven by women (but not always!), giving circles can deepen your relationship with your donors, build connections and community between donors, and provide additional benefit to your organization beyond financial support. Encourage giving circles to use your personal finance support resources. Now imagine women not only discussing how to give to your organization but also how to improve and secure their own financial future!
  4. Proactively Offer Ways to Give with Benefits. Select planned giving vehicles can help a woman earn guaranteed income for life, lower her state, federal, and estate taxes, or both. Learn how different ways of giving provide these added benefits, ensure your organization can support donors to give these gifts, and share that information with all your women donors.

We work in the world of money every day. Let’s use our privileged position to improve substantively the lives of all the women we interact with. In doing so, we’ll also be supporting their families and their communities meaningfully and for the long-term. What could be more philanthropic than that?

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