Women in the Philanthropic Driver’s Seat

“It’s not just about being able to write a check. It’s being able to touch somebody’s life.”  – Oprah Winfrey, founder of NCGS member school, Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (South Africa)


During the month of November when we recognize National Philanthropy Day (November 15) and #GivingTuesday (November 29), let’s reflect on how women today are driving philanthropy in unprecedented ways.

In the U.S., women already control just over half (51%) of all personal wealth in the nation ($14 trillion) and are poised, through inheritances from spouses and parents, along with ever-growing earnings, to control an estimated $22 trillion by 2020. The ongoing long-term trend of women achieving, on average, higher levels of education than men, should also continue increasing women’s share of personal wealth for decades to come.

Women are exercising a burgeoning leadership not just in family philanthropy, but also in large-scale philanthropic donations. This is critical to fundraising because women are nearly twice as likely as men to say giving to charity is the most satisfying aspect of having wealth. Additionally, in growing numbers, women are leveraging their philanthropic influence in collaborative ways with one another by networking and creating giving circles to deepen their philanthropic impact.

Among NCGS’s principles is to “prepare girls for lives of commitment, confidence, contribution, and fulfillment.” In our unique position working with girls, we have the responsibility to introduce students to financial literacy, which includes philanthropic understanding, early in their lives. This helps lay a foundation for women to manage and donate money—a habit that continues for a lifetime.

The NCGS principle of self-efficacy, one’s belief in her ability to succeed and accomplish tasks, plays a role in how goals and challenges are approached. Women have the power to be agents of change through their philanthropic support and decisions. Women are beginning to exert this power by making larger gifts and engaging in more substantive ways with the organizations they support.

In addition to helping mold future generations of philanthropists, NCGS wants to help change perceptions within our member school communities about who is philanthropic and why

According to U.S. Trust, “women want to use their wealth in ways that will have a positive social impact, particularly when it comes to companies and causes in which they invest time and money.” And yet, giving to their alma maters routinely falls down women’s list of giving priorities. So what do our advancement and development teams need to do differently to encourage women to thrive as donors to our girls’ schools?

Partnering with the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, NCGS is addressing this question by focusing on current trends in women’s philanthropy. We are offering a variety of programs that will highlight how girls’ schools are blazing new trails in women’s philanthropy, giving our members practical action steps to implement at their own institutions.

I hope you will take advantage of these NCGS resources to further advance philanthropy within our schools:

  • I am facilitating a featured panel session at the CASE-NAIS Independent Schools Conference in Austin, Texas, on January 22-24, 2017. Women in the Philanthropic Driver’s Seat: How to Steer Funds to Your School will include Kathleen Loehr, Principal of Kathleen Loehr & Associates; Andrea Pactor, Associate Director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy; and Elizabeth Zeigler of Graham-Pelton. These industry experts will offer their perspectives on women’s philanthropy globally and share research findings that account for various trends.
  • On January 23, 2017, Graham-Pelton is generously sponsoring a reception at the JW Marriott in Austin, TX, for representatives of NCGS member schools. Connect with girls’ school heads and advancement officers as well as gain further valuable insight from Graham-Pelton, a global fundraising consulting firm. To attend this complimentary evening exclusive for NCGS member schools, please contact Eliza McGehee.
  • The Women’s Philanthropy Institute is hosting DARE. DO. Women, Philanthropy, and Civil Society on March 14-15, 2017, in downtown Chicago. This two-day symposium will be a mix of interviews, panel discussions, breakout sessions, and networking. The symposium will focus more on the “why” than the “how-to” of women’s philanthropy. Topics covered will include continuity and change—how organizations can reframe messaging through new language and bolder thinking to stay vibrant and relevant; creativity—reimagining ways to maximize impact; community—how networks contribute to deepening women’s civic literacy and engagement; and collaboration—leveraging partnerships and amplifying voices. Click here for more information and to register.

NCGS is also hosting numerous upcoming professional development gatherings that will include sessions and pre-conference workshops dedicated to women’s philanthropy:

  • February 22, 2017: Educating Girls Symposium, School Communities: The Power of Many Voices in New York at The Nightingale-Bamford School.
  • June 25-27, 2017: NCGS Conference, Education Innovation: Building Cultures of Creativity in Washington, DC at the Marriott Wardman Park. At a pre-conference workshop, dive deeper into current research and trends in women’s philanthropy and how girls’ schools can put this knowledge to work in innovative ways.
  • October 23, 2017: Educating Girls Symposium, School Communities: The Power of Many Voices in Los Angeles at Westridge School.
  • April 2018: Philanthropic Round Table in New York, NY, hosted by Miss Hall’s School. NCGS will partner with Miss Hall’s to raise the level of discourse about women and philanthropy. Learn more about the history and outcomes of this event in our November PEP Talks episode, “Innovations in Women’s Philanthropy”.
  • June 18-20, 2018: Global Forum on Girls’ Education II in Washington, DC, at the Marriott Wardman Park will offer opportunities to engage in international dialogues about charitable giving.

Megan Murphy, Executive Director, National Coalition of Girls’ Schools

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