How women are changing the face of giving


Cheryl Chapman


It has taken centuries, but women are finally being recognised for their philanthropy. Melinda Gates, Priscilla Chan and Pam Omidyar all get a name check in the title of the foundations they share with their husbands – after the ampersand admittedly but it’s a start. Women like J.K Rowling, Sigrid Rausing, Dame Vivien Duffield and Dame Stephanie Shirley are now acknowledged as philanthropists in their own right.  Women have arrived in the powerful world of giving and change-making and research shows they are arguably more impactful and attuned forces for good.

For example, women may earn less but are more generous than men. Indeed, Emma Davenport of the BeMore Network, a London-based giving circle for millennials, confirms that their female members on average come from lower paid jobs but are managing to find the £1,000 donation required:  ‘It’s more of a stretch for them but they do it,’ she says.

Women also give in a more engaged and inclusive way – wanting to meet the people they fund, collaborate with their peers and involve themselves in the cause they are tackling. Through listening and learning from each other and those they support, they become knowledgeable and more impactful.

David Stead, Executive Director of Philanthropy at Charities Aid Foundation, an organisation which advises and supports philanthropists and charities, agrees that women are exercising their philanthropic muscle in groups and enjoy the social aspect of giving together: ‘We’ve seen a gradual increase in women wanting to get together and share their experiences of philanthropy. This is leading to more networking events and in some cases these are evolving into formal giving circles to support causes on an international basis. There is certainly a big appetite to share stories and knowledge, and work together to make the philanthropy and social investment more effective and enjoyable.’

Research also shows women often give to more complex issues such as violence against women, migration and mental health. Their penchant to fund such causes is likely due to the struggle for recognition and equal rights that women have faced in their own careers.

City executive Sonal Kadchha is a prime example. The 30-year-old has somehow managed in her ‘spare time’ to fund and organise the building of a secondary school 7,000 miles away in a remote part of Kenya that now educates 72 girls, through the Educating the Children charity she founded a few years ago. ‘I have never forgotten how important education has been in my life and only by excelling academically could I convince my parents that I could forge a successful career and independent life, despite ‘being a woman’, says Kadchha.  Her work empowering women and girls in Kenya is saving them from hard labour, forced marriage HIV and Female Genital Mutilation.

Sainsbury heir and philanthropist Fran Perrin, who is funding 360Giving to help funders improve their grant-making through open data and increased collaboration, says: “I want to collaborate with and learn from any philanthropist who is strategic and innovative in their work. Very broadly, I have noticed that women donors are more willing to identify gaps in their own knowledge and actively seek out the data or skills they need. ‘I was thrilled when 360 Giving won the award for Women in Data (from Sir Tim Berners Lee at the Open Data Institute) – but it was truly a collaboration between philanthropists and data scientists, not solely defined by gender.’

Philanthropy expert Sondra Shaw-Hardy, author of Women and Philanthropy: Boldly Shaping A Better World, and the ‘mother’ of women’s giving circles in the US, says the qualities women bring to giving deliver huge potential:  “Research shows that women are more nurturing and altruistic than men and I believe that because of these traits and through their philanthropy and their actions, women will help create a more sustainable and compassionate world.’

In her book Shaw-Hardy identifies the six C’s of women’s philanthropy:  ‘creating’ solutions; delivering ‘change’;  ‘connecting’ with other philanthropists and beneficiaries;  ‘committing’ to organisations through volunteering and money; ‘collaborating’ to avoid duplication, competition and waste; and finally ‘celebrating’ their accomplishments with their peers.

Meenal Sachdev, whose family’s Shiva Hotel business funds The Shiva Foundation dedicated to ending human trafficking and modern day slavery, works to deliver systemic change through collaboration and founded the Women for Change programme aimed at engaging corporate women to come together to tackle the issue.

She says: ‘I know many women within my networks who are contributing significantly within the social impact space, often in very creative ways. However I also know these women are sometimes much less vocal about their work compared to men who do philanthropy. From my experience, women do not necessarily wish to attract unnecessary attention to their efforts, unless there is a direct benefit to their chosen cause.’

Cheryl Chapman is Director of City Philanthropy.

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