Women in charity – Playing a bigger role

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Women involved with charitable giving and foundations in North Carolina see a need for academic programs focusing on philanthropy and foundation administration, a new study says.

Academic programs are needed to fill the gap between the growing role that women play in the surging field of charitable giving, and their lack of formal philanthropic training, says the study, a master’s thesis by an expert in foundation giving in the state.

Yet despite their deepening philanthropic involvement, female donors and foundation trustees and staff say they’ve been able to achieve their charitable goals mainly through community and volunteer work.

“It’s becoming a full-time job and yet they have no training,” says Anita Gunn Shirley, director of grants and program development for Meredith College in Raleigh and author of the study, “North Carolina Women Philanthropists: An Emerging Sector.”

“There’s a need for programs serving this group of women,” she says.

Shirley, editor of seven directories of North Carolina foundation, corporate and religious giving published over the past 15 years, wrote the thesis for a master’s degree in philanthropy and development that she has earned over three summers at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona.

To meet the needs of women throughout North Carolina for training in the field of philanthropy, she has recommended that Meredith College – a women’s school — consider creating a master’s degree in philanthropy and development, focusing on nonprofit management.

She also has suggested that the school consider creating a workshop series targeted at women who are donors, foundation board members and part of the younger generation of philanthropists.

Her study cites numerous other surveys and reports documenting the increasingly more influential role that women have played in philanthropy in recent decades during a period of dramatic charitable growth.

Both trends are likely to continue as trillions of dollars expected to be transferred from the World War II generation to the Baby Boomers are directed to charity over the next half-century, and as women take on an even greater role in foundation work and charitable giving.

Shirley surveyed 230 women, or 44 percent of eligible individuals, who either were a donor or board member for a North Carolina foundation and living in the state, or served as executive director, program officer or main contact person for a North Carolina foundation.

Overall, 38 percent of those who received surveys responded, representing 75 foundations.

Eight of every 10 women responding to the survey saw a need for academic educational programs focusing on philanthropy and foundation administration.

Key topics for which most women responding to the survey want formal academic training include establishment of grantmaking guidelines; tax benefits of charitable giving; financial and investment options; evaluation of grant recipients; and strategic planning and organizational assessment.

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