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Wealthy women control charitable checkbooks

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Women and giving

Women and giving

In virtually all wealthy households, women play a major role in deciding which charitable organizations the family will support, so understanding the motivations and giving behaviors of wealthy women is important for nonprofits, a new study says.

For the 911 U.S. households surveyed, each with at least $200,000 in annual income or $1 million or more in net worth, nine in 10 reported that women either are the only decision-maker in the family for charitable donations or share that responsibility equally with their husband.

The study, commissioned by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and conducted by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, also found differences in the ways wealthy men and women make decisions about their charitable donations.

While women are slightly more likely to develop a strategy or budget for their charitable giving, a practice followed by 78 percent of women and 72 percent of men, about a quarter of the wealthy people surveyed have no organized plan for their giving.

Eighty-two percent of women and 73 percent of men say a nonprofit’s ability to communicate its impact is an important factor in their decisions to give.

And 80 percent of women, compared to 68 percent of men, expect the recipient charity to use donations according to the donor’s wishes.

Motivations for giving vary between men and women, with 82 percent of women and 71 percent of men reporting they aim to make a difference, and 44 percent of women and 25 percent of men hoping to set a positive example for their children and grandchildren.

Women also are more likely to expect nonprofits to use contributions efficiently, with 81 percent of women reporting this as a major factor, compared to 69 percent of men.

At the same time, half of women have confidence in nonprofits’ ability to positively affect social and global problems, compared to 34 percent of men.

And 66 percent of women, compared to 50 percent of men, say volunteering for an organization is a prime motivator behind their donations.

Men are slightly more likely than women to support the same charities year after year, but when deciding to discontinue giving, the reason cited most often by both men and women is that they were asked too frequently for a gift or for an “inappropriate” amount.

“Charities need to better understand the different motivations that drive high-net-worth women’s philanthropy, their more strategic approach to giving, and their desire for a deeper, more collaborative experience with the organization they support,” Una Osili, director of research for the Center on Philanthropy, says in a statement.

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